How to write better on the iPad with iA Writer

iA Writer is a sparse, effective text editor for the iPad. Get this writing app while it's only $1.99.

Matt Elliott Senior Editor
Matt Elliott is a senior editor at CNET with a focus on laptops and streaming services. Matt has more than 20 years of experience testing and reviewing laptops. He has worked for CNET in New York and San Francisco and now lives in New Hampshire. When he's not writing about laptops, Matt likes to play and watch sports. He loves to play tennis and hates the number of streaming services he has to subscribe to in order to watch the various sports he wants to watch.
Expertise Laptops, desktops, all-in-one PCs, streaming devices, streaming platforms
Matt Elliott
3 min read
Matt Elliott

iA Writer, a simple text editor for the iPad, was recently updated to include iCloud support. It's also available at the moment for only $1.99, down from its usual price of $4.99.

On the rare days where I leave my home and set out for my local bagelry to do some blogging, I usually tote my MacBook Pro along with my iPad. I test out apps on the iPad and then use my MacBook to write about them. Now that I'm using iA Writer, I am starting to leave my MacBook at home on these trips.

iA Writer presents a sparse look, forgoing formatting and almost all other settings to keep you focused at the task at hand: writing. It does its best to present a clean slate. Launch the app and you'll see a plain, white screen with a thin menu bar running along the top of the screen.

On the left side of this menu bar are three icons. The file-folder icon opens the Storage List, where you can manage your documents stored on the iPad, in iCloud, or in your Dropbox. It also provides a shortcut to your recently opened docs. The arrow icon in the menu bar lets you e-mail the current document or copy all of its text, and the "+" icon opens a new document. Files are saved as TXT files.

You can save documents to the iPad, iCloud, and Dropbox. Matt Elliott

In the middle of the menu bar is the document name. Tap on it to rename your document.

On the right is a running word count and character count. Tap on it to see the time it would take a reader to read the entire document from the beginning or to the spot where your cursor rests. And next to this data is a small lenslike icon. Tap on it to enter iA Writer's Focus Mode, which grays out everything but the line you are writing and the two previous lines.

And that completes our tour of the menu bar. To start writing, tap on a document to bring up the keyboard. It looks like the standard iPad keyboard, but with an added row of buttons at its top. Six punctuation keys sit in the middle with a pair of navigation keys on either side. On the left are two keys that let you move iA Writer's blinking blue cursor forward or backward one word at a time. And on the right are two arrow keys that let you move the cursor one character at a time. You can also tap on the screen to reposition the cursor (unless you are in Focus Mode). And to undo the last bit of writing you entered, simply swipe with two fingers to the left. Swipe to the right to redo.

Focus Mode grays out everything but three lines, helping you focus on writing rather than rereading and rearranging and editing and tweaking and... Matt Elliott

There is no spell checker, although misspelled words are underlined in red to help you spot typos. You can also tap and hold to highlight a word or a section and access copy-and-paste tools along with suggestions for misspellings.

The added iCloud support works with little to no effort on your part. When you tap on the "+" button to open a new document, it gets saved to iCloud. To access your documents, tap on the file-folder icon to open the Storage List window. To save a new document to your iPad instead of iCloud, tap the iPad link from the Storage List and then tap the "+" button in the lower right corner of that window.

In addition to iCloud, you can also save documents to your Dropbox account. Open the Storage List window and tap the Link Dropbox button in the lower-right corner to connect iA Writer to your Dropbox folders. You can create a new folder or file in Dropbox from iA Writer; tap the "+" button when viewing Dropbox in the Storage List window.

From the Storage List window, you can create, open, move, duplicate, and delete documents. Matt Elliott

You can delete files from the Storage List window by swiping on them and tapping the red delete button that appears. To move a file, say from the iPad to iCloud, tap the Edit button when viewing your iPad files in the Storage List window, tap the blue-arrow button next to a document on the list, tap the Move button at the bottom of the window, and select a new location from the list.

Do you have a favorite writing app for the iPad? If so, please let us know in the comments below.