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iCloud Workflow that Rivals Dropbox in the New iA Writer

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As you may know, I love playing with text editors. Information Architects’ iA Writer has been one of the more mesmerizing apps available for both iPad and the Mac. Its core feature is a beautiful monospaced typeface from Bold Monday called Nitti Light. Beyond that, Writer sells itself based its lack of features. You can’t change the font size, color scheme or page width. It’s the distraction-free writing software worth a Merlin Mann lampoon.

Though I own both versions of Writer, I rarely find myself writing in it because of its many limitations.1 However, there’s a new feature that is pretty damn cool in the latest update: iCloud syncing. Only a handful of developers have figured out how to implement Apple’s new iCloud service and iA Writer is the first writing app to add it. For as long as plain text editors have exploded into a cottage industry on iOS, Dropbox has been the de facto file syncing solution. Writer proves that iCloud might, might give Dropbox a run for its money.

Here’s how it works. On your iPad, you’ve got three storage options: iPad, Dropbox and iCloud. The iPad option is basically local, un-synced storage. One new feature of Writer’s Dropbox syncing is that you can now access any folder on your account, not just the “Writer” folder. You can create new documents directly in any of the storage buckets or move them between one another. The iCloud option doesn’t support subfolders, but instead acts as a root folder on for your synced Writer documents.

On your Mac, you can still access any text document in your file system, including in your Dropbox folder. The difference is that now, under the File menu, you have an “iCloud” option. Hover over it and all of your available documents are there ready for editing. If you want to move another document into iCloud, you can use the same File>iCloud menu to “Move to Cloud.” Clicking that on any open document, no matter where it is, makes it accessible in your Writer iCloud storage.

It sounds confusing, especially after getting used to Dropbox’s “file system in the cloud” simplicity. Here’s the thing, though. The iCloud sync is fast and pretty rock solid. Editing the same document on my Mac and on my iPad updated quickly and smoothly. The changes propagated across both systems in that “it just works” kind of way. Better, if you want the file system advantages of Dropbox to do something like, say, open an iCloud document in another text editor, you can actually do that do. As a Google+ commenter notes:

You can save directly to iCloud on the Mac if you navigate to Writer’s iCloud ‘Documents’ folder located in ~/Library/Mobile Documents/~jp~informationarchitects~Writer/Documents.

From this folder, you can copy older documents you’d like to use on your iPad or open up any of your documents in any other text editors. This is still not the simplest solution for a tweaker, but it’s a pretty good one. You’ll need to keep your User Library visible and there are a few ways to make that happe n. To go one step further, you could even use a symbolic link to make your iCloud Writer documents more accessible to you in another folder.

iA Writer is the first out of the gate on iCloud writing apps, but Information Architects have proven that it can be used as an alternative to Dropbox syncing. Their solution is more elegant than Apple’s own implementation in iWork. I can’t wait to see what other developers come up with next.

iA Writer is currently discounted in both the Mac and iOS App Stores. If you purchase with the links below you will be supporting the candler blog. Thank you and happy writing.

Purchase iA Writer for Mac iA Writer for iPad
  1. It supports Markdown syntax, but the keyboard shortcuts aren’t as nice as in ByWord, which also lets me change the font. Perhaps my biggest gripe is that the only way to “typewriter scrolling” in Writer is to go into “Focus Mode,” which also requires that all but the current sentence is grayed out. To me, that becomes the distraction.

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