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Hands-on with the free iWriters text editor for iOS

Sections: Features, Hands On / First Looks, iDevice Apps, iPad, iPad Air, iPad mini, iPhone, iPhone/iPod touch/iPad, iPod touch

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I’m a text editor aficionado from wayback on both the iPad and the Mac. I use a bunch of them on the iPad: PlainText, Scriptus, Textkraft, Easy Writer, Textkraft ML, Just Type, Compositions, even iOS Notes. On the Mac: Tex Edit Plus, TextWrangler, Tincta, and OS X TextEdit.

Back in the late ’90s I discovered I liked working in text editors better than ponderous word processor apps with their array of formatting and page edit features that I increasingly didn’t need as I transitioned away from hard copy printouts to the Internet. There was a time when I did almost all of my writing in Microsoft Word 4, 5, and 5.1, but Word 6 (aka “Word for Windows for the Mac”) was a major turnoff. While Word got better again with subsequent versions, I had by that time long since decamped to Text Edit Plus (a $15 shareware styled text editor that—along with bundled Classic Mac OS Simpletext and, subsequently, OS X TextEdit—supports almost all the formatting I ever need nowadays), and Open Source Libre Office takes care of the rest. Bare Bones Software’s excellent TextWrangler and its predecessor BBEdit Light have been my pick for pure plain text work, and TextWrangler gets a lot of work these days with files shared by iPad text apps. Tincta I use for notepad duty by virtue of its handy small window support. There are, of course, many other OS X text editors, including powerful BBEdit for text based Web authoring and editing, and others oriented to the needs of coders.

Other OS X text apps of note include LightWayText and iText—a couple of somewhat idiosyncratic cross-platform applications from Japanese developer Yumiko Itoh that have been around for a couple of decades. LightWayText is a Mac OS-Windows hybrid that’s a colorful and powerful styled text editor for multilingual word processing, and is the inspiration for this new offering for iOS, the free iWriters for iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad—a Text Editor With Dropbox and Evernote Support.

iWriters

I’ve found iWriters to be immediately and elegantly likable, described by Mr. Itoh (who prefers “Yumi”) thus: ”iWriters is a powerful and versatile Text Editor having lots of nice features, available for iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad. iWriters combines practicality with portability – that is what a Writer’s Workshop should.”

iWriters, is a full-featured multipurpose text editing program that supports several text documents at a time using a tabbed interface, and which supports exchanging them between iPhone devices or a Mac, PC, or other devices including Windows Mobile, BlackBerry, and Android. You can email a document from within the application, and iWriters also supports saving to and accessing from the Dropbox or the Evernote directly online, as well as supporting TextExpander touch snippet expansion.

iWriters

What has perhaps impressed me most about iWriter is how smooth-functioning, “right now” fast, stable, and refined-feeling it is for brand new iOS free software. It’s easily the best I’ve yet experienced on the iPad, especially since upgrading to iOS 7.

iWriters

iWriters’ user interface is, as I noted, elegant, and can be customized to suit your taste in text and ranges of background colors, fonts, point sizes, and so forth.

iWriters

It’s also functional, with the best text selection tools I’ve encountered in iOS apps, and readouts for word counts and other document information.

I will mildly criticize iWriters for my finding and using its array of settings and function controls not being particularly intuitive, but everything works extremely well once you do find it (there’s an online user manual that seems to have suffered a bit in translation to English, but which is still very helpful for getting yourself oriented and comfortable).

I’ll also gently note that while iWriters’ Dropbox support works fine, it’s not as transparently effortless as PlainText’s automatic updating and quick sidebar access to the Dropbox files list. With iWriters, you do have to remember to save changes to Dropbox manually. However, there’s a very handy “Save As” function, and creating new documents and choosing a destination folder (including Dropbox and Evernote) for them is straightforward.

iWriters also has an extensive and impressive array of text processing features and a search engine that’s quick and can search an entire document or a selection.

And did I mention that iWrters is free (ad-supported)? The ribbon ads appear at the bottom of the UI window, and are only visible when the keyboard isn’t. Speaking of the keyboard, it’s a significant enhancement of the iOS default keyboard with a row of special keys at the top with Select, n-dash, undo/redo, navigation arrow, date and time keys normally visible, and background keys for case/capitalization (hooray for that last one, especially!).

Open apps can be switched between or among via a tab bar at the top which can either remain visible or be set to appear upon touching the title bar.

iWriters

iWriters Features include:

  • Create, open, edit, and modify multiple text documents in parallel, and save each one hierarchically in your memory.
  • Buttons like a keyboard’s arrow keys come in handy to move the editing cursor to the left and right.
  • For a closer look, zoom in up to 500% by pinching out.
  • Supports both landscape and portrait.
  • Supports TextExpander touch snippet expansion.
  • Send any currently open text, or part of this text directly from iWriters via email.
  • Save, open, and sync files onto/from/with the Dropbox Server and Evernote directly in iWriters.
  • You can sync iWriters text files to a Mac or PC manually in iTunes.’
  • With a few taps, change the selection to uppercase, lower case, or capitalize, or also change it to double width or the normal width.

iWriters

  • Search & Replace. Search the current text or all files for any word or phrase including diacritic letters. You can search for a text with Regular Expression as well.
  • A variety of text settings. Select what best suits your editing—the text style, including the font, size, color, adjustment, margins.
  • Keep file-compatibility while exchanging files between iOS, a Mac, PC, or other devices.
  • Choose any you want from LF, CRLF, or CR to the return code, and from ASCII, UTF-8, Western (Windows-1252), or Western (Mac OS Roman) to the character encoding.
  • Browse the statistics for the whole text or the current selection, including the number of characters, words, paragraphs, and indicate the line numbers.

iWriters

  • Change the overall look of iWriters by choosing appearance options, including background color, ruled line, and Navigation bar.

I’ve only been using iWriters for a few days, and it’s already become integral to my workflow on the iPad, more than making up for the sluggish performance and crankiness of certain other text apps subsequent to the iOS 7 upgrade. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that this app is lowering my sense of urgency about upgrading to a faster iPad than this old iPad 2. I encourage you to check it out; it really must be experienced to be appreciated.

iWriters is a free app compatible with iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad, and requires iOS 5.1 or later. For more information, visit www.jp-lightway.com.

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