Seller: Peter Kelly
Requirements: iOS 5.0 or later
Compatibility: iPad, iPhone and iPod touch
File Size: 3.5MB
Version Reviewed: 1.0
A common complaint about the iPad from content creation oriented and enterprise users is the relative paucity of choice in serious productivity applications, particularly the unavailability of an iOS version of Microsoft Office. While persistent rumors have circulated that Microsoft has been working on—and will eventually release—an iOS version of Word and the other Office suite apps, that has not happened. My current best guess is that while it’s probable an iOS version of Office has been under development at Redmond, the likelihood of it being released any time in the near future just got a lot more remote with Microsoft’s announcement that it will be selling its own Surface tablet computers come fall. There’s no way the house that Gates built will want to cede any competitive edge to its main tablet rival. If, perchance, the Surface eventually goes the way of the Zune, Office for iOS could get a green light, but I’m not anticipating that happening. Surface may not constitute a major threat to the iPad’s market hegemony, but I expect it will sell decently well.
Getting back to word processors, there are a variety of third party apps that can open, edit, and save MS Office documents. Stripped-down tablet versions of Apple’s own iWork productivity apps, including Pages, are also supported, but not everyone is a Pages fan, and there’s certainly plenty of room for another serious, full-featured iOS word processor.
Enter an Australian developer startup, UX Productivity, which last week announced the release of UX Write 1.0, a brand-new word processor for the iPad, iPhone, and iPod touch. UX Write is designed to accommodate high-end professional authoring tasks, and supports many features that are normally found in desktop word processors.
I didn’t have an especially auspicious start checking out UX Write, with the application proceeding to crash as I was reading the first page of the introduction document. However, it’s very early days for this application yet, it didn’t happen again so far, and I expect that any pesky stability issues will be ironed out with subsequent updates, as development is actively continuing.
One feature that distinguishes UX Write from various run of the mill iOS text editors is that it supports styles, which lets the application handle the presentation of your work while you concentrate primarily on the content and structure of your writing. Styles are reusable document format settings that can be applied to different parts of your document to achieve consistent formatting. Any time you make changes to a style, all paragraphs associated with that style are automatically updated with the new formatting. Styles also represent the structure of your document, particularly for example in the case of headings.
UX Write’s native file format is HTML, which means your documents can be viewed and printed in any web browser, and easily published online. There are many programs available for all major operating systems for working with HTML documents, so you can easily write part of your document on your iPad, and other parts on your laptop or desktop computer. You can also export your documents in PDF format from the “share” button at the top-right corner of the screen. UX Productivity says Version 2 of UX Write will include support for importing and exporting of Microsoft Word and LaTeX documents.
Unfortunately, at least as far as I can fathom, UX Write can’t open plain text documents without a .txt name suffix, and can’t edit even ones so-designated that it can open (the keyboard refuses to appear), although you can at least select and copy to the Clipboard from them. This is a major shortcoming for me, since I have an accretion of some 20 years of documents, literally thousands, created on the Mac and saved in plain text, but named without the.txt suffix until recently
When you first open UX Write, you will see a list of documents (or, more precisely, a space to list them), plus three locations: “My iPad,” “Dropbox,” and “WebDAV.” The first place contains files that are only stored locally on your device, and can be accessed via iTunes file sharing. The last two allow you to store your files in the Cloud, and sync them with your computer when you have Internet access.
You have to authorize Dropbox linking. Once that’s executed (a couple of taps) synchronisation is executed automatically, so you you don’t have to bother yourself with the tedium of manually uploading or downloading files when you change them. Every time you close a document, it’s automatically uploaded to the server. If you’re running the Dropbox client for Mac or PC, the updated file will appear on your computer in a few seconds.
Personally, I’m delighted with UX Write’s Dropbox integration. I’m not an iCloud fan for a variety of reasons, and haven’t even bothered to set up an iCloud account, since only one of my production computers (the iPad) is currently compatible, being as I’m still happily running Snow Leopard on my MacBook, and my two old PowerBooks can’t run Lion even if I were so inclined. Dropbox, on the other hand, supports all four gracefully, and a passel of other types of hardware and operating systems as well. However, there will presumably be some demand for iCloud compatibility in an iOS word processing app, so it won’t surprise me if it gets added at some point in the future
If you’re working offline, you can still add and change documents in the Dropbox or WebDAV folders. UX Write will simply store these changes locally on your device and sync them the next time Internet connectivity is available. UX Write also keeps a local copy of all documents you’ve previously edited, so you can still access them offline.
UX Write text editing works in much the same way as it does in in any other iOS application, but adds a few enhancements, including:
- An extra row of keys above the keyboard that provides access to common punctuation symbols.
- The two leftmost keys are modifiers that let you move the cursor or select text by holding them down to bring up a virtual trackpad. Swipe with one finger to move slowly, and two fingers to move faster.
- The formatting key, when held down, replaces the other top-row keys with keys for basic formatting options like bold, italic, and lists.
- The autocorrect key allows you to confirm or revert the latest autocorrect replacement.
- You can triple-tap anywhere in the text to select the whole paragraph.
These features are potentially useful conveniences once one develops the muscle-memory that makes such shortcuts second-nature.
UX Write encourages you to use styles to format your document, instead of manually setting formatting options like font size and paragraph alignment on a case-by-case basis. Styles make it much easier to achieve consistent formatting throughout your whole document, particularly when you want to make global changes like altering the appearance of all headings.
A selection of common styles is provided in the Formatting menu (the “A” icon in the toolbar), including Normal Paragraph and three levels of headings. More built-in styles are available, and you can also add your own. Tapping “Edit Styles” brings up the style manager, which lets you change the formatting of any built-in or custom styles, including the document defaults.
However, direct formatting is still available if you want it via the button at the bottom of the formatting menu. It provides access to the same set of properties as are available in the style editor, but changes made there will only apply to the current selection.
By using styles to mark all your headings, you can take advantage of the following features in UX Write:
- Table of contents (Insert menu)
- Cross-references (Insert menu)
- Automatic numbering
- Outline editor (Outline button on toolbar)
When you print or generate a PDF, page numbers are automatically calculated for you and included in the table of contents.
UX Write’s enhanced automatic correction feature highlights corrections in green, giving you the opportunity to confirm whether it has made the right replacement.
Tapping on a highlighted word brings up a menu that allows you to accept the correction, revert to the original, or bring up a list of more suggestions, with the option to add the word to the custom dictionary. Any substitutions you explicitly accept are remembered by UX Write, and will occur automatically the next time you make the same typing mistake. You can access the custom dictionary and list of automatic substitutions via the settings menu.
UX Write is off to a pretty good start, and the developers say many more feature enhancements and refinements are coming in future versions, including the aforementioned Microsoft Word and LaTeX support, bibliographic citations, footnotes, headers & footers, and more. The plan is to eventually make UX Write just as powerful as the desktop word processors you are used to using, while providing the benefits of editing documents directly on your iPad.
In the meantime, I’ll give UX Write a 3 out of 5 rating with a presumptive bullet.
Buy UX Write