If you’re looking for a review of iAWriter and Byword, this is not the post you’re looking for. Really, I like both applications in different contexts.
Both applications do iCloud, and do it just fine. I’ve never lost a document. They both have enhanced keyboards on iOS, and when I’m using either I miss some features from the other. Both applications have Mac and iOS versions. By and large if we made a checklist of features, they’d both check off the same things.
So this post is about where I prefer one over the other and why.
The typography is simply better on the iPad. iAWriter is using a bigger font and has better line spacing. It’s way more friendly on the eyes.
The iPad version can also connect to your whole Dropbox folder. So just hook it up and navigate to wherever your documents are located.
On the Mac I prefer iAWriter when I’m plugged in to 2 monitors. We all know that Lion’s fullscreen mode is total crap with 2 monitors, but iAWriter’s toolbar fades in to the background so it seems like you’re in fullscreen anyway.
There are 2 problems with iAWriter on the Mac though. First, you can’t delete a document from within it’s interface. You’ve got to find it on your hard drive, which is hard in iCloud, or bring it up on an iOS version.
Second, finding documents is hard with iAWriter. You have to take your mouse up to the toolbar and navigate through the menus. You’ll see why I say this is difficult when I get to Byword.
On iOS, Byword actually updates the word count as you type. No we shouldn’t be obbessed about word counts, but if you’ve written all you can write and you realize that’s 100 words it’s probably a good idea to find a new topic.
I said above that they both have enhanced software keyboards but I do prefer the keyboard in iOS, over that of iAWriter. The extra buttons take up much less room, leaving more for you to interact with the text on the screen. Really your writing is all about the text on the page, so that’s where most of you real estate should go.
Byword does lag behind iAWriter with it’s Dropbox support. Byword only lets you connect to 1 specific folder in Dropbox, and it makes you type in a file path to that folder. Now I work with servers most days of the week so a file path is easy for me, but I know my wife would just stare blankly at the screen wondering exactly how to get it right.
The Mac version of Byword also has a way better document searching/finding interface. Press ⌘ – O and it will bring up a quick search panel for your iCloud documents. From this panel you can also delete documents. So dealing with your documents is actually possible with Byword where iAWriter presents enough pain that it’s not worth trying.
So Which One
Really, I use both. When I have an idea for an article and the time to write the whole thing in one shot I reach for iAWriter on the Mac. The font choice and the fact that all the UI fades to the background makes it awesome.
When I’ve got some documents to work on for a longer period of time I reach for Byword. It’s simply easier to find the items I’m looking for.
The other thing worth noting is that since I now have a bluetooth keyboard for my iPad, the preference for the keyboard on Byword matters much less. I’m simply not using the software keyboard as much.
Finally we come to the lock in of iCloud. The documents from one application are locked in to their own iCloud container, unless I use Dropbox as a sync method. Sure I can access any folder in Dropbox from iAWriter, but that also means a bunch of navigation to find the document I’m looking for. Byword can get me only to the documents I want to sync, but that means I’ve got to set it up for the proper file path. It’s simply a fact of living in the iOS/Mac ecosystem, but it’s a less than ideal set up.
In my dream world we’d see iAWriter introduce the document searching/management interface from Byword. Then I’d recommend iAWriter hands down, and not worry about sync with Dropbox. Unfortunately the friction of finding and dealing with documents on iAWriter means I think twice about using it for any given article. If I want to come back to it later, I’m less likely to put it in iAWriter.
I’d be interested to hear what you’re doing with minimal writing applications. What’s your preference?
You can find iAWriter and Byword at the AppStore links below. Yes that means they’re all affiliate links.