/ writing

Choosing a writing app for your iPad

There are a million blog posts and reviews about writing apps for your iPad. This isn’t a review. Instead, I’ve detailed the options that seem the most useful for a writing app and then offered some apps that fit the bill.

I’m using Byword to write this. Just before you go and download it, I use a couple of apps randomly. The reason I use those apps is not random, though.

They support Markdown. And for web writing, there is no better choice.

1. Learn Markdown

If you don’t know how to use markdown, learn now. It is supported on all major web platforms (WordPress etc.) and is a joy to use. And the apps I’m going to be talking about all give you options to export in a variety of formats.

2. The critical list

There are features for a pro writing app that have to be there. I know this from using my iPad as a main writing tool for a while.

  • Markdown support
  • Export in a variety of formats
  • Word count
  • Multiple cloud storage options

Markdown support

I’ve already talked about this one. It is a vital feature.

Export

You’ll need the app to export in Markdown format (obviously) along with HTML, plain text and Word format. If creating PDF’s is available that’s an added bonus.

Word count

It amazes me how often this is overlooked. But for professional writing, you need a word count - it’s as simple as that.

Storage

A choice of storage options is useful. DropBox and iCloud support is good. Anything else is a bonus. This one is important so that you can work on your writing across a variety of platforms.

3. The apps

As I’ve said: there are loads of them. Pick one (or more) and she how they work for you. But I would keep in mind those points above.

  • Byword
  • Bear
  • iA Writer
  • Ulysses
  • ...

They are in no particular order. I have used them all, plus others. They all have the features listed, so any of them would do the job.

Which raises the question: is there I defining feature?

4. A defining feature

Even this one could be the subject of some debate. For me, A defining feature is the app’s ability to make it easy to work on larger writing projects.

I don’t mean a book - that’s different territory altogether. But longer articles or blog posts, documentation, handbooks etc. All need some sort of document management capability.

The ability to store files in a sensible folder structure would do. Or an intelligent tagging system, that works too.


There are a gazillion apps for writing on your iPad. Being clear over what features matter will save you from cluttering your device with loads of apps. And giving yourself the problem that you can never decide which one to use.