The Mac is a great tool for writers, with a plethora of software available for any kind of writing. It doesn't matter if you're a student spending long nights on your big paper, a journalist writing up your latest scoop, or a novelist furiously typing away on your next opus — there's an app for you on the Mac.
Ulysses offers a full array of tools for writers of any kind. This app is easy to pick up and start using but offers a wide array of customization options for everything from writing to exporting. Choose to work in Markdown or create your own markup style. With Ulysses, you can also create your own writing environment with everything from background colors to fonts. When it comes time to publish, you can export your work in a variety of formats, including plain text, DOCX, and ePub. You can also publish your work to WordPress sites and Medium.
Your projects all sync with iCloud between Mac, iPhone, and iPad, with Dropbox support also available. The app also recently added support for Touch ID to keep your documents safe.
"Simple but effective" is the best way to describe Byword. With this Markdown-focused writing app, you start with a blank document and just write. It's a minimalist app with only a few settings to fuss with, and Byword really only cares about getting you writing. Your documents sync between Mac, iPhone, and iPad using iCloud Drive, though you can also store them in Dropbox.
When it comes to publishing, you've got options for PDF and HTML. You can also post what you've written to blogging services such as Medium, WordPress, Tumblr, and Blogger, or you could send your document to Evernote.
iA Writer's gone through quite a few changes over the years. Where the previous Pro app tried to break down your writing into a flow between notes and writing and editing, the modern iA Writer focuses on having your write in plain text, with full Markdown support. That's not to say that there aren't advanced features, however, as there are quite a few. Syntax Control breaks down your writing to show you the structure, highlighting adjectives, nouns, conjunctions, and more. Link to other documents in iA Writer to combine them into a single project, or link to images or spreadsheet files to see them in iA Writer's Preview screen in a number of different templates.
Like other apps on this list, iA Writer lets you publish to blogs, in this case, WordPress and Medium. You can also export your work in Markdown, PDF, HTML, and Microsoft Word.
Scrivener is nothing short of a full-featured suite of tools for writers. Novels, scripts, essays, research papers, it doesn't matter, because Scrivener supports all of them. Organize your ideas on digital notecards and lay them out on the corkboard to see how your work fits together. Import images, PDF and other media you've used as research to refer to it later. Keep your work segmented for easier organization and edition, while maintaining its structure with the Binder. And each part of the app can be customized to create the exact writing environment that you need. It's actually hard to encapsulate just how many options Scrivener gives you.
When you're done, compile your project into a single document, and export in formats like DOC, rich text, PDF, ePub, Kindle, and even export for other apps like Final Draft. Away from your Mac? You can also check out Scrivener for iPhone and iPad, which lets you work on your Scrivener projects no matter where you are.
Blogo is a standout amongst our selections here because while many of these apps allow you to publish to the web, that's Blogo's explicit purpose. Open up Blogo and sign in to your WordPress, Blogger, or Medium account and start writing those hot takes. Manage everything from your post's title to its tags, preview your posts, and images. Write in Markdown or rich text, insert inline HTML and code blocks, and keep track of your writing goals. You can also perform some basic photo editing, cropping and resizing photos, and even adding effects and filters.
While Blogo is free up front, you can subscribe to Blogo Pro for $2.99 per month (or $24.99 for a year) to get access to more advanced features. You'll be able to add as many accounts as you want, get access to the Media Search feature to easily find videos, images, GIFs, and more, and on certain accounts, you can even moderate and reply to comments.
A relatively new app compared to the rest of the list, Bear might seem simple, but it offers a great deal of flexibility for handling text. It's true that Bear is good for both notes and todo checklists, but it's support for Markdown, a variety of themes, and simple organization makes it a great tool for many different kinds of writing. Add images, files, code blocks, and more to spice up your work and give it more context.
In terms of options, you've got few. Choose how to sort your documents, pick a theme, pick your font, and even control fine-grain details such as font size, line height and width, and paragraph spacing. Subscribe to Bear Pro for $1.49 per month in order to sync your documents between Bear for Mac, iPhone, and iPad.
Apple's own writing app, Pages lets you create all sorts of documents. There are more than 60 templates in Pages, covering just about every kind of writing, from short essays to research papers. There are even templates for items like business cards and flyers. You can add images and shapes, layout your documents in different styles, and more. You can also secure documents with Touch ID if you have one of Apple's 2016 MacBook Pros with Touch Bar.
Pages also makes it easy to collaborate with other people. Multiple people, whether they're on macOS, iOS, or even Windows thanks to iCloud.com, can collaborate on a document at the same time. You can share collaborative documents publicly or with specific users, see who is in the document at any given time, and follow their cursors as they edit the project.
- iPhone and iPad, Free ($9.99 for pre-September 2014 iOS devices) - Download Now
What is your writing app of choice on your Mac? Do you use one of these or something else? Let us know in the comments.
Things have moved on rather a lot since I gave my first impressions and highlighted my core questions in choosing between my existing iPad Air 2 and the iPad Pro. Further usage of it has made it abundantly clear that the iPad Pro cannot replace a standard iPad. It’s ridiculously over-sized for reading or watching Netflix in bed, and there are other times when the smaller version was simply more convenient.
But I do still love that screen! It’s great for casual web-browsing – better than either my MacBooks or iPad Air 2. It’s fantastic for viewing photos. It’s great for ebooks so long as you’re not trying to read them in bed. Magazines are amazing. Netflix is great with the huge screen and really loud speakers. Split View makes it a genuine multi-tasking device.
So, the question now is: send the iPad Pro back, or keep both devices? I said last time that I really couldn’t see a justification for having that much cash invested in iOS devices. One commentator responded to this with “Ah, just do it” – which I have to confess is a well-argued position.
I’d certainly find that easier to justify if it could earn its keep as a mobile writing device, so that was my next experiment …
I’d like to have tested Apple’s own Smart Keyboard, but those appear to be made from unobtainium. Apple was thus pushing the Logitech Create keyboard, made specifically for the iPad Pro. Jeremy has written an excellent full review, but I’ll throw in my thoughts too in commenting on the overall experience of using the combination as a writing tool.
The arrival of the iPad Pro was well-timed for a writing test. It’s not really practical to use it for my work here, as I need too many apps open at once, but I’m currently taking part in National Novel Writing Month – something I do every 2-3 years. I’m thus spending a couple of hours a day when my 9to5Mac duties are complete to work on a book.
That book was supposed to be the sequel to The Billion Dollar Heist, but I hadn’t managed to come up with a plan that matched the scale, spectacle and audacity of the original. I plan my novels all the way down to a scene-by-scene level before I write a word of them, so without a viable plan, I couldn’t start work on the book. I decided to give my brain a rest by writing a short-ish non-fiction book I’d had in the back of my mind for some years.
I do most of my writing on my MacBook Pro, but on Friday set that aside to write on the iPad Pro. I was out for dinner in the evening, so part of the writing was done in the office, part of it on the train there, which allowed me to kill two birds with one stone: assessing the portability of the device, and finding out how well the keyboard worked when used on a lap rather than a desk.
Open, the keyboard looks pretty nice, if nothing special. The shade is yet another variation on Space Gray, and the keys themselves are very MacBook-like in appearance. One advantage of the Logitech keyboard over the Apple one is that it’s backlit, something I’ve come to view as near-essential these days.
In case mode, with the unit closed, it really looks very ordinary. The stylishness of the iPad is completely disguised. It’s smart enough, but that’s about as much as you can say for it. The side views look a little random, though they do keep the speakers exposed and allow access for the Lightning cable.
One thing that’s very welcome is no Bluetooth pairing and no need to charge the keyboard. The Smart Connector does that most Apple-like of things, and Just Works – automatically switching on the keyboard, and keeping it powered.
Snapping the iPad Pro in and out of the casing feels frankly nasty, and I also did find it slipped out a couple of times when I first got it. That hasn’t happened since, despite lots of use, so I suspect there’s just a bit of a knack to it which I’ve now picked up. Similarly, opening the case is a little awkward, lacking a MacBook-style cutout for your fingers – but it does slot very easily into its groove.
The keyboard itself is full size and has a decent amount of movement, but is definitely not MacBook Air/Pro standard – though has a lot more movement than the 12-inch MacBook.
Used on a desk, it’s an ok but not great typing experience. The screen angle is good, but the keys are a little on the spongy side, and I found myself making more mistakes than usual. Given that this is a full-size keyboard, it really should feel a lot better than an equivalent iPad Air 2 keyboard, but it doesn’t.
It’s significantly worse on your lap. The angle of the screen is too steep when you’re looking down at it, and the base is too flimsy: the whole thing wobbles as you type. This is honestly not the experience I expected from Logitech, whose keyboards I normally like.
However, the backlighting works well – I did some writing in the back of a cab in the dark without any difficulty.
One strange omission: there is no apparent way to do a forward delete. The dedicated function keys are also a little on the small side.
Both volume and power buttons are difficult to use through the case, requiring a lot of pressure. It’s actually really hard to take screengrabs, for example, without switching the device off.
In theory, you can use the iPad as a tablet without removing it from its case. In practice, this doesn’t work well. It makes for an extremely thick device, it doesn’t fully sit flat and it wobbles. Either tablet mode was an afterthought when Logitech was designing this, or someone messed up badly. I can’t see that anyone would want to use it in that mode – it’s far better to remove it from the case.
I do most of my mobile writing on my MacBook Air 11. The size and weight is similar to the iPad Pro with Logitech keyboard, and the price is comparable, so it’s reasonable to compare the two.
The MacBook Air keyboard is a lot better, and the trackpad feels more convenient for edits than the touchscreen of the iPad Pro. The Logitech keyboard does offer the standard OS X-style CMD-C/X/V for copying and pasting, but selecting text in the first place is more awkward.
Oddly, I actually found it more annoying than on my iPad Air 2. That may be partly the size – more distance for my hand to move – but also I think the Pro looks and feels like a MacBook, so psychologically I felt it should act like one.
Overall, then, I found the iPad Pro with Logitech keyboard a disappointing writing tool: I’ll definitely be sticking to my MBA for that.
I mentioned the bag problem last time. The iPad Pro doesn’t fit my small bag – the one I take out most of the time – and needs the same bags I’d use for my MacBook Air. But the case does feel robust, and I had nothing else to carry when heading out to dinner on Friday evening, so I decided to just carry it under my arm.
I wasn’t remotely nervous about scratching it. The iPad is extremely well-protected. The rather mundane look of the casing meant I also wasn’t concerned about it attracting unwanted attention.
But even on its own, without a bag, it felt heavy. I think it suffers from the fact that we’ve all become used to iPads being featherweight devices now, and this one definitely isn’t.
It’s interesting how much can change in the space of a few days. On day one, I was really thinking it quite likely that I’d keep the iPad Pro in preference to my iPad Air. On day two, it was looking like a closer call. But five days in, that much of the decision was made: it can’t replace the smaller iPad. The question has now become whether I can justify keeping both.
If it had won me over with its performance as a mobile writing tool, I’d have likely decided yes. But it really hasn’t: I’ve found it significantly inferior to my MacBook Air in that role.
So the obvious call at this point would be to reject the iPad Pro as neither one thing nor the other. Not as convenient as its smaller brother for most tasks, and not as good as a MacBook for writing.
But I do still love that large screen for all the things I mentioned in the introduction, and a significant part of what I’d be rejecting is not the iPad Pro itself, but the combo with the Logitech keyboard. Other keyboards will follow (Brydge is working on one, for example). Could I hold out in the hope that a better keyboard will win me round?
That’s the decision I’m mulling now. I’m veering toward not, but I said I’d give it a week, and I will: I’ll make my final decision on Wednesday.