For more than a few years now I’ve been searching for a replacement to James Hoover’s popular Bean, my favorite Mac writing tool. Why? Bean hasn’t been updated in a few years, though it still works, the writing is on the wall (religious pun intended). Mac users have no shortage of word processors or minimalist writing tools from which to choose, but Bean was special because it was fast, elegant, and had just the right balance of features for those who write for a living but don’t want to get bogged down in night course to learn how to use the tool.
Hence, the search for a replacement to Bean.
Here’s one to check out because iA Writer bills itself as a ‘professional writing suite,’ a minimalist word processor with a decent balance of useful functions for writers. But I’m not sure what what is meant by ‘writing suite.’ Check out #3 below:
1 a set of rooms designated for one person’s or family’s use or for a particular purpose.
• a set of coordinating furniture.
2 Music a set of instrumental compositions, originally in dance style, to be played in succession.
• a set of selected pieces from an opera or musical, arranged to be played as one instrumental work.
3 Computing a set of programs with a uniform design and the ability to share data.
4 a group of people in attendance on a monarch or other person of high rank.
5 Geology a group of minerals, rocks, or fossils occurring together and characteristic of a location or period.
Presumably, iA Writer is a suite in that it has multiple functions and capabilities which all work together. That’s a stretch, but let’s go with it anyway.
What you get is a not-quite-minimalist mini-word processor devoid of the Word-like clutter, but with more features than OS X’s built-in TextEdit. You can easily manage documents in the integrated library (which shows up as a lefthand sidebar), get started writing with templates, even click to Focus Mode (a new phrase for distraction free) which blocks out everything except the sentence you’re writing at the moment.
Also blocked out are all the typical toolbars, menus, and floating palettes so common with 21st century word processors.
iA Writer can convert Microsoft Word .docx files, export HTL or PDF, and auto formats Markdown text in real time. Synchronization of the documents library is handled by iCloud Drive or Dropbox, and for good reason. There’s an iPhone and iPad version of iA Writer so you get a familiar tool to write on any Apple device.
For writers, the app can handoff from one Apple device to another, pop up a full screen minimalist view to focus on a specific section of your document, and count– reading time, sentences, words, and characters.
Bean was free and obviously a labor of love, but free isn’t much of a business model. iA Writer comes with a price tag, both for the Mac and iOS versions, and though it’s heftier than some Mac word processors, minimalist or otherwise, I prefer to support a good app with a purchase because that can help keep it around.
Other than the price tag, there’s much to like in iA Writer, now at version 3.0 for the Mac, iPhone, and iPad, which means the apps get updated frequently. That’s a good sign.
So, I’m assuming that a ‘writing suite’ is merely a package of features and functions, and not a true suite as in Microsoft Office’s Excel, Word, and PowerPoint. Why you would want iA Writer will depend entirely upon your writing needs. It’s not Word so it’s much easier to master, but it brings more features that writers prefer than TextEdit or most of the so-called minimalist and distraction free notes apps.