The single best word processor for Mac users does not exist. It’s the Bigfoot of Mac apps. It’s the Loch Nest Monster of Mac apps. It’s a Unicorn, a husband with a vacuum cleaner, an honest politician, a snipe. If it’s out there, a few billion people on planet earth have not been able to get a screenshot of it.
Why not? Literally, there are hundreds of word processors available from gargantuan feature overload in Microsoft Word, to the simplicity of TextEdit, to the wannabe word processor in Pages. Some who have conducted a similar search have gone back in time to those glory days of yesteryear with toolbars. Others lament the passing of once great and free writing tools who blessed Mac users with temptations of everlasting writing.
My search, for now, has ended because I realize there is no such thing as the Mac’s best word processor. It’s a desire, not a reality, the inevitable consequence of different strokes for different folks.
I live. I write. Today I’m using iA Writer on my Mac, iPad, and iPhone. It has just enough features to be usable. It is utterly simplistic. It lets me focus on writing, not toolbars or floating palettes. It syncs my files– notes and documents– between Mac, iPad, iPhone.
The familiar lefthand sidebar is where you manage notes, files, documents. For features beyond ordinary, iA Writer hands spelling, substitutions, grammar, syntax highlighting of “unnecessary adjectives, empty adverbs, weak verbs, and nominal style” with ease.
There’s no toolbar to worry about or clutter the screen. On the surface, iA Writer is minimalist, yet it handles Markdown, Word documents conversion, custom typefaces for improved readability, automatic and real-time iCloud sync, full screen mode, and even workflow states.
As for the syntax features, which is more useful than I thought, it comes in English, French, German, Italian, and Spanish. That workflow function lets you adjust color and typeface to specific writing categories.
There’s no frills here and you won’t pay a frilly price, Mac or iOS. What you get is a not-quite-simplistic writing tool that is instantly familiar and usable, but with just the right blend of what you need to write and not have to think about the tools while you’re writing.
To be honest about it, iA Writer feels like Bean Lite than TextEdit; easier to use, less traditional interface, but just so, well, usable. Even for Android devices.
What’s missing? Well, most of the features you’ll find in Pages or Microsoft Word, of course. But iA Writer requires something of a leap of faith, even with all the four and five star reviews because there’s no longer a try-before-you-buy option for Mac users.