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In an earlier guide, I wrote up my experiences using the text editor BBEdit from Bare Bones to write and edit stories and novels. Fast and robust, BBEdit is still an essential part of my writing workflow for all the reasons I gave earlier. But for a number of years now, iA Writer from Information Architects has been my main writing tool, combining the best of BBEdit’s simplicity with features that give it a slight edge.
Like BBEdit, iA Writer can be tailored to provide a full-screen writing canvas, but with the added benefit of centering the main column of text.
A comparison of iA Writer’s full-screen view, above, to BBEdits’s presentation, below.
In both of these examples, the text is cleanly presented, with essentials like word count visible, though that information can be hidden in both applications. If you don’t mind your work being flush left (either ending after a set number of characters or wrapping to fill the whole screen) then BBEdit can serve as the only writing tool a minimalist macOS-based fiction writer might need.
Like BBEdit, iA Writer works with plain text files. By writing in Markdown, you lose the overhead of a word processing document and gain the ability to open your files in any text editor. If you use a cloud storage service like Dropbox, OneDrive, iCloud, etc., you can store your work online and have it available on all your devices. Write in BBedit on your Mac one day, Sublime Text in a Linux environment the next.
Because iA Writer is available on macOS, iOS, iPadOS, Windows, and Android, you gain the added benefit of remaining in the same writing tool aesthetic, no matter what platform you find yourself using on any particular day.
iA Writer also has its own file library, useful for organizing your writing projects without having to rely on the Finder or File Explorer to access your files. (BBEdit also has file browsing and library features, but I find iA Writer’s implementation more intuitive and easier to navigate.)
From a focus mode that dims all but the sentence or paragraph you’re working on, to a style check that highlights clichés and syntax, to table creation, content blocks, tabbed views, smart folders, hashtags, and dark mode, iA Writer has plenty of added features, all of which are (for me) inessential to writing fiction but there if you need them.
Because iA Writer uses Markdown formatting, iA Writer includes a preview mode to show you how finished HTML or PDF output will appear, based on the iA Writer template you’ve chosen. You can also export to Word, HTML, or PDF formats.
The developers of iA Writer are opinionated on the font choices, so be sure you like their Mono, Duo, or Quattro typefaces. (The screenshots at the beginning of this post use Quattro.) You can also download iA Writer’s typefaces from GitHub and use them in other text editors, as I’ve done in BBEdit, also visible in that earlier screenshot.
If the typefaces are to your liking, then be sure you’re also comfortable writing in the Markdown format. For a fiction writer, there are basically only three changes you’ll need to make to your writing habit to write in Markdown. 1) Add a space between paragraphs, 2) add asterisks around *text you want italicized*, and 3) don't use the tab key.
If you’re accustomed to writing and seeing indented text, having to edit text with spaces between paragraphs can be a rough visual transition, but it’s well-worth the re-adjustment for the benefits of writing in a lean text editor. Keep in mind that your finished piece can still retain all the goodness of a well-typeset piece.
If you’re looking for a solid writing tool, one that has the added benefit of not being built on a subscription model, give iA Writer a spin on your platform(s) of choice. For 90% of my fiction writing needs, iA Writer works splendidly. For proofing and final work, I switch to BBEdit, using its powerful language modules to help with a final polish. Together, they might be the only software tools a minimalistic, Markdown-centric fiction writer needs.
About this post and your author: This post and website are free of affiliate links, analytics, ads, cookies, and trackers of any kind. I have no relationship with the developers other than having logged thousands of hours writing with their tools.
You may also be interested in my post about BBEdit.