What Is the Best Writing App for Me?
This was a question I got asked by a reader a few days ago. There are so many choices and features to consider that it is not an easy question to answer. The needs of a user from a writing application varies. In fact, I am going to approach this from the perspective of user needs.
- I need an easy to use application.
- I need an application I can grow with. As my writing evolves, I want the application to provide me features which I will need.
- I will spend the rest of my life in this application. I will use it all the time, learn all of its nuances and live in it.
I am not interested in rich text. I will concentrate on plain text applications with Markdown as the core markup for your writing. I am going to choose one product in each of these categories. There are a ton of competing products, but I am going to restrict myself to what I consider “best of class.”
Need an Easy to Use Application
Some of you are put-off by complex software. You have the need for a program which you can use to write, think, and take notes. You don’t relish the thought of reading a manual or a help file. You are looking for simplicity.
It is also a truism that if you find a program approachable and easy, you are going to use it more. If you like the note-taking program you are using, you are going to take more notes. Conversely, if you find the note-taking program intimidating, you are going to resist taking as many notes.
I recommend iA Writer for the user seeking an easy to use application to write in.
iA Writer is a minimalistic text editor which handles Markdown and gives you a simple environment to work in. The new version, which is in beta, significantly improves the editor. I will write about it when it is released.
I have written about iA Writer before:
- iA Writer Continues to Mature - Bicycle For Your Mind
- iA Writer Tackles Tags - Bicycle For Your Mind
- iA Writer 5.0 Keyboard Commands - Bicycle For Your Mind
- iA Writer 5 Manages Files & Folders - Bicycle For Your Mind
- iA Writer 4 Adds to Markdown and Makes It Better - Bicycle For Your Mind
- iA Writer and Not Ulysses for Markdown - Bicycle For Your Mind
- iA Writer Grows Up in Meaningful Ways - Bicycle For Your Mind
I seem to write about iA Writer a lot.
If you are looking for a simple editor… What is a simple editor? An editor is simple when the learning curve is almost non-existent. You can launch the program and start writing in it without having to figure out too many things. How does that happen? The developer makes choices for you which make it possible for you to not have to go through an endless process of setting things up and customizing things to make the editor behave the way you want it to. A simple editor makes most of the choices for you and you can get down to the business of writing and not worry about things. iA Writer is an expert at that.
Please don’t confuse simple with lacking features. iA Writer is feature rich. It does a host of things which make it the perfect Markdown based text editor. It provides you a complete solution for all your writing and it does it without over-burdening you with choices. This is well-designed software.
Need an Application I Can Grow With
You belong to the category of users who don’t mind a learning curve, but don’t want it to be particularly steep. You are willing to grow in your use of the product. Discover the features and nuances at your own pace, while being productive in the meantime.
Obsidian is the obvious choice in this category. Obsidian can be a simple application if you want that. Yet it is capable of so much more that soon you are going to make it a lot more complicated than you want to. The plug-in infrastructure is the differentiator. They add so much to the program extending it in ways that you never thought possible, that you are going to have a lot of fun discovering things that it can do.
I have written about Obsidian before:
- Obsidian Is Going to Eat Everyone’s Lunch - Bicycle For Your Mind
- Obsidian and Kanban - Bicycle For Your Mind
- Using Obsidian - Bicycle For Your Mind
Obsidian is growing at a frenetic pace. If you adopt it, remember that there is a learning curve to expertise in Obsidian. As an auxiliary to the things that Obsidian can do, the program has a tendency to get away from you. Too many plugins and too many changes to the workflow will make this a difficult learning curve.
Obsidian is a deep program which you need to get comfortable in. You can use it for all your writing and it is the program with the best set of features in this marketplace.
These are more things for you to read if you are thinking of using Obsidian.
An Application for the Rest of Your Life
This was a difficult choice to make. If you are looking for a program which you are going to live in for the rest of your life and are looking for a feature-rich, “serious” text editor, the choices on the macOS are the following:
- VIM and Emacs.
- Sublime Text.
You can choose any one of these and get similar benefits. They are all fantastic solutions.
I will recommend BBEdit.
BBEdit supports the macOS better than the competition. It has better tech support than the competition and it ships with the most detailed manual that you can use to learn the ins and outs of the program. It is continuously improved by the developer and has had a long run on macOS.
You can’t go wrong with BBEdit.
Scrivener. A rich-text solution. Scrivener is designed for writers, and brings a bunch of custom features to the task of writing. It is life-changing software.
It has a steep learning curve, but the good news is that you can start using Scrivener and grow into it. Don’t be intimidated by the learning curve. Don’t assume that you need to know all the intricacies of the software before you start using it. Dive in. Write. Learn as you go. Scrivener ships with a great manual and they have a helpful online community in their forums.
You can use Scrivener as a plain text editor. You miss out on some features like styles if you do that, but it is possible to use it as a plain-old text editor and you can compile Markdown documents from the program with little effort.
This was an interesting article to write. Restricting myself to only one choice in the three categories made it difficult.
Depending on your needs, you cannot go wrong with iA Writer, Obsidian, or BBEdit.
macosxguru at the gmail thingie.
Thanks: Carlo Martin Alcordo