That Clicking Sound

My buddy, Shawn Blanc is a fan of Byword — has been for a while now. It was because of him that I tried Byword to begin with.

But when iA Writer came out I wrote this about the two apps:

The difference between Writer and Byword is very, very significant. Writer has zero preferences and while Byword has limited preferences, it has far too many options. Allowing you to pick what you see in “focus mode” is nice on a bullet point feature list, but in practice it is far too much choice. On and Off is all you really need.

I screwed up in making that statement, not because I was wrong, but because I didn’t dig deep enough into the differences between the two apps.

Truthfully, the difference between Byword (or WriteRoom) and iA Writer is the difference between my home office and a coffee shop. It’s the difference between entering a writing environment that you can’t change, or manufacturing your own writing environment.

Byword is your home office, and while it is very nice, it is also very distracting — because you can and will tinker with it. If the desk isn’t clean, I can’t work. Why is that picture crooked? Maybe I should get different color light bulbs — ugh what is that CLICKING!?!

I think that is my general home office experience, there is always something to be tinkered with instead of writing, and because I can tinker with it, I typically will tinker with it.

iA Writer on the other hand is the coffee shop, or perhaps more accurately the Starbucks near your house/office. It’s the place you go to “focus” because it is the one place that two things happen:

  1. You know what to expect. At the coffee shop that means: The WiFi works, but isn’t particularly quick. The atmosphere is soft with occasionally loud waves. The smells are warm and inviting. Everyone else there is minding their laptop screens, so you mind yours. It’s always the same, never more and never less.
  2. The Coffee Shop (like Writer) also just is. You can’t change it, or tinker with it. At the coffee shop that means: The chair is a bit uncomfortable? Too bad. The light too low? Too bad. Your only option is to finish what you came there to do so that you can leave, eventually — right after the wave of productivity subsides.

Some people can’t work at coffee shops, some can’t work at their office.

This analogy isn’t perfect for either app 1 , but I hope you understand what I am saying. I don’t dislike Byword for any one reason — I dislike it because it doesn’t work for me because of the fact that I am a tinkerer and using an app that I can tinker with, when I want to focus, is a truly bad idea.

After using iA Writer everyday since it came out for the iPad I can say this for sure: I no longer have a want to tweak it, to tinker.

I downloaded the new Byword for iOS this morning — I spent the first 15 minutes trying to decide between the two custom fonts. 15 minutes. 2 fonts. Just imagine if I could change the background color? I used to spend hours a week tweaking colors in WriteRoom.

Now? Now I just write.

  1. For one Byword isn’t as tweak-able as my office and iA Writer is far better looking than any Starbucks.
Originally posted for members on: March 14, 2012
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