Write for iOS

Some time ago Harry Marks posted about a preview of a new iOS app called Write. In his link to Write (which was where I first heard about the app) Marks notes:

[…]but several aspects of Write’s UX really piqued my interest.

That was enough to make me check out the app. What I found scared me a bit — the UX looked like a nightmare. Layers of screens that stack as you move back and forth — it all seemed confusing.

Then Write launched and has received some good reviews, as Marks notes in his own review:

In the meantime, I’ll stick with Drafts for my everyday use, but I’ll continue to come back to Write because it’s such a fun and inviting app to use.

And the wise Brett Terpstra notes:

For everything in-between, Write is a standout editor in its class, combining intuitive gestures, Dropbox file management and a wide range of sharing and export tools.

High praise from the man that knows about every Dropbox text editor.

I purchased the app to give it a look and, unsurprisingly, my opinion differs quite a bit. Though the UX is far less confusing than I initially thought, I still find it odd.

There seems to be gestures for everything, yet you must specifically hit ‘edit’ in order to edit a note — tapping in the text area doesn’t get you to edit mode. That seems bad. Like ‘missing copy and paste in your 1.0 feature set’ bad.

And then there are the animations, of which there are many. The actions bar has a fold-out animation, moving from the ‘note’ to ‘file list’ is a smooth slide, as is dropping the bottom toolbar, and finally moving to the settings toolbar is an odd slide-up-snap-thing. Truly, it reminds me of a PowerPoint made by someone who wanted to use every slide transition effect there is. This is not even close to a compliment, in case you were wondering.

A lot has been said, by Marks and Terpstra, about the cursor movement button. Honestly it seems uncouth in iOS, much like IBM’s insistence on keeping the eraser mouse long after trackpads came out, or BlackBerry keeping the jog dial so long after the touch screen revolution. The cursor dial just feels wrong. It’s a decent solution, but it feels out of place, rather than being a ‘native’ solution.

Then there’s the oh-so-popular fifth keyboard row and the choice of items on it, which are fine, but there are actually two rows of key sets you can swipe between. This forces you to grab a handle to move between the sets, instead of just swiping anywhere on a row. It’s far more cumbersome than it needs to be.

This problem is doubly annoying with the hyped “pull-to-save” action, which you can only pull from the large title/top-bar area. Pulling inside the text area just gives you the familiar elastic bounce syndrome.

I’m not sure if this is a 1.0 bug, or just a “pull-to-delete” option bug. Imagine if you were rapidly scrolling to the top of a long document and then — oops — you deleted it.

For all those faults, there are some things the app gets very — very — right. The icon is lovely, if a little vague. The name is simple. The overall design is pleasant and could be further improved by better looking buttons, in colors other than red.

For me, the standout feature is the search option. I cannot tell you how many times I want to search for things on iOS, but then struggle to find a good app to do that in. 1

Overall, I think Write is a very ambitious app that serves a very niche market — a market that I am simply not part of. I would love writing apps with actions to start gaining native XML-RPC posting support, but even then I don’t know if that would be enough to get me to use them. It would be a start though.

(A thought just occurred, it would be great to be writing in Writer, edit in Write and post from Write, without having to do the “Open in…” hop-scotch to get between apps.)

Write has rough edges, and some larger issues with its UX. These edges are rough enough that I think Write is unsuitable for the general population. However if you’re someone that takes the time to learn how an app works, you should be quite happy with Write as both a writing app and fast-note-taking app. As Terpstra notes, it’s an in-between tool, rather than a tool for power users.

  1. Damn you iA Writer! Add search you feature-less bast…
Originally posted for members on: February 21, 2013
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