What do I look for in an iPad writing app?

Posted on January 19, 2011


I have learned anything about app reviews. EVERYONE has an opinion and all opinions are fair.

An app is what you do with it. People will love, hate, or feel blah about it. They are all correct. Seriously.

Take writing apps. There are a ton of writing apps. It might take a while to flesh out what you want to do with you write with the iPad.

Some people will want handwriting recognition. Some people will want a certain feature.

Tip: Try out a few apps. A lot of apps have “Lite” versions that you can try out before you buy it. I usually pay for apps because I don’t mind paying for quality. NOTE: Make sure you write a review of free writing apps.

Have a list of deal-breakers when you buy an app. Here are mine:

1. It MUST have the ability to sync to Dropbox. This is a recent trend. When the iPad came out, developers could enable the file system on the iPad and you can save documents to the iPad. But that would require you syncing to iTunes. I don’t (at least regularly). Dropbox gives users 2 gigs of space in the cloud for free. You can pay for more if you need it. But I find myself using the service more. I have bought apps without dropbox support and I am finding myself moving away from them. I like cloud access for my documents and I like that I could access them on any computer connected to the Internet.

2. I need at least one app that can record sound. I like to record lectures or talks and replay them later. The iPad has a built-in microphone (although you can also use an external microphone as well). The built-in mic is good enough to record if you are close enough to the speaker. It is even better if the speaker is using a microphone. The app does not have to be my main notetaking app. But I need at least one app that can do that. Ideally, I would love an app that can record audio, type, and sync to Dropbox. But I am not picky.

3. TextExpander is not that important – A lot of apps hype this function. But I don’t get it. I am sure it is useful, but I don’t.

4. Emailing from inside the app is useful – I might want to send a document immediately. A person might not have access to my Dropbox account. For example, when I was a newspaper reporter, I would have to send stories to my copy editor. So I type the 300-400 word story on an app and mail it to editor. If I can’t email, then I would need type the story, copy/paste it to a email in the Mail app, and send the email.

5. Word counts = good – Writers like to know how long an article/story is at a given point. An editor would ask, “How many inches is it?” (Get your minds out of the gutter). That means column inches in a print newspaper. I could tell how many words would be in a 12-inch story. So if I am told that the editor needs 15-inches on a city council meeting, I know how many words I need to type. So an app that reveals word counts are more attractive than an app that does not. Now, would I not buy an app because they don’t have a word count? Probably not.

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Posted in: iPad