I do my best not to get too hung up on what writing tools to use. But after my daughter’s iMac died I was forced to convert all of her Pages documents to Word format so she could edit them on a Linux laptop. I too have old documents I can no longer open due to changes in tools and obsolete file formats, so I decided that I would start doing all of my writing in text using Markdown for simple formatting. That way, as long as I have a text editor, my documents will always be available to me. And, using a tool like Pandoc, it’s trivial to convert a Markdown file to the format of your choice.
At first I thought I’d stick with a text editor like TextMate or Vim, but, while adequate, these applications are better suited to writing programs. And I had been hearing about this new application for OSX called IA Writer. It’s designed from the ground up for writing prose in markdown and, with Fullscreen and Focus Modes, it provides a great distraction-free writing environment. Fullscreen Mode is easy on your eyes with a large off-white background and a perfectly-sized font. And Focus Mode greys out all but the current sentence. I wasn’t sure if I’d find this latter mode useful, but I have used it constantly.
There are no other features to speak of in IA Writer, but that’s what makes it so useful. I’ve been working on a short story for the past few weeks and IA Writer has allowed me to focus on my writing like never before. IA Writer is opinionated software: if you enjoy tweaking your writing environment or formatting your documents just so, then it’s not for you. But if you’d just like to concentrate on writing great prose, perhaps you should check it out.