The Pleasure of Writing

iA Writer is an app designed to let you focus on the text. It has no preferences to distract, and it’s so simple you can use it without reading a manual. This guide introduces Writer’s main features and some pro tips, to help you hit the ground running. Select the app you’d like to learn more about:

Casual elegance

We’ve redesigned the text input experience, while keeping all of Apple’s text features such as spell-checking. Unlike traditional word processors, Writer is simple and noise-free — the Title bar disappears once you start typing, leaving only a fresh sheet for your words. Writer also sports a beautifully readable font, custom-designed for modern screens.

Format by writing

Writer uses Markdown formatting, allowing you to format your text merely by adding a few simple characters, such as for *emphasis* and **importance**.

Writer for iPad document with basic Markdown. There’s syntax for emphasis, importance, headings, lists, quotes, links, code and more.

You can preview this formatting by tapping Preview.

Using Preview to show Writer for iPad’s formatted Preview of the same document.

For details on the formatting Writer supports, please read our knowledge base article “Markdown syntax reference guide”.

Focus Mode (iPad and Mac)

Focus Mode dims everything but the current three lines, helping you stay in the flow, get words out, and avoid the temptation to edit.

Activate Focus Mode in Writer for iPad by tapping the Iris icon. This fades everything but the current three lines. You can navigate by character or word using Writer’s keyboard bar.

Focus Mode is currently not available in Writer for iPhone.

Reading Time (Mac and iPad)

In addition to word and character count, Writer gives you Reading Time — an estimate of how long it would take an average reader to read your document.

Word and character count, and Reading Time to the cursor and for the document, in Writer for iPad (tap to swap)

Writer for iPad shows the reading time to the current cursor position. These are hidden when you type — reveal them by moving the mouse on Mac, or tapping the screen on iPad.

Reading Time, word and character count are currently not available in Writer for iPhone.

Writer keyboard bar

Writer for iPad includes a keyboard extension bar, which gives you buttons for word and character navigation, plus quick access to language-specific punctuation. The keyboard bar has localized keys for the following keyboards: Arabic, Simplified Chinese, Traditional Chinese, Croatian, Dutch, English, French, Swiss French, Canadian French, German, Swiss German, Greek, Italian, Japanese, Latvian, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Russian, Spanish, and Ukranian. Pull down on the center thumb tab to hide the keyboard and show the Title bar.

The German keyboard bar in Writer for iPad, showing language-specific keys.


Writer saves documents automatically for you. It uses plain text files in UTF-8 encoding, which can be opened by any text editor. Currently Writer for iPad can not open files that are not plain text, such as MS Word .docx files.

Writer for iPad also automatically names your documents. You can rename any document by tapping its name in the Title bar. The Documents icon shows where the current document is saved. View your storage options, including a Recently Opened list, the Trash, and the ability to Link or Unlink Dropbox, by tapping Documents iA Writer. You can delete, move, duplicate, rename, and find information about documents by tapping the Edit button in the Documents panel. You can also delete a document by swiping its name. Add a new document to the current storage location by tapping the Plus icon. Create a folder by dragging a document and dropping it onto another one.

To move a document, first tap the Documents icon to locate it. You can drag it onto a folder, or onto a document to make a folder. Or you can tap Edit then the document’s blue arrow to show its Info panel, then tap Move To…. (Shown in Writer for iPhone — these actions are the same in Writer for iPad.)


To use Writer with iCloud, simply add an iCloud account to your device: in iOS 5.0+ tap Settings iCloud. Once your device can access your iCloud account, Writer will automatically recognize iCloud, and ask if you want to use it.

If you have iCloud, the first time you use Writer you’ll be asked if you want to use iCloud for Writer documents.

If you chose to use iCloud, it stores all your Writer documents and makes them available in Writer on all your devices. Any Writer documents stored on your device will be safely moved to iCloud. Any Writer documents already in iCloud will become available. Finally, the Documents storage will have a Cloud icon beside it.

If you choose not to use iCloud, documents are stored on your device only, and can be manually backed up via iTunes. Your iCloud documents remain untouched, but you will not be able to access them without going to Apple’s Settings iA Writer, and changing “Use iCloud” to ON.

Documents are saved automatically, and are synced regularly with iCloud whenever your device has an internet connection. Changes to synced documents are also pushed to Writer on other devices using the same iCloud account automatically. You can still use iCloud even if you don’t have internet access — all documents are cached locally for offline editing.

If you have any problems using iCloud in Writer, please read our knowledge base article “iCloud won’t work. What’s wrong?


To use Dropbox with Writer for iPad, first link your Dropbox account: tap on Documents iA Writer Link Dropbox, then enter your details (or create an account if necessary). Your Dropbox storage will appear in Documents iA Writer.

Linking a Dropbox account in Writer for iPad. If you don’t have an account you can create a free one.

Documents are saved automatically to Dropbox’s servers regularly whenever your device has an internet connection, and you can tap a document’s Sync icon in the Menu bar to manually do this. Synced changes to documents are accessed the next time a document is opened.

Currently Dropbox documents aren’t cached for offline use. If you edit a Dropbox document in Writer for iPad while offline, Writer will save a copy in the Documents storage if necessary and inform you. If offline editing is important, we recommend using iCloud, or temporarily moving the files you’d like to edit offline to the Documents storage.

We recommend using Dropbox to sync documents between Writer for iPad and a Windows PC. Writer uses UTF-8 encoding, so make sure to use a UTF-8-compatible text editor, and ideally save as UTF-8 (not ASCII) on your PC.

Export and print

Writer for iPad includes several convenient export options:

The Share menu in Writer for iPad, showing Export, Preview, and Print options.

Writer for iPad supports AirPrint, and you can also print to non-AirPrint printers using third party software.

Tips and tricks

Undo/Redo in Writer for iPad

iOS comes with several built-in ways to undo the most recent typing:

  • Tap the page and choose Undo from the popup menu — you can also Redo from the same menu.
  • Tap .?123 on the iPad keyboard then tap Undo.
  • Shake the device side-to-side to display an “Undo Typing” dialog.

Writer also includes Undo and Redo actions — use two-finger swipes to the left to undo, or to the right to redo.

Apple’s spell checking and text tools

In Writer for iPad spell checking, and other text options like auto-capitalization and auto-correction, can be turned on or off under Settings General Keyboard. Look up words in Apple’s dictionary by selecting a word, tapping in the popup, then tapping Define. You can add words to Apple’s dictionary by adding them as shortcuts under Settings General Keyboard Shortcuts. If auto-correction starts remembering your mistakes, you can reset the previously used word list under Settings General Reset Reset Keyboard Dictionary.

Multiple languages support in iOS

You can add additional keyboards under Settings General Keyboard International Keyboards. If you have two or more you’ll get an extra Globe button on Apple’s keyboard to change between them. Currently Writer supports (and is localized for) the following languages:

  • Chinese
  • English
  • French
  • German
  • Greek
  • Italian
  • Japanese
  • Portuguese
  • Russian
  • Spanish

iOS also lets you type diacritics by tapping and holding relevant keys, for example tap and hold U to get access to ü and other related characters. Depending on the keyboard language, common diacritics can be added quickly by “flicking up” on the relevant key. For example, flick upward on the U key when using the German keyboard to add ü.

“Night mode”

At present Writer doesn’t have an inverted, white-on-black color scheme. However, you can approximate this using Apple’s accessibility tools. In iOS: Settings General Accessibility Triple-click Home Toggle White on Black.

Using a Bluetooth external keyboard with Writer for iPad

Writer for iPad becomes even more productive when you use an external keyboard. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions to pair with your device. The on-screen keyboard and Writer’s keyboard bar will both be hidden, as you can type the keyboard bar punctuation directly. For example, on a U.S. keyboard “smart” quotes are:

  • = Option-[
  • = Shift-Option-[
  • = Option-]
  • = Shift-Option-]

We think an iPad with Writer and an external keyboard is close to the perfect writing machine — give it a try!

Bluetooth keyboard layout in iOS

You can select a specific hardware keyboard layout per language under Settings General Keyboard International Keyboards, then select the keyboard language.

Support and troubleshooting

The knowledge base also includes articles covering common questions and problems. If you run into problems, please start with these two documents:

If you need help, or have a question or suggestion, let us know! Please search knowledge base articles and open support discussions first, as the topic may already be addressed.

When reporting problems, please write:

  1. What you did, step by step
  2. What you expected to happen
  3. What actually happened

If possible please attach an example document, screen capture or screencast showing the problem to help us. Thanks!

Writer Support

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