Following on from my last post about the more than useful Wunderlist, we continue with the theme of simplicity and move to the IAWriter.
Anyone who has used a word processor over the past 20 years will have seen the progress that has been made in this space, from early versions of Wordperfect (does anyone still use this?) up to the very latest versions of Microsoft’s excellent Microsoft Word (version 15 coming with metro support for Windows 8). The problem with progress in the word processor space is much the same as the problems outlined in the Wunderlist review: progress adds complexity. True, this provides great advantages with software suites like Microsoft Office where we can mail merge a letter with a database of addresses or sync what we are working on with Sharepoint and collaborate with ease with our colleagues or clients, yet how many of these features do we really need or even use on a day to day basis? Be honest with yourself now, do you really know what all those buttons and options do in your ribbon bar? How often have you really used Word Art? Or painstakingly highlighted your text and selected wingdings as your font of choice? 25%, top end. That’s normally what I tell my students any normal user (or even power user for that matter) will use from the myriad amount of features available within a product of the Microsoft Office suite. In layman’s terms it gets in the way of the task at hand, the task of writing.
Simplicity. This is where IAWriter excels. At this moment I am using it to type this blog post. I am sitting in a tea house in which the staff gave me a strange look when I asked for a mug of, of all things, tea. IAwriter cuts back on the bells and whistles of the word processor to leave you with an interface that can only be described with words like ‘barren’ or ‘sparse’. IAWriter has the closest thing to no interface as you can get. It is stripped back to the bare bones, more of a manual mechanical typewriter in software than a word processor. There are no formatting, font choice or spell check options, no tables or margins, no export to PDF, no colour selection or hyperlinking: Textedit on OSX and notepad on the Windows platforms have more features.
So why would you want to use IAWriter? Well, what is does do, it does very well. Turn on full screen mode and enable focus mode (2 quick shortcut keys to do that) and your virtual world disappears behind a slightly grey and textured background. Text that has been typed slowly works its way up the page and the line you are currently working on is highlighted centrally for ease of workflow. IAWriter allows you to concentrate on just what you are doing at that moment in time – writing – and isn’t that what the word processor was created for?
My only advice before using the IAWriter is to brush up on your spelling!
[EDIT] As of the latest verion spellcheck is now included