Byword has finally arrived on the iPad!

ByWord for iPadByword, my maybe favorite distraction-free writing app on the Mac, has finally arrived on the iPad. I have written about similar apps, such as OmmWriter and iA Writer, before, but except for hinting at ByWord as a good alternative, I haven’t talked about it in much detail.

What held me back? Byword was slow to enter the iCloud game. But now that Byword has caught up with iA Writer, I can tell you more about what makes Byword a great (maybe my favorite?) distraction-free writing solution.

Today, I am focusing only on Byword’s iPad app (iTunes link). It currently asks for an introductory price of $3 (50% off). So grab a copy of it now, and save the other 3 bucks for a soy latte :-)


Byword for iPad has all the features you need

As you would expect, Byword comes with a minimalistic feature set that lets you focus on writing. You can sync your work with the Mac version via iCloud or Dropbox, and you can also export your text via email.

Important: Before you can move ByWord documents from your Mac to iCloud, you have to save them using the “Markdown (Plain Text)” format. Otherwise, these files won’t show up on your iPad, even if you did move them to iCloud!

Use the Markdown file format to sync ByWord via iCloud

In order to sync ByWord documents from your Mac to your iPad / iPhone via iCloud, you have to save the document in the Markdown file format before moving it to iCloud.

You can format your text via Markdown language, and ByWord lets you view your formatted document in a Preview mode.

ByWord also lets you customize its appearance a bit, offering four different type sets. However, it is lacking the dark theme (for more eye-friendly writing night shifts; see image above) its Mac version comes with. This is too bad, as the dark theme is one of my most favorite features of Byword for Mac.

Oh, and last, Byword is a universal app, which means that you can use it also on your iPhone / iPod touch for no extra charge. I am not saying that I couldn’t live without Byword on my iPhone, but I can image some situation in which having it as a universal app might be useful.


Byword is a productivity king

Distraction free writing is a great creativity boost because you cannot hide behind different formats, layouts, views, and menus any longer. In addition, good iPad apps also throw in some extras that enhance your writing productivity in a more technical sense.

Byword for iPad has two features that stand out. First, it plays nicely with TextExpander, which lets you enter smaller and larger chunks of text with via a user-defined shortcut.

Second, Byword enhances the iPad’s keyboard with a toolbar for navigating your document and adding special characters or Markdown formats. In contrast to iA Writer, Byword does not waste too much screen estate on its toolbar, leaving you more space to actually see your text.

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ByWord's toolbar

ByWord adds a toolbar that offers more features on less space than iA Writer.

To be honest, I was at first infuriated by that toolbar, since its displays a word counter by default when I opened Byword for the first time. But my love for Byword returned quickly once I figured out that you can access the other, more useful functions by swiping left and right on the toolbar.


What is missing?

My first impression is that Byword did a really good job with its new iPad app. The missing dark theme mode is probably my biggest complaint, especially as we can see on OmmWriter for iPad that you do not have to adopt the standard iPad keyboard.

Other features of the Mac version, such as Typewriter Mode and Paragraph / Line Focus, also didn’t make it to the iPad version. I hope that these things will be added in a future update (you gotta have some room for improvements).

And last, I think that the toolbar could be further optimized. For example, while I am very thankful for the navigation keys, I find the way they are organized (left, down, up, right) confusing. Also, why not adding some shortcuts for very basic formats such as bold and italics for those of us who don’t want to use Markdown language (my guess is that there might be file system restrictions)?


Overall impression: Byword is back in the game, big time!

Overall, I think that ByWord was wise to spend some time but to make it right. In comparison to iA Writer, which was the first distraction free writing app that incorporated iCloud support, Byword is just a little bit more stylish, more flexible, and more thought-through.

Byword for iPad looks great, lets you customize the type set, and has a toolbar that is smaller and more powerful than its competitors. Together with the Mac version (which has some other great features that will be discussed in a separate post), Byword for iPad is one of the best distraction free writing solution available today.

David Sparks has written another excellent article about Byword for iPad, and he also made a little video:

If you want to learn more about Byword’s Mac app, please come back soon. Even better, subscribe to academiPad’s email newsletter or RSS feed for free updates.

Disclaimer: All images by academiPad. Video by David Sparks. Please consider sharing this article if you found it useful.

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  1. Simon says:

    I don’t know whether it’s the v2 update but Byword does not play nice with Magic Manuscripts now. The CTRL-CTRL shortcut makes it save and the CMD-M shortcut minimises the window! Without being able to summon the window with a key command the whole thing falls down for me.

  2. Mike Austin says:

    Just got my first iPad, and as an academic I am loving the site!
    I use a PC provided by my university. If I sync Byword with Dropbox, will I be able to open and edit them in Word on my PC?

  3. Yi says:

    Hi, I now use texmaker for my text writing. Does byword work for Latex?

    By the way, this is a great blog which I frequently check out to see what to buy. Thanks.

  4. Raj says:

    Hi, glad I found your website. Does any of these distraction-free writing apps play nicely with citations? I’ve become habituated with Cite while you write thanks to Endnote. Or do you just leave placeholders for citations when you are writing on your iPad? Thanks

    • Jo says:

      Hi Raj,
      I am using citekeys in Sente to do this, such as [Scholz 2012]. This works in every text app, and Sente scan most apps when you are done (you would probably do this after you exported the text into Pages or Word).

      Papers’ Magic Manuscript also works in ByWord and iA Writer, but not so well with OmmWriter (too disruptive).

      Please check out the Sente and the Papers articles for more info.


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