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Friday, January 22, 2016

The current status of CloudAge™ writing on iOS

To start, I’d like to go back and revisit a few of the more well-known and -loved apps for iOS, and see where they stand for the CloudAge™ Author in 2016: Storyist, iA Writer, Simplenote, and Scrivener.


Since my original post on it, Storyist’s basics haven’t changed much. It still has the same basic layout, with the ability to create projects with multiple documents. In fact, all of the major changes for Storyist seem to be under the hood changes, like support for new iOS features (slide-over in iOS 9, Document Picker in iOS 8, and so forth). I personally think it’s excellent because that leaves the basic functionality of the app intact.
To review, Storyist is a “Writing Platform” similar to Scrivener. Creating a new document is creating a new writing project, with the capability to handle multiple documents, as well as the research associated with a project. The project has a storyboard that can be manipulated however you like, moving scenes and chapters around as you need to adjust the flow of the project. Storyist includes metadata documents (in a form called “sheets”) that allow you to keep notes about your settings, characters, plot points, and so forth. Storyist has a companion Mac app in addition to the iOS app, so you can work on a project on your home computer, then jet off to your local park, library, or coffee shop and work on your Great American Novel remotely. The Mac version is still $59, and the iOS version is currently listed at $14.99 on the App Store.
[ Update 12:06 PM -0700 (MST) 22 JAN 2016 ]: As Steve from Storyist points out in his comment below, Storyist now permits directly importing and editing Scrivener files within Storyist. Follow the steps listed on their page for details.

iA Writer

iA Writer has undergone significant changes since I last covered it. Some of these changes have been hard to uncover, since there was apparently some kind of “Pro” version, which either is now gone, or is not gone but is different, and the iA website is not at all clear about what changed and how. I have some questions about their product that were not covered on their quite useless support pages, questions which I have since emailed to their support team and from whom have not yet heard back. I will cover this product later, once I have those answers.


I recently wrote an article on using Scrivener and Simplenote together. Here I’m going to revisit using it by itself as a writing tool on the iPad, and how it has changed from my earlier review of it.
One major thing that has changed: Simplenote no longer offers a paid (premium) level. The app is free, and available for iOS, Mac, PC, as a Web-based app, and is in beta for Android (according to their latest blog post at the time I write this, it’s a beta, but the front page lists it as available to download for Android). It also appears to no longer sync with Dropbox—at least, I was unable to locate any way to tell the current iOS version of Simplenote to connect to Dropbox—but as long as you register with your email address all of your notes are synced to Simplenote apps on all platforms. Registration is also free. In the iOS version, you can send notes via the iOS sharing options, which are under the (i) icon in the Simplenote toolbar. Standard sharing options appear such as AirDrop, Message, Mail, etc., and you can customize the activities that appear on this list just as in any iOS app which uses the standard sharing features of iOS.
Simplenote also offers a “Dark Theme,” similar to other apps that do similar things. It puts the app into a color theme with dark gray background and lighter colored text. Also new is an automatic “list building” mode. If you start a new line with an asterisk, plus, or dash (*, +, or -) symbol, it automatically inserts the same marker on the next line when you type a return, until you type two returns in a row. 
What hasn’t changed is how drop-dead simple it is. Open the app, click the “+” button, and type. If you use an external keyboard, you get just a little tiny toolbar at the bottom and the tiny toolbar at the top, and like 85% or so of the screen is just a great big document to type in. This continues to make Simplenote a great choice for just sitting down and writing. Snag your iPad Air 2 and keyboard, hop over to the Library, park, or local coffee shop, and write. It can be very liberating.
Simplenote’s simplicity may be your annoyance, however, if you still desire things such as Multimarkdown (you can type it, but Simplenote doesn’t render it) or any formatting. For that, see iA Writer above.

Scrivener (just kidding!)

Perhaps the biggest CloudAge™ Author disappointment in the past couple of years is the vaporware status of Scrivener for iOS. Originally announced in December of 2011, it seems unlikely to be released anytime soon, if ever. Literature and Latte’s latest update on the issue seems to indicate that they have taken development back completely in-house, and are aiming for a 2016 release. However, they also have said they hoped to have it ready for NaNoWriMo 2012, 2013, 2014, and 2015, with nothing to show for it.
As a daily user of Scrivener on the Mac, I am quite disappointed in Literature & Latte’s seeming nonchalance regarding this app’s release. I am fortunate in many ways since I have a Mac Laptop, which I bought in large part because I love Scrivener and was getting frustrated with the lack of an iPad app. Many writers don’t want to throw down an additional $1,500 or more for a laptop just to write remotely, and I respect that. I wish Literature & Latte would respect it as well. There are alternatives (Simplenote or external folder syncing), but these are band-aid suggestions for an arterial bleed.

In Conclusion

With new technology coming all the time, it seemed prudent to review the state of the CloudAge™ Author’s choices for iPad writing before moving on into new advances. One of these is the newish availability of Word on the iPad in a state that admits of document creation and editing, not just consumption.


  1. Hi Donovan,

    Thank you for mentioning the Storyist for iOS updates! Another under the hood change people might not be aware of is that Storyist can now edit Scrivener files directly via iCloud. No folder sync required.

    There is a quick tutorial on how to set that up here:

    Best Regards,
    Steve Shepard
    Storyist Software

    1. Thanks, Steve! I didn't see that listed on the User Guide ( so I wasn't aware of it. Thanks for the update, I'll update the post!

  2. Hello Donovan,

    Please don't claim that we're being nonchalant or do not respect the $1,500 required for Mac syncing with other iOS apps. (Although you can get a new MBA for $899 these days.) You would not believe the tortuous and disappointing development path we've been down with so-called specialist iOS developers. We've already invested hundreds of thousands of dollars attempting to bring Scrivener for iOS to market. The first external developer had a tragic family incident which meant she could no-longer focus on the project, so we passed her code onto a new developer. That developer wanted to start afresh and coded for 2 years before we insisted on thorough alpha testing. It then transpired that the underlying code was riddled with bugs, and we'd probably spend another year at extortionate rates (for what we were getting) to complete the project. We then went through a respected agency where two more developers let us down. Maybe we should have brought the project in-house much earlier, but you cannot level nonchalance or indifference as us. Naïveté maybe, but no one has been more disappointed than us at not yet releasing Scrivener on iOS to market.

    Once Keith (creator and lead developer of Scrivener) had switched his coding prowess from OS X to iOS, he rapidly realised that it's relatively straightforward to code on iOS, and cannot understand how seasoned coders gave us timeframes of more than a year to complete the project. We've started over yet again, but we will be releasing Scrivener on iOS during 2016, as we're no longer dependant on third parties. Maybe we're slow at learning, considering the years that went by (we're probably never going to recoup our costs), but as the adage goes, if you want something done well, do it yourself. We can understand your frustration, but we have never been nonchalant with regard to iOS. As a company, it's been our main headache for years.

    All the best, David
    Literature & Latte

    1. Dear David,

      I would believe the 'tortuous path' that Literature and Latte has been down. I was once one of those terrified developers who stood on a shaky Objective-C precipice and viewed these new fangled Swift coders with a combination of fear and shame. I remain, however, unconvinced that L&L's primary focus during this time has been its users. Scrivener has been my primary writing tool for years—I originally purchased 2.0 on 3/4/2011, with an upgrade code from Scrivener 1.x—and I don't levy these assertions willy-nilly. Scrivener is my writing tool of choice every day because, IMO, it is the best tool for most writers and most writing projects.
      With that in mind, L&L has been negligent—yes, I used that term deliberately—in their treatment of the iOS project. I've been waiting with bated breath for half a decade. L&L is the one significantly behind the curve here. Don't pretend it's okay just because you all missed the boat.