The waters of the iPad text editor world are so crowded that its easy to miss yet another one slipping from the shore, even it is a big-name app that would normally make a splash. So it is that Hog Bay software’s WriteRoom has finally hit the tablet, turning swan-like from a rather pointless iPhone app into a beautifully full-featured (universal) iPad app with almost nobody noticing.
WriteRoom 3.0 is a kind of pro version of PlainText, which was Hog Bay developer Jesse Grosjean’s first iPad Text Editor. Both versions sync with Dropbox, the iPad’s de facto file system (they can actually be tied to the same folder so you can use either app to edit the same documents), and both support only plain text files (you can specify what kind of plain text documents by entering file extensions when you first connect to Dropbox. Markdown works, for example).
And both sport the same clean interface, which can be melted away at the tap of a button leaving just your words and your keyboard. In fact, WriteRoom 3.0 is more like PlainText 2.0, and that’s a good thing.
The biggest changes are the ability to change the typeface. Size, font and even line spacing can now be tweaked. The small default font of PlainText was one of the things that kept me from using it.
The other big change is the Extended Keyboard. This puts another row of keys above the standard QWERTY layout. These keys are customizable (all you do is type the symbols into a text box in the settings), but the default set is pretty good, with tab, a hyphen, colon, semicolon, parentheses single and double quotes, along with a pair of cursor arrows.
These arrows sound handy, but are redundant thanks to a feature that already exists in PlainText: tap the left or right margin and the cursor moves to the left or right by one character. Tap with two fingers and it moves one word at a time. Smart and, once you’re used to it, essential.
WriteRoom also introduces the “Draggable Scroller”. With any document more than one page long, you can scroll by swiping your fingers, as with any other iOS app. When you do so, the regular scrollbar “thumb” appears on the right to give you feedback. The difference is that you can now grab that thumb and use it to drag the content, just like you can on a desktop. It sounds pointless, but works surprisingly well, and in long documents it saves you from pawing at the screen like a demented kitten.
Other new tweaks let you change text and paper colors, as well as text highlight colors. You can switch the status bar back on (the bar with the time, battery and carrier info at the top of the screen). You can password protect your files and switch auto-correct on or off.
Textexpander support remains, as does a pop-up box (tap the document title) to let you print, email or sync a document, as well as view a word count. So, too, does the app-wide search.
If you’re looking for a solid, reliable iPad text editor with just enough settings to make the workspace nice and comfortable, along with some great features to make actually writing a lot faster and easier, you should probably go get WriteRoom now (and if you already have the iPhone version, this update is free). It costs just $5.
If you don’t care about the extra keyboard row, or the text-tweaking options, then stick with the free and still excellent PlainText.