Letterspace gets iOS writing and editing right
It's easy to write on an iPad or iPhone, but editing and revising, not so much. At this moment I have six separate writing apps on my iPad and the all share the same problem: if you want to edit or change a word or phrase, you are required to touch the spot on the screen near where you want to "insert" the cursor and then fiddle around, moving your finger around to try and get to the precise spot that you want. Letterspace, a clever new iOS app, solves this problem elegantly. Letterspace requires iOS 7.1 or later, is compatible with iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch. The base app is free, but has an In-App purchase option of additional fonts and colors for $4.99.
Letterspace really is beautifully designed. When you create a new document you are presented with not only the blank page and the virtual keyboard, but they are separated by a and a few useful characters not displayed on the basic iOS keyboard. That's nice, but the real magic happens when you type a line or two of text and then run your finger across this bar. The cursor moves easily and quickly back and forth across your text. The moment I started using sliding approach to move the cursor I fell in love with it. This is exactly how editing should work with touch devices. Using it for the first time was one of those, "of course!" moments. It's brilliant, simple, and very effective.
But is that enough for a writing app?
I found the app to be well designed and easy on read and use. Letterspace includes a few other clever features. Along with the sliding cursor bar the app includes smart quotes and parentheses in the editing bar. Simply touch the parentheses, type, and touch it again and you get both proper open and close characters. That's a nice touch (and it makes it easier to add parenthetical phrases like this).
There's also a not as well thought out feature that allows you to create list items that you can then toggle by touching the screen. Once again, clever, but this feature doesn't come off as well. To make it work I needed a total of 10 key presses to start a new task. That took some fiddling about to make it work and once I did figure it out it didn't seem like a strong benefit to me over other list making apps. It would be much more effective and usable is one didn't have to manually start the process.
The app also recognizes hashtags, a nice feature for searching, and an archive feature for clearing documents from the front display. Letterspace also uses iCloud for syncing and that worked very well when I tested it on both my iPhone and iPad. I found it easy to send a document that I'd created in Letterspace via the standard iOS methods, including AirDrop, Message, and Mail. I particularly appreciated the "Open In" feature, allowing me to open a Letterspace document in some of the other writing apps on my device.
I spend my working day writing, either on my iPad, iPhone, or more likely, my MacBook Pro. I prefer to have my current projects immediately at hand without intentionally and manually moving them about. That's one of the things missing here: a Mac OS seamless option. My current default for writing fully cross-platform is Simplenote (iOS) and nvALT on my Mac (and I can do the same with Pages and even Microsoft Word). When I use these apps I never have to think about where a doc is or how to move it-it's just where I need it. Letterspace's additional niceties don't trump what I need the most: having my documents readily at hand without pre-planning.
If you don't need seamless syncing and availability Letterspace is an exceptionally nice writing AND editing tool. My initial delight at using it remains, but that may not be enough to cause me to move from my current apps.
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