While I don’t think anyone would accuse me of being a true Luddite, I do tend to get overwhelmed and exhausted by software.
Over the last five years, I’ve grown more and more disillusioned with MS Word, largely considered the gold standard for word processing software. This program introduced me to digital writing. I can remember when my middle school’s computer lab switched from Wordperfect to MS Word. I remember writing my first essay on that clunky old computer running Word (98 I believe?) and falling in love with the features. I could edit and correct and highlight and control the layout—this was what writing was meant to be!
Flash forward to 2017 and my opinion has effectively reversed. I’m sick of being bludgeoned with features. I want a simple, clean writing space on my screen. I want it to be versatile, easy to use, and secure.
With that in mind, let’s have a look at Write! App, an exciting new tool ready to take on word processing standards and expectations.
What is Write!?
It’s a word processing program. That’s all it is. No bells and whistles, Write! emphasizes simplicity and style. It’s cross-platform, working seamlessly (relatively, we’ll talk more about that later) across Mac and Windows. They boast Linux support as well, but I didn’t test that. Write! uses a built-in cloud service to share content across operating systems with ease.
Most importantly, Write! is a writing tool for writers, striving to offer exactly what a writer needs and none of the features or clutter they don’t.
Currently, I use three tools to do the vast majority of my writing: MS Word for work, Scrivener for fiction, and Evernote for note-taking. Write! is a tool specifically designed to replace these three functions and provide the most of same writing capabilities under a single program.
In this attempt, Write! gets a lot right—excuse the bad attempt at a pun—and a leaves some things to be desired. I’ll save some of your time and say this now: I would recommend Write! as a personal writing and note taking tool for any author or blogger. For book layout and design, Write! falls short.
Now for the details.
Write! in the Cloud
Write! uses cloud sharing to make content available on any device with the App downloaded. At the time of this writing, there is no mobile App, and if the developers aren’t currently working on one, they should be. The lack of a mobile App version may turn off some users. I personally use Evernote only because of the mobile App.
When I have an idea that needs recording, I pull out my phone and jot a note into Evernote. Then I have that note ready and waiting on my laptop when I go to do some real work. Scrivener takes it even a step further with a full writing App for Apple devices. While I’ve never used an iPad to write, Scrivener does provide that option.
Write! wants to be somewhere in between. The software’s native cloud storage is awesome for quickly sharing your work across devices—like say when I leave my laptop at the office and want to work on a blog post over the weekend. An entire office using Write! would further benefit from the sharing options across accounts and users.
In the grand scheme of things, Write!’s cloud is one of the most innovative features. This is how word processing will look in another decade, and Write! is jumping ahead of the curve moving our content off our hard drives and up to the cloud.
Aside from the lack of a mobile app—which can be forgiven if the developers have something planned for the future—is the issue with sharing across other cloud services. While Write! offers a native cloud, it is not easy or intuitive to share content created in Write! to Dropbox, iCloud, or Google Drive. All of these sharing tools will need integration for Write! to compete and excel where other writing software falls short.
An important note: Write! can still work with and save to your local disk. In fact, moving from a local folder to the cloud and back was comfortably simple.
Write! and writing
Productivity and features are important, but what matters most to me is the writing experience. So I used Write! to participate in NaNoWriMo this year. I did the same thing a few years back when I first got into using Scrivener and it really does a great job of showing just what the writing software is capable of.
The screen is clean, with the top bar compacted until expanded to open up even more writing space. The left and right sidebars can be minimized too, turning the entire screen into a writing surface. And that’s before entering the distraction free mode.
I love the cleanliness of the App, though I find the “button” to expand the sidebars a little too minimalist:
Seriously, it’s a tiny little dot. Now, as I used the App more and more, I found I didn’t actually need to click the sidebar revealer much, but because they’ve opted to use the bottom of the screen for some commands, I wouldn’t complain about some more noticeable buttons.
You’ll see that sidebar on the left. It shows the Cloud content, and can easily be switched to local content.
The writing screen uses tabs, a familiar and comfortable layout that provides ample means of reviewing notes while crafting content. And thanks to the session options, you can organize your content, keeping notes, work, personal, and any other kind of content easily organized:
I love the sessions feature. I could keep a Notes session and organize a variety of information in note form in multiple tabs, and keep them all readily available without having to worry about saving when I shift to a different writing project.
Once I got all organized and situated, I could begin actually writing. The layout is reminiscent of writing in WordPress. Only better. Write! includes a number of features I immediately turned off, like autocorrect and a smart autocomplete. I don’t care for these, but they are popular so I understand defaulting to them. Thankfully, the variety of writing options are easily accessed with a right click.
That’s a bit different than most of us are used to. Right-click in Word and you’ll see a few text options like hyperlinking and copy/paste. Write! takes this functionality to the next level with a multi-tabbed menu with (nearly) all the writing options you’ll need.
For the rest of the options you’ll need, you will need to use the top bar. These menus effectively mirror MS Word expectations without missing anything important. I like that the menu collapses into the Tab list, but it does strike me a little odd that the Mac App features this same menu mirrored on the Mac top bar.
The two menus are exactly the same. I don’t really care—nothing about this detracted from my experience—but it seems odd. Why not just remove the collapsed menu entirely for Mac users?
Fonts and Heading options are present, more limited than MS Word or Adobe InDesign of course, but Write! is a writing tool, not a layout and design tool. In this way, Write! more closely reflects blog writing features. This too is a good thing. Software like WordPress gets the writing experience right, with minimal editing and design tools to keep writers focused on writing.
For blogging, Write! is a great option thanks to these choices. They even offer direct publishing to Medium and WordPress, an awesome feature allowing users to directly push their content from Write! to their blog.
So how was the writing?
Excellent. Once I got the predictive text and auto-correct off, I wrote happily with Write! for hours at a time. Misspellings are caught and marked with a red line and a small button offering corrections by hovering over. Text appears in a pleasant “pop” onto the screen similar to writing with Evernote, and different than MS Word’s very slight delay in text appearing. For some, this is no issue at all, but the aesthetic of Write! is incredibly pleasing, making the writing experience a joy.
Write! features the “typewriter” setting, a feature I am surprised more writing software doesn’t use. Scrivener has always had the typewriter mode and it’s one of the factors that locked me into using them for the bulk of my writing. This was the first thing I looked for when I began writing and for me is a huge factor in assessing how writer-friendly a piece of software is.
For anyone that’s not familiar with this feature, a typewriter mode keeps the line you’re currently writing at or near the center of the screen, rather than the text running all the way to the bottom of the screen before shifting. Each click of the “Return” key moves the text a line up, maintaining white space. The effect is a more comfortable writing experience, as your eyes will track back and forth without having to continually shift down the page.
Write! handles this with a 30% white space feature that maintains white space. I love this.
The cloud saves would trigger often, but not so often that my typing speed was affected. I usually sit around 60 word per minute when I’m doing creative work, which isn’t blazing fast of course, but fast enough to demand the software keeps up. Write! never had a problem with that.
The spell-checker is mediocre. After I finished my NaNo project, I ran through and checked the document, then dumped it into MS Word and Grammarly, both revealing a variety of additional spelling problems. This isn’t huge, though as a tool clearly focused on the writing experience for web-centric users, getting clean text prior to shipping the content over to a blog is crucial.
Write! versus the world
On the whole, I really like Write! Using it for NaNo was a great experience—but using the software for a single project is not the same as switching to it for day to day work.
How does Write! hold up against the rest of the writing programs out there?
- Clean writing experience
- Cloud storage
- Available across operating systems
- Low Cost
- Exporting to creates file with array of formatting issues
- Cloud storage/sharing limited to native cloud
- No Mobile App
- Limited spell check and layout options
Overall, Write! is a terrific writing experience, lacking only in the features beyond the writing, such as sharing and layout. To a large extent, the lack of layout and design options is not crucial, as Write! is focused on actually helping you write your words, not layout or design a print ready file. To that end, a huge improvement would be a better export option to .docx and PDF. Getting an MS Word file is particularly crucial for editing.
As an example of the problems I ran into with exporting, the file I created for Word used “Open Sans” font and had issues with the way Heading styles carried over. It left me in a situation where I had to reformat all the styles to work with the file, even before I began laying it out for print. Write! could do more with the Text Style Presets (maybe a Word-friendly preset?) for users who know they’ll be exporting and laying out their file.
Write! for a price
Before we wrap this up, let’s talk a moment about the cost to use Write!
Write! is $19.95 USD to purchase, and includes a year of cloud access. After that first year, the annual rate is $4.95. This is all reasonable for the service the App provides, though some may scoff at the annual fee. Remember that Office will run you upwards of $70 a year (there’s no option to purchase Word online separate from the Office bundle). Or you can get the Word on its own as a single license, but even that will cost over $100. At that price, Write! will last over 15 years.
So for the cost, you’ve got a very nice tool for simple writing, note taking, and blogging. Is it the most powerful word processor on the market? No definitely not. But this is also a young program, just getting off the ground and looking to contend with juggernauts like Word. The usefulness of Write! absolutely accounts for the price.
If the developers are committed to their software and continue to make upgrades to touch up some of the small issues—syncing to Dropbox, converting Word docs, improving spellcheck, etc.—I could easily see this tool becoming a mainstay for a lot of writers out there sick of Word and looking for a low cost, versatile alternative.
Write! is a better writing experience than Scrivener, though it lacks some of the note-taking and research options. Write! is a much better tool for bloggers or anyone writing a book when it comes to the actual experience, though you’ll find it lacks the layout and design tools of MS Word. For the price, you get a versatile and pleasurable writing tool that easily rivals other software on the market.
If you’re a writer who doesn’t need a mobile app version, is okay with the lack of cloud syncing with non-Write! cloud and you are not concerned with reformatting for print, Write! is a bargain at the cost. If later iterations begin to address these problems, I see Write! as a true contender for software like Scrivener.