Is there an editor designed specifically for writers of short prose? Currently I am using Microsoft Word and it is very heavy weight.

Large technical reports need indices, chapters, heavy formatting (provided by tools like Word and InDesign), and programmers desire all sorts of code hooks, definition lookups, and integration with other tools like Xcode or code control tools.

I want a tool for putting out prose and haven't found good solutions for this need.

Better for writers means:

  • fast - especially on older macs without SSD or large amounts of RAM
  • lightweight in feel as well as in visual impact

Ideally this tool should be available for both Mac OS X and/or on an iPod Touch.

  • This is not a answerable question, going to result in a debate or list of software to buy, etc. All word processor are designed for writers, or that's what each developer is going to claim.
    – MrDaniel
    Feb 28, 2012 at 19:50
  • 2
    This seems specific enough to be worth keeping. The criteria for best is clearly described (I'll edit the formatting and beef up the explanation as I see the request) in case it's not clear enough to everyone.
    – bmike
    Feb 28, 2012 at 19:56
  • ... so a related question to ask is: what format to use to edit on both iOS and MacOSX. Better means: clear and simple, open and durable if you change software, interchangeable...
    – meduz
    Mar 4, 2012 at 10:19

5 Answers 5


WriteRoom for OSX and WriteRoom for iOS

Only 1.2 MB in size. (Mac version) The iOS version works on both the iPad and iPhone.

  • Fullscreen
  • Autosave
  • Reading time, word counter
  • sync via Dropbox
  • supports TextExpander Touch

iA Writer for OSX and iA Writer for iOS

Only 0.7 MB in size. (Mac version) The iOS version is iPad only.

  • Fullscreen
  • Autosave
  • Reading time, word and character counter
  • sync via Dropbox or iCloud
  • supports TextExpander Touch
  • 2
    iA Writer also has Auto Markdown support.
    – pdd
    Feb 28, 2012 at 20:13

Scrivener for OSX.

Plan is to build an iPad/iTouch app. Developed by a writer who couldn't find an app to meet his needs. Check out his website for more information.

  • Fullscreen
  • Corkboard
  • Outlining
  • Snapshots
  • Scriptwriting (including export tool for Final Draft)
  • Text synchronizes with a number of iPhone and iPad file-sharing tools
  • Allows you to write in various formats (ePub, PDF, Final Draft, RTF, etc.)

Byword (OS X) <> DropBox <> Writing Kit (iOS)

Byword is a wonderfully simple prose editor that includes Markdown preview and exports Markdown formatted documents into a number of common formats including RTF and PDF. It also features a focus mode that keeps the line of text you're currently composing in the middle of the screen and scrolls the previous lines up—like a typewriter.

Because my writing workflow is Markdown based I make use of Brett Terpstra's Markdown Service Tools on the Mac, particularly the Service that allow me to quickly bring a series of Safari tabs into a Markdown document as linked references.

I previously used Elements on iOS but recently switched to Writing Kit because of its integrated web browser for research and the ability to quickly bring web URLs into your document.

I save current projects to DropBox so that I can work on them from any of several Macs or from my iPad and (if absolutely necessary) iPhone.

Since this answer was originally posted, Byword (iOS) has been released and Byword (OS X) was updated to include iCloud support so that documents sync automatically in near-realtime between Byword running on different devices. I haven't had enough time with the new applications yet, but my preliminary tests are hopeful and I think I'll be making a major switch to my workflow.


Actually, Pages is a pretty good writing tool. 6,000 pounds lighter than Word and much easier to use once you get used to it.

With Mountain Lion and iCloud document sharing, working across Mac, iPad and iPhone/iPod becomes almost transparent. The first time I grabbed my iPad to see if I could edit a Pages document I was working on in a Mac in another room (which could just as well have been another building/city/country), rather than leave what I was doing to get to that Mac, and the document popped up, to the character the same as what was open in Pages on the Mac, I got the silliest grin ... how many other computers produce that effect?

There are some differences between the iOS and OSX Pages document support, managing hyperlinks and finer typographic things like superscripts/subscripts are absent from the iOS version. I'd be surprised if footnotes are part of the iOS Pages repertoire. If those are a factor, it allows you to edit a copy or replace the original with the downgraded format.

For me, the only thing that is missing is the ability to export into HTML.

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