Saturday, February 18, 2012


You can write a letter, article, or book using lots of different tools— pen and paper, a typewriter, a text editor, a word processor, or a page layout application. Nothing prevents you from opening, say, InDesign on a Mac to type up your grocery list. But that’s like using a blowtorch when a candle would suffice. For me—and I’m speaking as someone who spends pretty much all his work time typing—I find it much more efficient to match the tool to the task. When I’m writing something that requires little or no formatting, I use a text editor (such as BBEdit on a Mac), and I save my files in plain text (.txt) format so I know they’re 100 percent compatible with every device or app I might ever want to use to view them. I turn to a full-blown word processor (such as Word, Pages, or Nisus Writer Pro on a Mac) only when I specifically need capabilities that a text editor lacks.

The same logic applies to iPad apps. I have Pages and several other word processors on my iPad, but when I don’t need all their extra capabilities, I use something simpler that’s quicker to open, less fiddly to use, and easier to get documents into and out of. This approach works well for me, and I recommend it to you, too.

You may be thinking that “plain text” sounds dull and useless, but that’s not necessarily the case. After all, most of the world’s great books consist of nothing but words, with nary an italic character! Indeed, even on a Mac or PC, it’s extremely common for novelists, poets, and other creative writers to choose simple, distraction-free programs to help them focus on the words and nothing else. Personally, I prefer to use plain text whenever possible, even (maybe especially) for email, letters, and other personal correspondence.

Plain text is also great for writing articles, blog posts, and the like using John Gruber’s Markdown syntax for text-based formatting (, which is supported by many blogging and publishing tools. For example, Macworld asks its authors to use Markdown, which includes simple tags that can be converted later to italics, clickable URLs, bulleted lists, and so on. That way, writers get the simplicity of using plain text, while readers get the benefits of styles and structural elements that make the text more robust.

To summarize: if you can write in plain text, it’s a good idea to do so— especially on an iPad, where styled-text options are more limited and controls for manipulating styles and layout are sometimes cumbersome to use. For suggestions on choosing an app to write in plain text, see Use a Text Editor (next) and if you’re looking for an app to write programming code in, skip ahead to Text Editors for Programmers.

Of course, plain text doesn’t always cut it. If you want to create an impressive résumé, an academic paper with references and diagrams, a brochure, or a poster, the capability to tweak your document’s appearance is obligatory. Although Markdown has tags that can be converted to tables, numbered lists, and various kinds of headings, sometimes (as when writing Take Control books!) an author needs much more extensive formatting control. And, since Microsoft Word (.doc) format has been, for many years, the de facto standard for exchanging word-processing documents, you may have to open and edit Word files on your iPad whether or not they truly “need” the capabilities of a full word processor.

Source of Information : TidBITS-Take Control of Working with Your iPad 2011 
Digg Google Bookmarks reddit Mixx StumbleUpon Technorati Yahoo! Buzz DesignFloat Delicious BlinkList Furl


Post a Comment