Writing


ON: BY: Christopher Hannah

Can you do real work on an iPad?

Well if the real work is writing, then I argue that it is probably better at it than most other devices.

A writer’s provisions are the tools they use, and their imagination. This is why a lot of effort is put into finding and using the appropriate tools, because it allows the focus to be on the writing.

In my opinion, because of the writers need to focus on what they are writing, the best tools are the ones that don’t make themselves a distraction from the end goal. The ideal environment needs to adapt to the writer and not the other way around, which is where I think the iPad fits in perfectly. It’s of course, not a new product, but still the argument on whether work can be done on it successfully continues (although this seems to be dying out).

With the iPad, you have a fully portable device that is not only able to be taken anywhere, but it’s also able to be used anywhere. It also benefits from the consumerism around the device, because this has led to a wide array of accessories being made, such as external keyboards, stands, and now the Apple Pencil. Especially with iOS being such a flexible platform, and apps for pretty much every single scenario.

I have a MacBook Pro and while I like to write using it, I still find the iPad to be more suited to the job. With tasks like visually organising notes and ideas with the touch screen, or making use of the Apple Pencil, it’s as if you’re really interacting with the content, without any unnecessary distractions.

Also, it may sound strange, but the Workflow app for iOS is another reason for why I favour the iPad for writing, as it makes all the management tasks associated with writing much more streamlined and adaptable. The way I think of the comparison between writing on an iPad and writing on my Mac, is the ratio on which actual writing is done, compared to the time you spend managing your writing and the related process. For me, my Mac is okay for longer-form writing pieces where I spend a long time writing, that the amount of time editing, submitting to blogs, embedding images, and so on isn’t a big deal. On the other hand, with my iPad I have all of my processes automated with apps such as Workflow, Opener, Trello (Trello has a website you can use), so I can focus on the writing, regardless of the situation.

I of course can’t complain too much, because my Mac is the newest MacBook Pro, so it’s super light, and the keyboard is nice to type on. But I still believe the iPad edges out in front.

An iPad may take longer to get used to, and maybe a while to find and configure the writing tools for you. But once you’re there, you’re free to just write.

ON: BY: Christopher Hannah

Since Bear has been officially released for both iOS and macOS (also been selected for Editors choice!), I thought I’d share my thoughts on the app.

I’ve actually been using Bear for a while, ever since it entered beta. And it's been a remarkable tool for me, whether it's writing blog posts or even just jotting down small notes.

Bear on iOS

Bear actually differentiates from other apps quite a lot, but mainly in the way it looks. It has its own version of Markdown that it uses, but you can always change that to support the original Gruber version. Then you have the 9 really cool themes to choose from, and there's more variety then other apps. I personally use Panic Mode.

As it’s available for both macOS and iOS, there are slight differences in the design, but these are just platform differences, not how the app functions.
It’s split into three different views, the tags view which is on the left, the list of posts in the middle, and then the actual post on the right. On the Mac you can choose which views you want visible, and on iOS it appears differently based on what orientation/device you are on.

Editor

The editor is clean, and it lets you focus on the content. It’s a style used by most of the modern apps, and I really love it. There’s an Information panel you can bring up, by just tapping the (i) button in the top right corner (iOS and macOS). It brings up some some handy information like read time, last editing device, and also gives you the option to export to different file types.

Bear on macOS

You can do the standard markdown formatting like bold, italics, underline, and strike through text. Of course it supports links, but it displays them slightly different with a link icon and the title. You don’t see the underlying Markdown code or URL, but with a tap/click on the link, you can change the
title or url easily.

Editing Links

Another benefit over other apps is the ability to insert inline images in a post, which isn't especially useful for me when I'm writing these types of posts that require screenshots.

There’s also support for embedding lines or blocks of code, and you can actually specify a language to get better formatting.

Code Blocks

When you’re typing on iOS, a custom shortcut bar makes it even easier, with quick access to different formatting, links, photos, and code blocks.

Custom Shortcut Bar

Organising Notes

The way you organise your notes in Bear is by adding tags, you can add these anywhere in a note. It allows you to see them clearly separated in the Tags view, or even search or them.

It’s a format I quite like, as it allows to be more flexible when writing. I for one lose track of notes when I have to place them in certain folders, so being able to just add a “RadThinker” tag, I can quickly find all the posts I’ve written for my blog.

Something else I don’t really see on other apps, is a trash folder. In Bear you can view any document you’ve deleted, and then restore it if you’ve done it by mistake.

Import/Export

Most people already use a note taking app, so you’ll want to move it all to Bear. Well you can import text files straight in to Bear, and it also features an import feature for Vesper users.

Exporting is even better, with the ability to export a note into .MD, .PDF, .HTML, .DOCX, .JPG, and .RTF. It also supports the standard share sheet, which is very useful.

What makes exporting even better, is when you combine it with an automation app like Workflow. For example you could export to Markdown (MD), and then share that to a workflow which posts it to your blog.

Pro Subscription

Bear is free to use on macOS and iOS, but there is a Pro subscription which will unlock loads of awesome features. Of course I signed up straight away.

With Pro you get access to things like syncing between your devices, access to all the themes, and exporting to every good file type.

You can choose to subscribe monthly, or yearly. With the prices being $1.49 per month, or $14.99 per year.

Final Thoughts

Overall I think Bear is great. It’s my note taking app, and also the app I use to write for this blog. Now I have syncing across macOS and iOS (Wasn’t available in beta), it’s even better.

The few things I think could improve Bear would be the ability to have some form of sub tags? to further organise notes, the option to have a link preview, and maybe even shared notes, but I know that’s a lot harder than it seems.

One big feature that I would love is Ghost integration, as that’s what RadicalThinker is run on. So being able to post directly from a text editor, would save uploading images, entering tags, and more importantly even opening my browser to access a (quite annoying) web interface.

I can see a bright future for Bear, and it’s started out with such a high standard, it can really become everyones default notes app right now. Of course there’s so much more Bear can do than I’ve written here, so the best place to find out more is on their website , or by checking it out yourself.

Download Bear for iOS and macOS , and then make sure you support them by subscribing to Pro!