Writing Apps on the iPad?

A colleague of mine has been asked to help a school out with writing on the iPad, and asked if I had any suggestions for great writing apps. It’s a good question, and there are MANY options to consider. It all depends on your budget, what features you need, and what sort of experience you are looking for.

As far as any apps that will help with the mechanics of writing, I don’t really have any suggestions. I would be interested to see if anyone knows of any apps out there that would help with that.

Evernote is a first obvious choice. It’s not just a note taking app, and it has a lot of great features that students can utilize for research and writing in general. I’ve written about it on my blog – check it out for more info. Evernote and an Evernote account are free. There may be an issue if the writers are under 13 years old…

The next obvious choice is Pages, Apple’s word processing and page layout app. This one is expensive ($9.99, $4.99 for 20+ copies through Apple’s Volume Purchasing Program) but it is the best thing out there for writing on the iPad, hands down.

Google Drive is a fantastic (and free) solution if the district/school you are working with has adopted the Google Apps Domain for teacher/student email and all of the other great additions that come along. If not, this will work if students can create and access a regular GMail account as well. You can do some amazing collaborative things with Google Drive. The one big drawback for Drive right now is that you can not create or edit a presentation on an iPad. I’m sure that ability is coming soon.

I’ve not used it, but many are suggesting PlainText for a free, stripped down, bare bones writing app on the iPad. Sometimes a simple bare bones app is a good thing. I think many times teachers and students get hung up and focus too much on what the document looks like, and less on the content and ideas. It’s much easier to fuss with fonts than to perfectly phrase a thought, and so that’s what they spend time, focus and energy on. PlainText also saves/syncs with Dropbox, so that’s nice.

CloudOn would not be my first choice, but it’s certainly worth mentioning. It’s basically Microsoft Office on the iPad for free. You can save documents directly on the iPad, or you can connect to other Cloud storage systems (Dropbox, Box, Google Drive, & SkyDrive). The drawback is that you must have an Internet connection to use it – you are basically connecting to a virtual server running the desktop version of Office somewhere in the cloud. I personally don’t like the clutter of Word/Office, but many people love and want Office on the iPad.

I’ve really been enjoying Drafts lately for it’s ease of use and flexibility, but it costs as well ($3.99). When you launch Drafts, you are presented with a blank document and a blinking cursor – no hoops to jump through to start writing. Each ‘draft’ is saved, listed in the left sidebar, accessed by a swipe. Then, when you are ready to do something with your draft, swipe from right to left to show the myriad of sharing/saving options.

The last one I’ll mention is Quip. This is relatively new and I have not had much of a chance to put it through it’s paces. It comes from some very smart people (developed by ex Facebook CTO) and has been built from the ground up to work with mobile devices. It’s a little quirky with some new gestures and such, but looks like a really good tool.

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