Both the iPhone and iPad can be great tools for writers, with both offering different experiences and capabilities. With the iPhone, you can write something no matter where you are, whether it's in line for coffee or just getting a quick though down at your desk. With the iPad, you can enjoy wider screen real estate, but with the single-app focus that keeps you from getting distracted.
There are a wide variety of apps available for writers who want to work on their iOS devices, from simple text editors to full-featured writing suites. It doesn't matter if you're taking notes, writing articles, or working your way to writing the great American novel, there's an app for that on your iOS device.
1Writer supports export in plain text, HTML, and PDF, and you can also add your document to Evernote using the built-in integration with the note-taking service.
Let's get this out of the way up front: yes, Ulysses has recently moved to a subscription model. You're either fine with that or you're not, and if you're not, this list is full of great options if you're looking to make a switch.
Ulysses offers a full array of tools for writers of any kind. This app is easy to pick up and start using, but offers a wide array of customization options for everything from writing to exporting. Choose to work in Markdown or create your own markup style. While the app for iPhone and iPad doesn't present the same visual customization options as those found on the Mac, it can still take advantage of those features, and you can download new themes in the Ulysses Style Exchanger to use on any device. When it comes time to publish, you can export your work in a variety of formats, including plain text, DOCX, and ePub. You can also publish your work to WordPress sites and Medium.
Your projects all sync with iCloud between Mac, iPhone, and iPad, with Dropbox support also available.
iA Writer puts an emphasis on simplicity, making it a simple matter to get started writing in plain text. That's not to say that there aren't advanced features, however, as there are quite a few. Syntax Control breaks down your writing to show you the structure, highlighting adjectives, nouns, conjunctions, and more. iA Writer's Focus Mode lets you focus on one line at a time to keep you from getting distracted. By default, the app's keyboard bar offers several useful controls, like buttons for one-tap list creation, but you can customize that bar to fit how you work. Link to other documents in iA Writer to combine them into a single projects, or link to images or spreadsheet files to see them in iA Writer's Preview screen in a number of different templates.
Like other apps on this list, iA Writer lets you publish to blogs, in this case WordPress and Medium. You can also export your work in Markdown, PDF, HTML, and Microsoft Word.
Scrivener brings all of your writing tools into a single app, whether you're organizing research notes for a paper or scene outlines for a script. The app supports writing all sorts of long-form documents, offers a number of granular formatting options no matter what you're working on. Make a plan and organize your ideas on digital notecards and lay them out on the app's corkboard to see how your work fits together. Import images, PDF and other media you've used as research to refer to it later, even bringing it in side-by-side with your text so your can quickly refer to your research while you're writing. Keep your work segmented for easier organization and editing, and easily reorder your work so it all fits together in the best way possible.
When you're done, compile your project into a single document, and export in formats like DOCX, rich text, PDF, and Final Draft. Thanks to syncing with Dropbox, you can share your work between Scrivener for iPhone and iPad and its big brother for Mac.
A relative newcomer compared to the rest of the list, Bear might seem simple, but it offers a great deal of flexibility for handling text. It's true that Bear is good for both notes and todo checklists, but it's support for Markdown, variety of themes, and simple organization make it a great tool for many different kinds of writing. Add images, files, code blocks, and more to spice up your work and give it more context.
In terms of options, you've got few. Choose how to sort your documents, pick a theme, pick your font, and even control fine-grain details such as font size, line height and width, and paragraph spacing. If you'd like to sync your work between Bear on your iOS devices and Bear for Mac, you can purchase a $1.49 per month subscription to Bear Pro.
Apple's own writing app, Pages lets you create all sorts of documents. There are more than 60 templates in Pages, covering just about every kind of writing, from short essays to research papers. There are even templates for items like business cards and flyers. You can add images and shapes, lay out your documents in different styles, and more. You can also open password-protected documents using Touch ID on your iPhone or iPad.
Pages also makes it easy to collaborate with other people. Multiple people, whether they're on iOS, macOS, or even Windows thanks to iCloud.com, can collaborate on a document at the same time. You can share collaborative documents publicly or with specific users, see who is in the document at any given time, and follow their cursors as they edit the project.
While Terminology isn't, strictly speaking, an app in which you write, it's the kind of app that can prove itself essential to any writer. Terminology offers a combined dictionary and thesaurus, but it can also be much more than that. The word lookup functions, which are available both on and offline, let you mark favorites, lookup synonyms, antonyms, and more. But Terminology, developed by Agile Tortoise, also supports a wide set of custom actions that can turn the app into a powerful research companion through its integration with other apps and the web.
Terminology also features a share extension so that you can highlight text in any app and look it up in Terminology right from the share sheet. The app keeps your history, favorite words, and actions all backed up and in sync between devices with iCloud.
These are what we consider the best writing apps for iPhone and iPad, but what are your favorites? Let us know in the comments.
Writing Apps: Pages
If you want to create a document with images or charts in it, or that uses different fonts and colors, you need a more powerful app. There are a lot of good choices, but Apple makes one of the best. It’s called Pages, and you can buy it at the App Store.
If you’re planning to use your iPad to write papers for school, you’ll probably want Pages. Not only does it offer the features you’re probably used to from using programs like Microsoft Word, it has some special ones, too. For instance, it comes with document templates that allow you to write your own text while using the template’s layout to create a cooler-looking paper. It can also help you drag and drop pictures, charts, and graphs. With Pages, you’ve got the tools to create homework that really wows your teachers.
>>>step-by-step: Creating a Basic Document
To create a basic document in Pages, such as a short paper, note, or story, start by tapping the Pages icon on your iPad’s home screen to open the app and then follow these steps:
- Tap +.
- Tap Create Document to open a new document.
- You’ll see a selection of templates, pre-built documents designed for different uses (there are templates for letters, papers, reports, and much more). Tap the template you want to use to create your document. If you choose any template other than “Blank” there will be some text and images in it already that show you how to use it; replace those with your own writing or pictures. For a plain document, tap Blank. From here you can immediately begin typing into the new document.
Formatting a Document
Once you’ve begun writing a document, you’ll probably want to format your text—for instance, make it bigger or smaller or change the font. Formatting can be a lot of fun and a good way to make your papers more interesting and creative looking. Be careful, though: if you’re creating a paper for school, check with your teachers about what kind of formatting they like. Some teachers have very specific rules about that.
To format your documents, you need to select the text—which was already covered in the section “Copying and Pasting Text”—and then choose from the following options:
- Font—Tap the font button to see a list of all your font choices (the preview shows what each font looks like). Tap the arrow next to the font name to see different versions of the font. Tap the one you want to use in your document.
- Font Size—There are two options here: Tap the number button and then select a new font size, or tap the small A to make the font smaller and the large A to make it bigger. Tap the correct A until the font is the size you want.
- Style—Choices are bold (the B button), italic (the I button), and underlined (the U button).
- Alignment—This controls whether the text lines up on the left, right, or center of the page. Tap the button to make your choice. You can also choose Justify if you want the edges of the text to be even on both sides.
Advanced Formatting Options
When you get to be a pro with basic formatting, you may want to try some more advanced options. To access them, tap the Paintbrush button. The menu that appears offers several options spread across three tabs:
- Styles—The default tab is Styles and contains basic formatting options as well as additional styles such as strikethrough (to make text look crossed out) and pre-made styles such as title, heading, and bullet.
- List—The List tab contains the controls for making bulleted and numbered lists. The arrow buttons control what level of the list the selected text is on, while the buttons below control whether numbers or letters are used for each item in the list.
- Layout—The Layout tab changes how many columns your document has and how much space appears between lines (important when your teachers want a double-spaced paper).
>>>step-by-step: Adding Headers and Footers
You may want to add headers and footers to the documents you create. A header is a section at the top of the page. A footer is the same thing, but at the bottom of the page. Headers are commonly used for your name or the paper’s title, while footers often show page numbers. Once you’ve set them up, they automatically get added to each page. Here’s how to add them:
- Open the document you want to add the header or footer to. It could either be a new document or one you’ve already been working on.
- Tap the wrench icon.
- Tap Document Setup.
- The paper goes into Setup mode. To add a header, tap the Tap to Edit Header button and then type in the text you want to have in the header. Automatically insert a page number on every page by tapping Page Numbers. When you’ve created the header you want, tap the page.
- To add a footer, tap the Tap to Edit Footer button and add the text or page number you want in the footer. When you’ve added what you want, tap the page.
- When you’ve added a header or footer, tap the Done button to go back to writing your document with the new header or footer in it.
>>>step-by-step: Adding Images to a Document
One of the really cool things about Pages is that it’s easy to add images to make your document look extra good. To do that, start by tapping the document you want to add an image to and then follow these steps:
- Tap the Plus icon.
- To add a photo, tap Media from the drop-down menu.
- Tap Camera Roll (or if the photo is located elsewhere in your Photos app, choose that location). You can select any image already saved on your iPad.
- Tap the image you want and it will be added to your document.
Formatting Images and Shapes
When you add an image or shape to your document, you can change how it looks by tweaking its size and location. To do that, first tap the image or shape and then follow these steps:
- To change the size of the image or shape, tap and hold one of the blue dots at its edge. Drag in to make the image or shape smaller; drag out to make it larger. When it’s the right size, take your finger off the screen.
- To change the place where the image or shape is located in your document, tap its center and drag the image or shape to a new location. The text will flow around it.
- To delete the image or shape, tap it and then tap Delete from the pop-up menu.
Once you’ve inserted and selected a table, choose from these options:
- Add or remove rows (the horizontal strips that make up part of the table) by tapping the rows button and then tapping the up or down arrow to choose the number of rows the table should have. Adding or removing columns (the vertical strips in the table) works the same way.
- To move the table, tap and hold it, then drag the table to a new location. Let it go when the table is where you want it.
- To delete the table, tap it and then tap Delete.
>>>step-by-step: Naming a Document
The documents you create in Pages are automatically given a name based on the text in them. But you can also give them names you want so it’s easier to identify them from the main Pages screen. To do that:
- Find the document you want to rename and tap on its current name underneath its icon.
- Tap the X in the box to delete the current name and type in a new one.
- Tap Done and the new name will be saved.
>>>step-by-step: Printing a Document
To print a document in Pages, you first have to tap the document you want to print to open it. Then follow these steps:
- Tap the wrench icon.
- Tap Share and Print.
- Tap Print.
- Tap Printer to select your printer. Remember, your iPad and printer both have to be on the same Wi-Fi network for AirPrint to work—and your printer has to be AirPrint compatible.
- Tap the + or – button to choose the number of copies you want to print.
- Tap the Print button to start printing.
>>>step-by-step: Emailing a Document
If you want to email a document you’ve created in Pages (for instance, to send your homework to your teacher), start by tapping the document you want to email to open it. Then follow these steps:
- Tap the wrench icon.
- Tap Share and Print.
- Tap Email Document.
- Choose what format you want to send the document in: Pages, PDF, or Word. For school papers, ask your teacher what format they want before you send. Different teachers will want you to send different formats.
- A blank email will open with the paper attached to it. Fill out the email like you normally would and tap Send to send it.
>>>step-by-step: Deleting Documents
If you want to delete a Pages document, you first have to open Pages by tapping it your home screen. When you see the list of all your documents, follow these steps:
- Tap Edit.
- Tap the document you want to delete. It will be highlighted with a yellow border.
- Tap the trash can icon.
- Tap Delete Document. This erases the document—permanently (so be sure you really want it gone).
The only app for writing that comes with the iPad—Notes—is okay for writing, well, notes. But if you need to write anything longer or more complicated—and if you use your iPad for school, you definitely will—you’ll want a more powerful writing app. Pages is one good choice, but it’s far from the only one. Here are some other suggestions.
- Daedalus Touch—A cool word processor designed just for the iPad. It lets you create papers, but also helps you make and email PDFs and e-books. $2.99
- iA writer—Not only does this word processor let you focus on what you’re writing and not all the buttons and options that other word processors have, it also lets you touch the screen to perform actions (such as undoing your typing with a swipe). It’s really only for writing, though; if you need even basic formatting, you should use a different app. $1.99
- PlainText—A very simple program that is like writing on paper. Not only does each document look like a piece of paper, you store them in folders. You can even use it to back up your documents online. Free ($1.99 to remove ads)