iA Writer is a minimalist writing tool Marie Kondo would adore

iA Writer removes visual distractions, which means no more screen with seven menus up top.

iA Writer is a minimalist writing tool Marie Kondo would adore
[Images: iA]

This article is republished with permission from “Wonder Tools,” a newsletter that helps you discover the most useful sites and apps. Subscribe here.

iA Writer is writing software. It’s a minimalist response to the complexity that’s crept into other writing tools.

Why I use it

I’m easily distracted. When I use a regular word processor, I interrupt myself frequently and unnecessarily. I’m a tinkerer. When I see oodles of menu options in Google Docs, I’m tempted to adjust the font style or size. Or I have a sudden need to bring something into my doc other than words.

Option Overkill in Google Docs: There are 17 distinct options under the Insert menu on Google Docs, from drawings, charts, and tables to special characters, watermarks, and equations. iA Writer, by contrast, has zero. The design focus is on substance. (To be clear, I still like and use Google Docs. It has so many useful capabilities.)


How iA Writer helps

iA Writer subtly nudges me to keep my hands on the keyboard, typing. I don’t see any menus, so I don’t get distracted as easily. The company that makes it, iA, founded in Japan in 2005, describes it as an ADHD-friendly writing app. From Smart Girls with ADHD:

iA Writer takes over the whole screen and makes me focus on the content of what I’m saying, NOT on the fonts, the layout, or any other distracting features. In a simple courier-style font, on a basic background, iA Writer forces you to concentrate and just get down to writing.

Useful features

  • Focus view. iA Writer removes visual distractions. You’ll no longer have to look at a screen with seven menus up top, a sidebar on the side, a footer at the bottom, and sundry clutter in the middle of the writing pane.
  • Show syntax. Turn on a special setting to show adjectives and adverbs in distinct colors. You can also show verbs, nouns, and conjunctions, each word type in its own color. This coloring lets you scan through your writing to identify weak sentences or overused modifiers.
  • Run a style check. iA Writer gives you the option of having it show you filler words, cliches, and redundancies in your writing. Turn it off if you don’t want to see your writing’s weaknesses spotlighted.
  • Multiple languages. Built-in support for English, French, and German.
  • Show stats. Optionally, see not just word and character count, but also the number of sentences and estimated reading time.

iA Writer is not for you if you . . .

  • Assemble complex docs with equations, charts, and images pulled from multiple sources. If so, you may prefer Google Docs or Microsoft Word.
  • Need specific design elements, like special text alignment or columns.
  • Lean heavily on software plug-ins like Zotero, a superb free tool for citations.
  • Rely on a Track Changes feature and multiple document versions for collaboration.

What it costs

It’s free to try for 14 days. Then it’s $30. Here’s the pricing and download page. There are no subscription fees, which the company abhors. Here’s their anti-subscription manifesto.


  • Works on macOS, iOS, Android, and Windows.
  • The iOS version requires a separate $30 purchase that I wouldn’t recommend. When writing on my phone I don’t have a need for a premium minimalist tool.

Bottom line

iA Writer strips out hundreds of unnecessary features stuffed into Microsoft Word. That software is designed to serve thousands of possible-use cases, from complex book-manuscript editing to desktop publishing. iA Writer, on the other hand, is a streamlined app that lets you focus on your writing.

Given how many distractions I’m already wrestling with, I appreciate software that prioritizes simplicity and focus. Give it a try and let me know what you think.

This article is republished with permission from “Wonder Tools,” a newsletter that helps you discover the most useful sites and apps. Subscribe here.


About the author

Jeremy Caplan is the director of teaching and learning at CUNY’s Newmark Graduate School of Journalism and the creator of the Wonder Tools newsletter.


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