Posted on 13 March 2013.
Will Microsoft Word come to the iPad? After initial evidence it now appears unlikely, which means that the burgeoning market for free text editor apps on the iPad and elsewhere can continue. There are so many available for both iOS and Android that we can only present a few here, but all have their pros and cons.
Format handling is critical, but it’s more about integration with a device’s OS than simple readability; can you take a Word doc from an email, make changes and send it on back? And though these apps are all about typing, arguably more important than text-entry is navigation, with ease of correcting mistakes crucial – especially if you’re tapping away on glass rather than a Bluetooth keyboard.
Lastly, where – and how – is that document saved? Extra brownie points are reserved for integration with cloud storage services like Dropbox.
Go forth and tap-out that novel.
1. FioWriter – £6.99 (iOS)
Designed exclusively for iPhone and iPad, FioWriter is minimalist and best suited to touchscreen addicts. Documents can’t be edited from Mail, but can be created in iCloud and Dropbox, though the key reason to buy is the Mac-like usability.
Touching the top of the screen scrolls the page back to the top, while the use of extensive Apple shortcuts (command + F to find words, for example), makes FioWriter instantly familiar – though this functionality ceases if you link a Bluetooth keyboard.
Though there’s no wordcount option and barely any formatting (aside from six fonts in any size), mistakes are accurately rectified as you type or talk, though the basic TXT file format is all it deals in. A free ‘lite’ version is also available, though it’s strictly a demo; only five documents can be saved before it locks-up.
2. iA Writer, 69p (iOS)
It’s hard to argue with free or 69p apps, and there’s not much wrong with the supremely elegant and good value, Dropbox-friendly iA Writer app.
One of the most popular text editing apps around, there’s not much to criticise since it’s an utterly clean interface. Meant to keep writers from distraction and so boost productivity, one option focuses solely on the line you’re writing, making all else unreadable, while the keyboard has been cleverly tweaked to include useful punctuation shortcuts and left/right navigation to numbers and other characters.
Showing wordcounts and readable length (useful for speech-writers), there’s little more to say about it save for recommending that buyers consider installing a slightly more ambitious text editor app alongside that’s capable of more extensive (i.e. some) formatting for emergencies. Works with Dropbox and iCloud.
Read our full iA Writer review.
3. SmartOffice 2 – £6.99/£7.74 (iOS/Android)
Reasonably priced and effortlessly polished, SmartOffice 2 is one of the more ambitious and flexible text editor apps around – and unlike most it’s available on both of the dominant operating systems.
In our test it opened Word docs straight from Mail, though appeared to ignore ‘bold’ formatting. It doesn’t permit copy and pasting, but in other areas it’s more flexible than rivals, with pinch zoom of all documents – and that includes spreadsheets and presentations as well as documents of Microsoft Office origin.
Outputting in a wide choice of formats, it integrates with Dropbox and Box.com both in fetching and exporting files, and is compatible with a load of wireless printers as well as being Airplay-compatible for document sharing. If that’s great for presentations, overall it’s let-down by a slightly complex, busy interface.
4. Kingsoft Office 5.3.2 – free (Android)
Search for office, word processing or text editor in Google Play and it’s Kingsoft that always seems to pop-up first, but this free software has got much more sorted than just its Google Drive and Dropbox-friendly design.
Able to open emailed documents of almost any format, fetch files from anywhere and handle myriad formats, using Kingsoft is nevertheless a step-down from others in terms of elegance. The toolbar is huge, blocking the view of a document, but it’s exhaustive and familiar-looking, and a special reading mode puts a document full-screen without the clutter.
Documents can be marked as favourites for easy access and the app is surprisingly resistant to large Powerpoint or image-heavy files. It won’t make you smile with a classy interface, but as a reliable productivity app there’s few bette value options for Android users than this free app.
5. Apple Pages – £6.99 (iOS)
If Pages was a free or native app on the iPad, there wouldn’t be too many other text editors in Apple’s app store. It’s now capable of preserving many of the subtler formatting effects generated in Microsoft Word documents as it imports and edits them, and Pages can output as a doc file, too.
iCloud backup is fully integrated, though it’s a poor relation to Dropbox, which isn’t part of Pages.
Formatting is excellent and we particularly like the polished templates available and the chance to embed photos, though this sister to Apple’s spreadsheet-centric Numbers and presentation-focused Keynote apps will be a touch too arty for some. For others the lack of Dropbox is a killer.
Read our full Pages review.
6. Textilus – £2.99 (iOS)
Working primarily with the universal RTF format that plays nicely with Microsoft Office on a PC as well as on Macs, Textilus links to Dropbox and offers a thoroughly comprehensive – and even customisable – text editor experience.
It’s possible to open Mail attachments through Textilus, and when you’ve finished editing a ‘convert and send via Mail’ option allows PDF, TXT, HTML and RTF formats. It’s also possible to export documents to Dropbox, Evernote, open in any other text-friendly app on your iPad, or print to an AirPrint printer.
It’s also able to convert an entire text document into HTML source code and put it on the clipboard with one press, though it’s writers who will most like Textilus’ habit of presenting document statistics as you write, including wordcount and reading time.
7. Documents To Go 3.0 – £11.99/£9.25/£11.50 (iOS/Android/Blackberry)
Compatible with all Microsoft file-types as well as PDF, Documents To Go is something of a stalwart in the world of text editor apps. Writers will love its instant, always-on wordcount display while anyone working on commercially sensitive documents may find Documents To Go’s password protection feature as irresistible as the advanced PDF handling (a feature missing in the free version), which includes pinch-to-zoom and page rotation, as well as its polished handling of Word, Powerpoint and Excel files.
Playing nicely with Google Drive but not Dropbox, Documents To Go 3.0 uses its own ‘InTact’ protocol to sync documents on a smartphone or tablet with other versions on a PC, but it needs a USB link-up.
One of only a handful of text editors available on iOS, Android and via the Blackberry App World, Documents To Go is also one of the most expensive text editing apps around – and with so much choice around, we’re not convinced.