iA Writer has long been one of the leading text editors on Apple’s platforms. The app’s design is top-notch and offers a feature set that makes it one of the best options for writing in Markdown. Best of all, the app’s features don’t get in the way while you write. They’re easy to get to, but they’re not a distraction. This is as true for iA Writer 6 today as it was for previous versions.
However, the market for Markdown text editors is rapidly changing, with tools for creating notes and interconnected documents in various ways quickly becoming table stakes for text editors and note-taking apps. iA Writer 6, available on iPhone, iPad and Mac, is a response to these changes that integrates seamlessly with the app’s existing feature set and design. The update doesn’t go as far as an app like Obsidian when it comes to internal links. It is also not extensible with plugins. However, for many users, I suspect that iA Writer’s flawless design and thoughtful functionality will outweigh its lack of certain features for power users.
We’ve covered iA Writer several times in the past, so I’ll focus this review on what’s new in version 6, starting with its flagship addition: wikilinks, which are internal links from one document to another. As in other applications, linking documents is as simple as surrounding the linked text with double brackets.
When you type two left brackets, iA Writer will use the next text you type as the search query to see if you have a matching document in the app’s library. When you start typing, the text editor auto-complete window appears with a list of matching documents, allowing you to use the arrow keys to quickly select a linked document.
iA Writer also searches through locations in the app’s Organizer panel. For example, I have an iCloud folder, four GitHub repositories, and my Obsidian Vault saved as iA Writer locations, and iA Writer’s autocomplete feature searches them all when creating a link. Links to documents in iA Writer locations outside of the one you are currently using are created with the following format
[[Location: Document Name]]. If no match is found in your library, closing the double brackets creates a new document with the name you typed between the brackets.
As you follow internal links from one document to another, you can retrace your steps using iA Writer’s Back and Forward buttons and menu options. However, unlike Obsidian, iA Writer does not include a backlink feature that shows you a list of all documents linked to the current document. The difference means that although you can move linearly from one internally lined document to another and back again in iA Writer, you cannot jump to another note that links to the one you are viewing if it did not part of the path you took to the current document. This is a limitation that won’t be a deal breaker for many people, and it’s similar to how other popular text editors like Bear implement crossnote binding, but it’s worth being aware of. mentioned for anyone who is deep into two-way linking. It should also be noted that internal links are not updated if you change the name of one of the documents you linked to.
iA Writer’s auto-complete feature also works with content blocks and tags. Content blocks are a way to embed the content of one file into another. With iA Writer 6, type a slash and start typing the name of a file. As with wiki links, the app will suggest files in your library. Choose one to add as a content block, which will appear as “/document.md” in the iA Writer editor. Switch to preview mode and all the content of the document block you added appears inline. iA Writer can also autocomplete tags anywhere in a document based on the ones you’ve already used.
Also known as a YAML frontmatter, iA Writer now supports metadata. Key/value pairs placed between sets of three dashes at the start of a document can be used as variables in the document and will not appear when exported or previewed. In the body of a document containing metadata, enclose the metadata key in square brackets with a
% symbol at the beginning of the variable name like this:
[%Creation Date] and the variable will be replaced by its value throughout your document. Here’s what it looks like in practice:
iA Writer 6 also supports global metadata which can be set in the Markdown section of the app preferences and content block metadata which is added after the content block and can but should not be surrounded by triple hyphens . Images also support title, height, and width metadata.
iA Writer also includes a handful of additional changes worth noting. By holding down the ⌘ key and dragging across the editor or preview pane, you can navigate back and forth through your document history. Likewise, holding down ⌘ and swiping the library offers a quick way to navigate through its history. Web links and email addresses are automatically detected by iA Writer, and if you ⌘-click them or press ⌘⏎ when the cursor is inside the text, they’ll open in your browser or start a new one. email message, respectively. Additionally, completed tasks are crossed out and dimmed, there are six new highlight colors to accentuate text, and there’s a new lightning arrow button on the iPad version’s toolbar for quick access to commands. common formatting. Finally, it’s worth checking out the full release notes for the app, as there are several small additional “quality of life” changes and hotkey changes worth looking into.
Document linking has become a must-have feature among note-taking apps and text editors, so it’s great to see iA Writer add it, although I’d love to see the app expose backlinks as well. What I like most about the latest iA Writer update, however, is how it exposes connections to other documents and handles tags. The app’s auto-complete engine is fast, easy to use, and stays out of the way until you need it. Whether you’re linking to another document, creating a block of content, or adding a tag, iA Writer makes the process painless without letting go of the keyboard. The design eliminates the overhead of finding other documents and markup in a consistent way across app features, making it feel natural right away.
iA Writer 6 is available on the App Store as a free update for existing users.