Paper App – Minimalist Writing

Like many writers and others who work with words, the search for the elusive “holy grail” app is an ongoing process, ever the open eye for a better one to help craft thoughts, edit work, and make digital writing tolerable.

My workflow goes through progressive stages, using apps suited to the stage. Through the years, I’ve tried most of what’s available in a minimalist text/markdown app, looking for which works best for me.

I’m guessing most who read this and work with words can relate to shifting their app-of-preference over the years. This review represents my latest favorite tools, although I seriously think, or at least want to believe, I’ve finally settled on a solid writing toolkit.

I first used WordPerfect 1.0 way back when and loved it. Of course, digital-bully Microsoft walked in and announced MS Word was so much better (it wasn’t) and began eliminating most competitors. Over time, like some apps and computers, Word gave in to the siren song of feature creep, eventually bloating into software attempting to do everything for everyone.

I use a three-level app approach: early drafts, later drafts requiring research/external influences, then a final app to polish and prepare for or directly publish. This review is about the Paper app, my latest favored app for minimalist writing of early drafts. It's only available for the Apple eco-system (iOS or MacOS). I use this for first, second, sometimes third drafts before moving the file up the food chain. The Paper app works better for me than many similar minimalist apps I’ve tried.

Paper is part of the growing group of minimalist plain text/markdown apps. I, like many, prefer this style of writing app to keep out distractions and as a haven for us refugees from bloatware. Paper is fast, reliable, and syncs seamlessly across all my Apple stuff (iPhone, iPad, MacBook, iMac). It has (IMHO) great options to tweak the writing interface. Features I love include typewriter mode (keeps the active line in the vertical center of the page), resizable work window, no menus (a few keystrokes away if needed), options for font, size, line length, paragraph spacing, counting (words, characters, lines, paragraphs, pages, or reading speed, plus options for where the counter appears), and more. You can create a file in text format or markdown (MD). Unlike some minimalist apps, MD is not a default in Paper. I enjoy using MD sometimes, but nice to have the option for a .txt file too.

The work screen: clean, simple, tweakable. hosts this site, and Paper has a built-in feature to publish into Ghost (and three other blog services), thus eliminating copy/paste to move a draft blog post. Another important feature is Paper’s excellent built-in support. A “Chat with the maker” feature makes it easy to ask questions or request a feature. Mihhail the developer is exceptionally responsive, perhaps more than any other software/app developer I’ve worked with.

Paper is an Apple-only app, with two versions: iOS and MacOS. It has an interesting free trial model not feature limited, but after a bit of time, a soft nag to update to Pro (paid) pops up and is easy to clear. Paid options include monthly, annually, and lifetime, although licenses don’t crossover between iOS and MacOS. Available via either Apple Store, or you can check out the app's site here.

I highly recommend Paper if you want a minimal, clean, and fast app for writing. I use it for early drafts, but no reason you can’t continue with it for short works through the final draft. Markdown features provide all you need to format a simple document.

Full disclosure: I paid for my Paper app and did not receive a subscription for this review, nor do I receive compensation for anyone subscribing to the Paper app from this review.

I mentioned my three cycles, so wanted to share briefly what I use in the writing workflow besides Paper:

  • Scrivener - Later drafts of book length work, with the final version heading to Microsoft Word format for submittal, or Vellum for digital submissions.
  • Vellum - Formatting and set up for ebooks and POD paperback versions.
  • Ghost - Later drafts for blog posts, with final revisions made within Ghost.
  • Microsoft Word forced use - When needed, I use one of the open source Word clones, currently NeoOffice (a lumbering, slow app, but I dislike Pages and won’t use it, and same for Microsoft Word).

Share your favorite writing workflow apps in the comments. I love to learn what others who work with words use.

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