FioWriter Text Editor For iOS Is Great On iPad, Not So Much On iPhone [Review]

Wait, what's that round the back there?

Wait, what’s that round the back there?

FioWriter is a text editor for iOS, outwardly similar to many that have gone before it, but with a style all of its own. One important difference is that it provides keyboard shortcuts of the sort you’re familiar with on your desktop computer. Their usefulness, however, depends on the device you’re typing on.

Fio connects to Dropbox or iCloud, or saves your documents locally. It comes with a selection of nice fonts well suited to writing, and supports the iOS version of TextExpander if you have it installed.

In the File Actions menu you’ll find options for opening your text in other apps, sharing it via the usual social network suspects, copying, printing and so on.

On the iPhone The File Action controls are hidden “behind” the document you’re working on, and appear with a folded-out paper effect when you tap an icon. The effect is nice, but the control icons look out of place on iOS: look at that “Open in” icon – it’s more like something from Windows than from iOS.

Fio Writer feels really fast. All the application animations are swift and fluid. Even scrolling text feels sharp.

Shortcuts are fiddly on iPhone.

Shortcuts are fiddly on iPhone.

But the key feature is the keyboard shortcuts. There are on-screen modifier keys, just like the ones on your Mac – Command, Option, Control and Shift.

On the iPhone they hover just above the main keyboard. On the iPad they’re tucked down into the bottom right corner (you can move them to bottom-left if you wish).

Usage is different on the different devices. On the iPad, the modifiers work just like their hardware cousins. Tap and hold while you seek out and tap a letter key to tap as well. You get clear visual feedback that the modifier is in action.

On iPhone, things are more complicated. Tap a modifier and it changes color, and the color immediately begins to drain away – this is useful clue, telling you how long you’ve got to use the modifier you’ve just pressed. Also, the modifier key icons leap around as you tap them – tap Option, and the Control key leaps from the right side of the screen to the left. These keys are also frustratingly close to the top line of QWERTY characters, so it’s easy to hit the wrong thing. Commands requiring two modifiers to be pressed are easy to do on the iPad version, but troublesome (if not impossible) on the iPhone.

All editors have their own list of shortcuts that a newcomer will have to learn, and FioWriter is no exception. Command-N creates a new file (a dialog box will appear first, asking if you want it saved locally, to iCloud, or to Dropbox). Command-Z will undo, just as you’d expect. Option-Command-Z will redo – again, a logical and sensible choice.

Much nicer on iPad.

Much nicer on iPad.

The result of all this is one app that feels like two. On the iPad it’s a speedy, neat little editor with plenty to offer to people willing to invest time learning a few shortcuts. On iPhone it’s frustrating and difficult to use.
I think the problem here is that FioWriter is trying to do too much. It’s trying to offer desktop software features on a touchscreen device.

There are some admirable positives. The iCloud and Dropbox integration is useful, and the speed is extremely impressive. But the whole experience on iPhone is troublesome and awkward. Despite the speed, it left me feeling like all I wanted to do was write text elsewhere.

I suspect some work on the iPhone UI could make FioWriter – currently priced at just one dollar – much more attractive. Some time spent on making this feel more like a pure iOS app, and less like an iOS app trying to emulate its OS X cousins, could pay off.

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  • fiowriter

    > Commands requiring two modifiers to be pressed are easy to do on the iPad version, but troublesome (if not impossible) on the iPhone.

    hi, Giles, the command keys for iPhone is designed for sliding to combine. It’s even more smooth than the iPad command keys.

    p.s. I’m the author of FioWriter. Please verify if there’s any points need to be cleared.

About the author

Giles TurnbullGiles Turnbull is a freelance writer in England. He also writes for the Press Association and The Morning News. You can find out more at his website, and follow him on Twitter @gilest.

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