iPhone and iPad

Turn Your iPad Into A Mobile Writing Workstation

Dann Albright 14-02-2014

Tablets are great for games, checking e-mail and watching movies, but not word processing… right? Not anymore.


With the right apps and accessories, you can turn your iPad into a mobile writing workstation that will rival your laptop. Tackle your next big writing project by using these apps and accessories at every stage in your workflow.

Planning Your Project

When you’re taking on a big writing project, you need to be prepared. Outlining and organising your ideas is an important step in writing a novel, a dissertation, a business report, or any other large document.

If you’re a linear thinker, an app like Index Card [No Longer Available] will be of use—jot your ideas down on cards and move them around until they’re in a logical order that makes sense to you.


If you’re more of a non-linear thinker, a mind-mapping app like SimpleMind+ (Free) will let you put down all of your ideas and connect them with lines and arrows.



If you prefer to think on paper, you’re not out of luck—a number of apps allow you to scribble, jot, cross out, and underline to your heart’s content, either with your finger or a stylus. Paper by Fifty Three (free) is a free-form drawing app with no structure whatsoever, allowing you total freedom over your pre-writing. Penultimate (free) is a bit more writing-focused and comes with built-in palm rejection to help you write cleanly with a stylus Stylus Showdown: Back To School Review and Giveaway It's Back-To-School month, and all through the month you've had chances to win great back-to-school items such as the ASUS VivoBook X202E touchscreen laptop, the Timbuk2 Power Q laptop backpack and a custom-made budget gaming... Read More .


Some people just can’t write unless they have actual paper and a real pen to work with. If this is you, consider investing in one of the folio-style cases that comes with a pocket for a small notebook, like the FiloFax Flex iPad case ($75, but sales do happen).


Gathering Information

Whether your novel about the 1930s needs a bit of historical fact-checking, or you need to collect some sources for your research paper, you’ll probably need to collect some information for your writing project.

To aid you in this, there are a number of apps to clip information from the web or other apps and keep it where you can easily access it, even offline. Then, no matter where you are — on the train, a plane, in the car, at work, or at home — you’ll be able to get to the materials you need to write.


Pocket (free) is one of the best apps for doing this, and using Pocket efficiently Get More Out Of Pocket With These 6 Tips To Enhance Your Reading Experience While Pocket is simple and easy-to-use, there are a few ways you can make the experience of using the service even better. Whether it's finding interesting ways to save content to your Pocket account, or... Read More will save you hours of work. After installing a bookmarklet in Safari, you can easily and instantly clip web pages so that you can read them later. No need to worry about bookmarks, copying and pasting, or looking up pages in your history. You can sync Pocket between your tablet and your computer, meaning that all of the research you do on your computer is available on your tablet, and vice versa. Another useful app for those of you collecting a lot of source information is Summary Pro [No Longer Available], which Bakari found very useful in his review Collect, Extract & Organize Research Fast With Summary Pro for iPad The Internet makes researching most topics fast and easy, and when it comes to managing those documents, notes, and clippings, Summary Pro for iPad takes some beating. Read More .


Of course, if you’re doing any sort of research, Wikipedia is likely to be near the top of your list of websites for finding information. The Wikipedia iPad app (free) allows you to save articles for reading later, even offline, making it easy to complete your research whenever you have time.


Composing Your Masterpiece

Once your plan is complete and you’ve downloaded all the resources you’ll need, it’s time to get to the bulk of your writing. There are loads of writing apps out there, but most are meant for simple text-editing, and not full-blown writing. Finding the right one will make your big writing project a lot easier.

UX Write [No Longer Available] opens up a wealth of options, including plenty of formatting options for headings, tables, photos, and hyperlinks. It will even automatically create a table of contents for you based on your chapter or section headings. And unlike most of the other text-editing apps out there, it lets you create, open, edit, and save in Microsoft Word’s .docx format, making moving files between your iPad and your computer much easier.




For a similarly priced and capable word processor, the developers of iA Writer have come up with Writer Pro ($19.99). If you’re not too fond of spending upwards of $20 on a typing app (and if you’re serious about writing, you really should) then Textilus (free) is probably your best choice. For a basic approach, Pages ($9.99) is Apple’s own word processor that’s free to anyone purchasing an iOS device.

If you’ll be spending a lot of time writing on your iPad, it’s a good idea to invest in a case that will prop the screen up at an angle to reduce the strain on your neck, eyes, and wrists. Take the time to set up your iPad and keyboard configuration Fingers Meet Glass: 5 Tips For A Better Typing Experience Whether you're typing out a short email or writing a 1000-word blog post, doing that on a tablet/smartphone, sans an external keyboard, can be somewhat difficult. Read More for maximum comfort and efficiency. 

A Bluetooth keyboard is a great accessory for writing on the iPad, as it’s generally more comfortable and accurate — not to mention faster — than the on-screen keyboard. Check out our selection of budget Bluetooth keyboards that won’t break the bank Need An Affordable Keyboard For Your Tablet? Here Are Some Good Options If you're getting a fair bit of use out of your tablet and looking for a keyboard to go with it, you may have no idea where to start. There are plenty of options out... Read More , as well as our iPad mini keyboard round-up 4 Mini Bluetooth Keyboards For iPad mini Typists A keyboard is what you need to prep your tablet for productivity, so we went looking for a few Bluetooth keyboard cases for your new iPad mini. Read More . Investing in a case with a built-in keyboard, like the Logitech Keyboard Folio ($99.99), will make it easier to transport everything you need to get your writing done.

Putting It All Together

With three or four apps, you can turn your iPad into a worthy text-editing machine. With a stylus, the right case, and a Bluetooth keyboard, you can kit your tablet out as a highly portable writing workstation that rivals your laptop for less than $150.

How do you write on your iPad? Share your favorite apps and accessories below!

Image Credit: iPad 4th gen w/ incase Origami Workstation via Flickr

Related topics: Text Editor, Writing Tips.

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  1. Bear Skee
    March 14, 2014 at 10:07 pm

    For doing a lot of typing, I use my camera tripod to hold my iPad (plastic holder $10)and a bluetooth keyboard unattached for most comfortable editing of text.
    EverNote serves me well to keep everything organized.

    • Dann A
      March 15, 2014 at 9:15 pm

      A camera tripod, huh? That's a really good idea! Which one do you use?

      And yes, you can't beat Evernote.

    • BearSkee
      March 16, 2014 at 5:04 pm

      Textkraft looks interesting. Thanks for the suggestion.
      My use of a tripod allows me to adjust the iPad to best viewing angle to prevent tech-neck..works great wether I am in my desk chair or recliner. Amazon and ebay have many iPad holder for tripods. Great for time lapse photography also....

    • Dann A
      March 16, 2014 at 7:44 pm

      Just looked up some of those holders, and that looks like a great idea! I'd never seen one of those before, but I think I might have to give it a shot. Thanks for posting!

  2. dragonmouth
    March 3, 2014 at 6:51 pm

    Wouldn't be simpler to use a Chromebook? All the apps and the keyboard are already there in one package. No need to download anything. No need for extra peripherals to carry around.

    Of course with a Chromebook there is no "iPad bragging factor."

    • Dann A
      March 4, 2014 at 8:08 am

      I agree that sometimes a Chromebook is a better choice, though it depends on what you're looking for and what you already have. For example, if you mainly want an iPad to read magazines and play games on, buying a Chromebook isn't going to do you much good. And if you already have an iPad, these are good strategies for maximising its utility instead of buying another piece of tech to compliment it.

      You do make a good point, though—sometimes having everything already built in is the deciding factor.

  3. Susan
    February 24, 2014 at 10:08 am

    I love Textkraft on my iPad :-)

    • Dann A
      February 26, 2014 at 9:44 am

      I've never used Textkraft before, but I just looked it up and it looks like a nice app! I'll have to check it out. Thanks for sharing your favourite!

    • Susan
      February 26, 2014 at 10:50 am

      Haven't found a better app for writing in more than 2 years now. Cheers

  4. Norman Astrin
    February 21, 2014 at 7:23 am

    I've been happy with Pages and Apple keyboard with my iPad three.

  5. Jim
    February 18, 2014 at 1:12 am

    I create a Google Site for the initial work on a document. Its built in editor is very basic, but then I'm a simple guy. When the draft has matured to the point where formatting is important, I go to my desktop with its office software. This works fine except for the touchscreen on my IPad, which is not compatible with my fat fingers.

    • Dann A
      March 4, 2014 at 8:10 am

      I do all of my formatting and most of my editing on my laptop. In general, the touchscreen isn't quite fine-tuned enough for me. However, a lot of text-editing apps are now including text navigation buttons, like next character and next word, which is extremely helpful. I still prefer my laptop for formatting, though. Markdown has increased the power of mobile apps for formatting, but I'm still getting used to it.

      Thanks for the comment!

  6. John
    February 17, 2014 at 3:37 pm

    A small Mac laptop works just fine. No Bluetooth keyboard that needs to be charged, etc.. Tablets are over rated. I like my iPad, but no flash is stupid. Just like my iPhone, no flash. My laptop takes care of that.

  7. Davin Peterson
    February 17, 2014 at 3:27 pm

    Forget Apple. The Nexus 7 Android Tablet has bluetooth, so you can connect a wireless keyboard & mouse, also on Dell Venue Pro running Windows 8 and Microsoft Office 2013. Their is Adobe Photo editor for Android as well. So, you do not need an Apple tablet to do this. So, talking about Apple all the time.

    • Hammerhart
      February 25, 2014 at 9:54 pm

      You forgot the part where the Nexus and the Dell suck though. That's important.

  8. Saikat B
    February 16, 2014 at 2:40 pm

    A decent graphics editor that runs well (and there are quite a few) is another extra for blogging work.

    • Alanna
      February 16, 2014 at 5:43 pm

      Saikat - suggestions welcome on graphics editors, thanks.

    • Saikat B
      February 16, 2014 at 6:37 pm

      There's always iPhoto. Then, Photogene appears to be well-reviewed. Then one always has the online photo editors.

  9. nick
    February 15, 2014 at 3:17 am

    I rather have a convertible Windows 8 tablet with full Office.

    • azdawg
      February 17, 2014 at 5:57 pm

      Which doesn't exist - full Office that is!

    • Hammerhart
      February 25, 2014 at 9:53 pm


  10. Matt S
    February 14, 2014 at 8:17 pm

    I've been using my iPad for writing for about a year now, and it works surprisingly well. I msotly use Quickoffice, but Google Drive will do in a pinch. Throw in a decent keyboard and it's about as good as a laptop...well, as long as you've got a flat surface to write on.

    • Dann A
      February 26, 2014 at 9:48 am

      Yes, the flat surface thing can be an issue. Most of the time, when I'm writing on my iPad, I'm on the train, so the tray table serves as a surface for the iPad and I just keep the keyboard on my lap. Seems to work pretty well. And hotel rooms usually have desks, so that helps too. Fortunately, I don't spend much time on buses, or I'd have to find another solution!