Battle of the text editors - iAWriter and Bear - which should you use?

19th January 2021

I’m a big fan of Bear for writing notes and outlines for blog posts, but if there’s one thing I like more than procrastinating about writing on my blog, it’s procrastinating while thinking about writing tools!

They are all excellent tools with loyal large fan bases, so safe to say they are all good in their own ways, but I thought I’d do a quick comparison of these two tools based on my needs:


Ideal criteria I need in a note-taking/writing app (I’ve never found anything that does all of this well):

Bonus points:

Bear v1.8.2 (8798)

Price - Free + £14 per year for premium features
Trial - not needed as has a free version

Bear text editor

Screenshot of Bear showing the search in action, with hashtag sidebar, post list, and post detail

Notable features of Bear I’ve found:

My criteria it meets

My criteria I wish it had

Things I just don’t use

Overall thoughts on Bear

It’s my current favourite app, and the one I have the most content in. Syncing seems really reliable.

It seems to have it’s own brand of souped-up Markdown - if you want to use content created in it as Markdown, you have to turn on Markdown compatibility mode - while this makes for easier content portability, if your blog uses Markdown, you lose advanced features like pasting in images easily.

It also has it’s own syncing model and format - you can’t just browse notes as text files on the hard disk, which means you are locked in to some extent without duplicating content (it has reasonable export).

The Bear team are working on a new editor, and a publish to web/online feature has been considered for many years, if the forums are to be believed, but I’m not holding my breath.

IA Writer v5.68

Price $29.99 for macOS (14 day trial) and $29.99 iOS (no trial). Android and Windows versions also available.
Trial 14 days

Screenshot of iAWriter

Screenshot of iAWriter in Action, showing the customisable folder list, the post list, and the Edit screen, with toolbar at foot with word count.

Notable features of IA Writer I’ve found:

My criteria it meets

Bonus points:

My criteria I wish it had

Better image support - If you link to an image using the image Markdown syntax it previews nicely, however it doesn’t allow you to drag in images from Finder
Update: Since I drafted this post out a more recent version (5.6.8 (56803)) does let you drag images in (placing them into the same folder as the Markdown file, but doesn’t let you add them from the clipboard - I love copying and pasting from videos I watch, but I’m wondering if there is some kind of scripting hack I could do to make it work. It also supports relative paths if in the same folder structure.

Example cat image in IA Writer

Bear in Markdown mode does let you drag in images, and in bear-mode (it’s own format) lets you paste in from the clipboard.

Things I just don’t use

What’s my choice, and which should you go for?

The answer for the is always it depends… - read my feature list above, really think how you write and work, and see which fits your working style.

When I first drafted this post, iAWriter hadn’t got great image support, but I let this post sit for so long on my hard drive that they added it, and a comparison between the two is much closer now.

I really dislike how Bear doesn’t let you have multiple contexts (e.g. Work and Home) - something that iAWriter would do with ease with its concept of folders - I love how it’s just dealing with file on the file system.

I love how Bear lets you paste in images from the clipboard - so useful for rapid note-taking.
If I can get Kirby (my CMS) working with one of iAWriter’s account publishing endpoints, that will be amazing also.

Bear seems designed for a wider appeal, with its cute branding, and a general-purpose feature set. iAWriter seems to be more of a precision instrument, with several well thought out things, that you can turn on and off, and if I stick at this writing thing I can easily see myself moving to it.

I think I’m going to stick with Bear, for now, however I think I will buy iAWriter just to see if I can work around the image thing, as I love the fact that it’s just plain text files, and I can use DropBox to sync, and I love keeping things simple and being in control of my data.

Future tools to try

Ulysses is of course also on my love-to-try list, although it’s subscription-based and costs a bit more. Similarly, since I drafted this, there are all sorts of interesting new subscription-based tools out there that let you network your data together - Obsidian, Roam and similar, but that’s something to explore for another post!