German engineering is know for precision and efficiency. When you get an iPad app that attempts to change the way you type, the chances are that you've seen all the trickery before. I can't hide my love for iA Writer or the minimalist OmmWriter: they're not only masters at getting rid of the superfluous, but also a pleasure to use. I can't however, resist trying new things, so I had to try this Germanic twist on creative writing.
Say hallo to Textkraft English [iTunes Link] by Infovole, the new text processor that promises to streamline your writing with some old school tricks baked in one single app. The starting point is similar to what you've already seen: half the screen for the vital keyboard, a line of useful commands to move the cursor around the top part of the screen, dedicated to display the text.
The most noticeable feature is the inclusion of a built-in dictionary. I know, it doesn't sound like a breakthrough that would make Textkraft stand out of the crowd, and I've been questioning it even during beta testing. The idea is close to brilliance if you're the kind of writer that takes care of vocabulary and goes for pompous and descriptive prose.
Simply activate the feature with the tiny 'Dic' button and the built-in database (works offline too) will display a number of terms that could be of service. In fact I'm using these as I write the review.
The colourful options are there to guide you, but I recommend watching the introduction video to get a basic idea. Green means the spelling of your last word is correct. The next row of yellow terms are synonyms of the last word, which of course, you can replace by just tapping on it. Next are words that sound similar, in case you're terrible at spelling, followed by a list of derivative words.
When I edit my drafts I try to choose carefully the words and avoid repetition whenever is possible. Textkraft allows me to do this as I type, although the novelty gets in the way and I've felt it interrupts my writing flow as I get distracted by the ever changing dictionary suggestions. I wonder if I could integrate this process when I actually read back and review my work without being so intrusive.
Fortunately the app comes with plenty of settings to tailor the experience to your own needs. You can change the rate the dictionary refreshes the words suggested, output format, cloud saving, export and other wizardry you'll find useful. Like in many other writing apps for the iPad, Textkraft works as a barebones text processor and the editing and formatting will have to be done in a separate app or platform anyway.
The most conflictive feeling with the app is that it fails to seduce you the first time you see it. You need to try it to believe in it.
At least in my case, I wasn't sold on the interactive dictionary idea because this is such an abstract concept that you have to try it to see if it works for you. We've all have googled synonyms and expressions to combat the odd writer's block and this app is there to try to help without leaving the app. The effort is commendable and it will surely change the workflow for the right type of people.
The second are that could do with some improvement is the graphics department. The same way those German V10 sports car engines go fantastically well with curvy Italian bodywork, this app will win visibility and many points with the help of an experienced iOS designer. The UI items look ordinary and unimaginative, giving the false impression that little work has gone in developing this app. The truth is that there's no room here for the lovely textures, well-chosen palettes and graceful animations that you expect to see on iOS. Everything has been drawn for efficiency, avoiding typical mistakes, but making the whole experience dull.
And overall is is the impression Textkraft gives me. A powerful tool that can help your creative process, assist you editing and expand your vocabulary. A hard and cold machine for typing. At times I even get an 'oh yeah!' moment finding the perfect word to describe my idea. But this is inevitably shadowed by the thoughts of a more playful app that would tease you even time you launch it to stick with it and ditch your current favourite text processor.
Schreibkraft, a new tool for multilingual writers
Following the recent debut of Textkraft English, developer Infovole has baked an international edition specially designed for multilingual writers called Schreibkraft. The same technology used in the previous iPad app is now used to suggest words and expressions in ten different languages.
It's difficult to come across iOS apps for this specific niche that are localised and are powered, on top of that, with an offline database. Schreibkraft also takes care of special characters for every language and tailors the function keys for those. There's also a translation option that I still have to try, but it's good to see creation apps moving forward like this on the App Store.
If you write in different languages or are just learning a new one, make sure you check out Schreibkraft [iTunes Link] for your iPad.