I cannot recall so many apps being available to process our words, nor so many options as to how to read them. In such as crowded market, it’s too easy to get lost. Is the new minimalism just a reaction against traditional heavyweights such as Microsoft Word, or can you write your thesis without the sustenance of a screenful of toolbars and controls? What should you craft those words in: Markdown, XML, Rich Text, or some other form of markup? Perhaps most to the point, can you really write once and publish to several different media, or should you migrate your content between specialists?
Liquid | Author is one of the many minimalist writing environments available in the App Store. I’ve used it before, and found it very pleasant. But in such a crowded market, an app needs to be more than just pleasant. It needs something which makes it stand head and shoulders above that crowd. Even being free is no guarantee, although in this case it brings with it full features apart from the ability to export. This is an excellent way of providing a full-featured demo for you to try before committing to the modest in-app purchase to unlock export for £5.99. Included with those export features is support for citations. Liquid | Author also integrates well with its sister product Liquid | Flow.
Author is a minimalist writing environment. If you want to sit and look at its bells and whistles as you write, then it’s not the right choice for you. If you like concentrating on your words instead, then it is as clean as they come: just a small footer with your wordcount, Done to switch from editing mode to reader, and Find.
Screenshot showing Edit Mode in Liquid | Author, in Mojave’s Light Mode.
There are four colour schemes, for editing and reading in Light and Dark Modes, which have been carefully designed and are each a delight to use. The two used in Edit Mode are gently warm and mellow, and excellent for those who spend long hours crafting their text. Colder tones are used in Read Mode, implicating the more objective and critical approach you’d want in a reviewer.
Screenshot showing Edit Mode in Liquid | Author, in Mojave’s Dark Mode.
Author is driven by menu commands, their keystroke shortcuts, and the occasional innovative gesture. If you’re using a trackpad, making a pinching gesture on it collapses your document into its outline, and a single tap expands it. I have found this remarkably useful, even with relatively short documents.
Images, captions, citations
Embedding and captioning images is something quite special: drag and drop an image into your Author document, and the year becomes its default caption. Click on that, and you can edit all manner of information about that image, making it ideal for many specialist applications. My particular interest in this are the formal captions which I use here for all works of art which I show in my articles on paintings. Currently I upload the images to my WordPress account, then manually add carefully formatted captions. It’s laborious and error-prone, and should be a very easy task using Author.
Screenshot of the citation and caption editor in Liquid | Author.
For me, the holy grail of any app which handles words (and images) is being able to maintain a single source, exporting that to a range of different media and formats. At present, my two favourite apps for this are Tinderbox 7, which is something of a Rosetta stone in that you can customise it to generate almost any form of output, and QuarkXPress, which is less versatile but supreme in layout and typography. Neither is really that suitable for the two articles or more that I write each day for this blog, although if I had the time and inclination to customise it, Tinderbox 7 would do the job very neatly I’m sure. So for the moment I write in HTML source code using MarsEdit, which is by far the best blog management tool that I have come across.
Author exports to the most popular document formats, including PDF, Microsoft Word .docx, Rich Text, plain text, as well as to print. This latest release now supports export to WordPress blogs, and to that end I am trying it out in this article. It’s my intention (and hope) that this will have received little or no additional editing between its export from Author and publication here, so that you can judge for yourself how successful it is. The only other important export format for which I’d like support is ePub for electronic books, although I appreciate that isn’t particularly straightforward, as has been shown in Apple’s Pages.
Of all the modern, minimalist editors which I have tried, Liquid | Author is by far the best. It still has the occasional formatting glitch indicating its relative youth, but nothing which is in the least bit troublesome. It has some truly innovative features, and is wonderfully designed, making it much the most comfortable to work in. For anyone working with citations and complex captioning, its tools are both very flexible and simple to use. It’s one of those few apps which is actually designed to make what we do easier, rather than just throw more and more complexity in our way.
If you’re not convinced that your current writing tools are perfect, then I recommend that you download it and give it a try. I’m not quite sure yet how I’m going to integrate it with MarsEdit and WordPress, but I’m sure there’s a way.
(I have not made any significant changes in the above: this is as published by Liquid | Author.)