Phraseology is a compelling text editor for iPad (Update)

There are many text editors available for the iPad, and I feel compelled to try a lot of them. This week I’ve been using Phraseology  ($3.99) by Agile Tortoise, which I like a lot. Two features make it stand out: the Inspector and the Arrange Menu.

Phraseology also features several export options and a unique set of accessory keys on the keyboard. The more I dove into what this app could do, the more I liked it. Simple typing is only the beginning; this is one informative text editor. Here’s my look at Phraseology for iPad.

UI

Phraseology’s color palette is beige and off-white, which I like. When I read a book in iBooks, I use  the sepia theme, as the white is too intense. It’s nice that Phraseology isn’t retina-searing white either.

The app keeps your words front-and-center, as the majority of its window is dedicated to the writing area. At the top is the current document’s title as well as live character and word counts. A thin toolbar runs along the left-hand side (in both orientations), which can be dismissed with a tap if you like to type distraction free. The toolbar’s seven icons are self-explanitory, except for the Arrange Menu, which is represented by three parallel bars. But that’s such a unique feature, I can forgive the cryptic icon.

The other interesting design element is the accessory keys. These 14 keys perform a variety of functions (see “Keyboard” below), and appear either above the software keyboard or at the bottom of the screen if you’ve got a Bluetooth keyboard connected. Again, the purpose of each is clear at a glance, for the most part.

I’ve got one gripe about the UI. The default font is American Typewriter. Fortunately, it’s easy to change. Which brings me to using the app.

Use

There’s not much to say about the actual typing. Place your cursor and get to it. Like I said, the toolbar can be dismissed. The character count and word count update with each keystroke, so if perseveration is your thing, enjoy that. You can re-name a document at any time by double-tapping its title and typing a new one. Now let’s move on to the toolbar.

Toolbar

Here’s where it gets good. Phraseology is packed useful features, some of which I haven’t seen in an iOS text editor before.

The Documents Menu

The Documents menu is at the top of the toolbar (either orientation). Tap it for three options: new document, list of existing documents and archive. To move a document to the archive, tap the trash can while viewing the document list. Two buttons appear, Archive and Delete. Tap Archive to keep the document but remove it from the main list. Archived documents can be viewed by tapping the folder icon. Agile Tortoise says you can store an “unlimited” number of documents, and based on the small size of most of them, that certainly feels true.

The Arrange Menu

Here’s Phraseology’s first killer feature. The Arrange Menu offers drag-and-drop control over the body of your document. Specifically, you can rearrange paragraphs, sentences and line breaks with a swipe. Just grab the handle next to each and drag that element to its new home. The Arrange Menu even shows the word count and character count for every paragraph and sentence. Deleting elements is just as easy; tap the red delete button and they’re gone.

Rearranging paragraphs and sentences like this is so much faster than drag-and-drop it’s silly.

The Inspector

As cool as the Arrange Menu is, it’s nothing when compared to the Inspector. This tool is packed with useful information. You’ll find typical stats like character count, word count and number of sentences. You also get the average words per sentence and syllables per word.

Phraseology also lists the number of root words that appear in your document, as well as the Flesch Kincaid grade level and reading ease, which is a measure of a document’s comprehension difficulty. You’ll also find your file’s Gunning Fog Index score (another measure of the readability of English writing) and SMOG index rating, which estimates the years of education needed to understand a piece of writing. How cool is that?

There’s more.

The app also reports the number of times five parts of speech occur: nouns, verbs, determiners, prepositions and pronouns. Tap any one in the list (I’ve chosen “determiner” and “your” above) to see how many times that particular word occurs, as well as the sentence(s) that contains it. What’s better still is that you can jump directly to that sentence from the Inspector.

That’s above and beyond what I’ve seen in the myriad of iPad text editors I’ve tried. Well done, Agile Tortoise.

Font Menu

You can change the font size and and type. And please do. You should not be staring at American Typewriter all day.

Markdown

Phraseology supports Markdown, which is another huge plus. While it doesn’t provide a special set of keys with common character extensions like some other apps do, it does provide a preview of what your marked-up will look like.

Sharing

There are four sharing options. You can tweet the first 140 characters of a document (which is odd), email a file, export to another compatible installed app or copy the lot to the clipboard.

Finally, printing is supported if you’ve got an AirPrint-compaitible printer (or software like Printopia installed).

Keyboard

Like I said, you won’t find special Markdown-specific keys but Phraseology does offer special keys. The “accessory keys” are mostly about navigation. Use them to move your cursor through a document word-by-word or letter-by-letter. You can also select a word as you would with a double tap and move the selection handles along letter-by-letter or word-by-word, both left and right. Finally, four shortcut keys let you place an apostrophe, quote, colon or semicolon where ever you like.

Conclusion

You haven’t bought it yet? What’s wrong with you? There’s a lot to like about Phraseology. The Inspector and Arrange Menu set it apart, providing a wealth of ease and useful information. Those who spend a lot of time typing on the iPad ought to seriously consider Phraseology. I’m happy to recommend it.

Update: I neglected to mention Terminology before. It’s a dictionary app for the iPad, also from Agile Tortoise. When installed, it works with Phraseology for one-tap lookup and word replacement options. Very cool.

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