Using Microsoft Word is like shopping for a washing machine—it has more features than you need, has features you need but aren’t satisfied with, and it seems to break down more than it should. But, it’s ubiquitous and sometimes must be used. Not too many years ago Word for the iPad was such a pared down product that it was little more than a glorified text editor. Its lack of ability to support footnotes was alone enough to rule it out for academic writing. Thankfully, that too has changed. Other than the integrated bibliography management in the full version of Word, and probably some Office interoperability matters that I haven’t tested, Word for the iPad is almost as robust as I could ask for–aside from reference management. If you use elaborate mathematical or chemical formulae and symbols, you will have to test this yourself. Add-ins like DocuSign make it palatable for some business applications as well. So, too, does the Word-to-HTML add-in. Word remains the go-to word processor for writing and will probably work for students who don’t–but should–use a reference manager for their writing.
Then, of course, there is Apple’s Pages app. At first glance it appears not to offer footnoting so it was ruled out immediately. For traditional word processing the best option is Word at the point.
There are also plenty of people who find web-based writing to be preferable and perfectly satisfactory. I don’t, and so have not tested this aspect.
EndNote has an app for accessing and managing your online library of references, but does not appear to integrate with Word. Zotero users will find ZotPad helpful for the same type of access but also lacking citation plugins in Word. Sente is not as popular as it should be for academic writers on a Mac. It is worth your time to take a look, though the Sente app for iPad also lacks the Word integration that its more robust desktop version also offers.
Mendeley, though, looks a bit more promising as it purports to provide not only reference management but also full-text searching of PDFs in your Mendeley library and annotation ability. Sadly it too lacks Word integration on the iPad.
There really is not best option for reference management at this point. Pick the app that corresponds to your normal workflow as they all look to really just provide offline access to your online library of references.
I mentioned earlier that I personally use a more nerdy and oddball approach to writing and reference management. LaTeX2e is a version of TeX, which is essentially a document markup language (think HTML for writers) and compiler that renders a PDF. It’s used more for writing in mathematics and science than in the humanities, but because I think its typesetting is so much more pleasant than a word processor and because I have a nerdy bent to my personality, I enjoy using it. I was pleasantly surprised to see several options for both markup and compiling of TeX documents on the iPad.
There are two main options for writing with *TeX on the iPad, both of which are $9.99 today: TeX Writer and Texpad. My next post is on using *Tex on the iPad Pro, followed by my impressions of the iPad Pro as a university administrator, and impressions as a pastor/teacher.