Phraseology: The Definitive iPad Language Editor

Most writing apps for the iPad are dedicated to facilitating the writing process. Apps are designed to remove distractions, sync seamlessly and provide easy formatting options; however, very few apps attempt to improve the manner in which the ideas themselves are expressed.

Phraseology, by Agile Tortoise, provides a set of powerful language-editing tools that appeal to any writer who’s more concerned with verbiage than a distraction-free writing environment. How does it hold up to the competition? Read on to find out.

Interface

The menu and title bars are clean and compact.

The menu and title bars are clean and compact.

For those familiar with Phraseology’s companion app, Terminology, the sandy-colored theme is nothing new. Phraseology does not give the user the option to change background or text color, but the stock theme is pleasant.

The writing window resembles the page of a book, with the textured menu bar serving as a binding. The menu bar provides easy access to all of Phraseology’s features, without being obtrusive. If the user finds that the menu bar is taking up valuable space, it’s easy to hide it by tapping the focus button, in the top left portion of the title bar.

Tap the focus button, in the top left corner, to hide the menu bar, and let your work take center stage.

Tap the focus button, in the top left corner, to hide the menu bar, and let your work take center stage.

Functionality

Phraseology’s feature set is simple, and all options can be accessed from the menu bar. The user can easily create a new document by tapping on the documents tab and hitting the plus button. In the documents tab, the user has the option to delete a document, or archive it for later use. A swipe to delete gesture would be nice here, but the trashcan button does the job well enough.

Hitting the trashcan icon reveals the delete and archive options.

Hitting the trashcan icon reveals the delete and archive options.

Phraseology offers several fonts to choose from, and font size and style can be changed with two taps of a finger. In fact, two taps can complete almost any action in Phraseology, except for exporting the document. A document can be exported via email, clipboard, or as a tweet.

Documents can also be opened in any application that supports text files. Dropbox sync is noticeably missing; however, the developer is laying the groundwork for inclusion of sync in the future. For now, the open-in feature is an easy way to transfer work from Phraseology to an application with Dropbox sync capabilities.

You can open your document in any app that supports plain text files.

You can open your document in any app that supports plain text files.

Markdown is a must-have feature for many writers, and Phraseology includes both preview and export options. The app also supports TextExpander, so it’s easy to insert Markdown metadata or pesky link brackets. Phraseology previews Markdown well enough, but HTML export is limited to inline emails. Documents can be printed in their original form or as a Markdown preview.

It’s nice to have some Markdown support here, but the lack of HTML copy or email with attachment features make it difficult to export HTML directly from Phraseology. Fortunately, Phraseology’s open-in feature serves as a workaround for any problems with exporting HTML, and it works quite well.

The Markdown preview window offers easy access to the print and email options.

The Markdown preview window offers easy access to the print and email options.

Improving Expression

Let’s be honest, those who are going to love Phraseology won’t be concerned with limited Markdown export options. The app provides impressive tools for those wishing to improve and manage the arrangement of their writing.

The arrange window separates your document into moveable chunks of text.

The arrange window separates your document into moveable chunks of text.

Phraseology has an arrange feature that makes it incredibly simple to rearrange the document text. The app separates text into chunks, based on line breaks, and the user can drag the text blocks to rearrange them. This is useful for longer articles, or ideas that are simply out of place. There’s no clumsy copying and pasting here, and users will be pleased with the time saved while rearranging text. The only problem with the arrange feature is that moving a text block surrounded by line breaks will not bring the line breaks with it, leaving two line breaks behind.

You can view the character and word count of each text block in the arrange menu.

Phraseology offers a writing inspector that puts any other to shame. While most writing apps offer word and character count, Phraseology offers character, word, root word, and sentence count. Words are categorized by parts of speech, and writers can track word occurrences to prevent repetition. The inspector displays the results of several readability tests that determine reading complexity. This may be overkill for most, but these tests do come in handy when writing for audiences of specific age, education, or language level.

The inspector window is the language command center.

The inspector window is the language command center.

Selecting an occurrence of a word in the inspector window will highlight that occurrence in the document.

Agile Tortoise also offers a wonderful dictionary app, Terminology, and the developers offer tight integration between Terminology and Phraseology. The Phraseology app has a built in dictionary that provides popover definitions, but owners of Terminology also have the option to use the Terminology definition. If the user selects a word and taps “look up,” the user will be transferred to the Terminology app, if installed, and provided with a more detailed definition. The “suggest” function also allows the user to replace a word in Phraseology with a better word from Terminology. Phraseology’s integration with Terminology is well implemented, and a single tap in Terminology returns the user to Phraseology. The powerful suggest feature and improved definition makes Terminology a must-have companion app to Phraseology.

The user can access a words definition by highlighting the word and selecting define.

The user can access a word's definition by highlighting the word and selecting define.

Conclusion

Phraseology offers a healthy amount of unique features that set it apart from its competitors. The useful arrange feature and powerful language tools are stellar additions to the common features such as TextExpander and Markdown support. Sync is the only omission that keeps Phraseology from serving as a complete replacement for other iPad text editors. At the same time, it’s a mistake to refer to Phraseology as just another text editor. Phraseology has evolved beyond the realm of text editing and represents a new way of dealing with language on the iPad. It’s the definitive language editor for the iPad.

Despite any flaws, Phraseology is an absolute joy to use. It took some time to adjust to the sandy colors, but the app’s unique and powerful features are game changers for anyone looking for an app that does more with language. On top of Phraseology’s innate features, its tight integration with Terminology provides users with a powerful language tool that is unmatched by any other top sellers in the App Store.


Summary

Phraseology is a text editor that offers a powerful set of language tools. Phraseology allows users to easily rearrange text, look up words, and inspect word usage for repetition or reading difficulty.

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