How to force sync iA Writer with iCloud (tested)

iA Writer is a minimalist and intuitive markdown-supported writing app, and I use it every day on my iPad, iPhone and Mac to write a diary, jot ideas and draft blog posts.

I stick to the app also because it offers one of the most reliable ways to sync content across all connected devices. iA Writer recommends syncing to iCloud via the dedicated iA Writer folder in the iCloud Drive.

If you edit a file on your iPad or iPhone and dismiss a keyboard, the file is being saved. You can see it right away in the Library panel on the left side:

  1. The timestamp of the edited file is being updated, and…
  2. If the files are sorted by Date Modified, with the newest on top, the recently changed document moves up the list.
iA Writer sync files via iCloud

Basically, any file that’s inside that folder should be synced automatically. It works in 99% of cases.

Sometimes, the remaining 1% means you lose the entire day of work the moment the file is not being synced with iCloud, and the terrible message about conflicting copies appears.

If you compare file timestamps on your iPad and iPhone, you will immediately know whether the recently edited document has been synced to iCloud. The fact that the file has been saved doesn’t mean its status has been updated in the iCloud. The files are saved locally – otherwise you would not be able to use note taking apps offline. Syncing is triggered by apps, but handled by iCloud, which is not a perfect ecosystem, yet.

I recently have had a serious and continuous sync problem, so I heavily tested multiple ways to push the updated file to iCloud. After multiple tests, I think I have found a reliable solution: in the Library panel, use “Open” option to open a built-in file manager similar to Files app.

In other words, don’t stay in the default iCloud folder but move one level up, and use the file manager apparently powered by iCloud. When you move back to the iA Writer’s folder, you will force iCloud to check the status of the files – on device and in iCloud – and if there are any differences the sync will start automatically.

Let’s go through the process step by step.

How to force sync iA Writer with iCloud

1. After you finish editing a document in iA Writer app, dismiss the keyboard by tapping the keyboard icon on the on-screen keyboard.

2. Move to Library view by tapping the “<iCloud” icon in the top left corner. If you edit documents in the default iA Writer folder, you should see the folder name “iCloud” on the top.

3. Move one step higher in the folder structure by tapping “<Library” in the top left corner.

iA Writer push sync to iCLoud - use Open

4. On a list of locations, you should see “Open…” option. It’s here by default. Tap it – a file manager like a built-in Files app will pop up.

5. Under ‘Create Document,” you should see the files that are included in the iA Writer default folder – but this time, they are forced to sync. You should be able to see “work in progress” icons next to file names.

iA Writer force sync via built-in Files app

6. Open iA Writer on another iOS / iPadOS device and use the same method (via “Open…” option) to access and sync files inside iA Writer dedicated folder.

You can use this method if for some reason you can’t sync your files automatically.

A similar way to push sync iA Writer content is using the Files app on your iPad or iPhone to access iA Writer folder in the iCloud.

If both methods can’t solve the problem, you can use an emergency method: force close iA Writer app on the device you’ve made last changes. Do the same on a destination device. Then open the iA Writer app again. Every time you close an app, its current state is being saved, and if there is any content that’s meant to sit in the iCloud, it’s being synced.

Conclusions

I believe the problems with syncing iA Writer (and other note taking apps using Apple’s cloud system) files are caused by iCloud which is not perfect.

I would love to see an option to manually send an updated file to iCloud – a kind of manual force sync. It could be included in a Share menu.

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