Category Archives: Writing Tools

Drafts: The App

Drafts: The App

As a writer, I’m always looking out for The Next Great Tool. And while I’ve pretty much settled on Ulysses for novels and short stories, I’m still not completely satisfied with what’s available for blogging on mobile platforms (I’m looking at you, iPhone and iPad).

On my Windows laptop, Open Live Writer is my program of choice. Unfortunately, it’s not available for mobile devices–they’re just not powerful enough.

This morning I started reading someone’s blog post about a program called Drafts. It looked interesting, so I decided to take it for a spin, which was easy enough to do since there is a free version as well as a paid version.

So I installed it on my iPhone. In fact, I’m writing this entry using it. I already have several writing apps on this phone, so why do I keep looking for more?

It’s quite simple, really: I wasn’t all that smart when I bought my smartphone. I went with the one that had the least amount of memory: 16Gb. Which means I’m constantly searching for more efficient apps so that I can use the fewest number of them as possible.

And yes, I learned my lesson: my new iPad has 128Gb of memory.

Drafts

Formatting text in Drafts is quite simple; it uses Markdown language which is accessed via the on-screen Markdown toolbar. It’s the same language Ulysses uses, which is pretty cool considering that I can export my writing right into Ulysses.

So today will be a day of research. I’m going to install Drafts onto my iPad, and put it through its paces. My goal is to see what, if any, apps it can replace. I’m also going to see how far I can go with the free version, which will help me decide if I really need to spend money for the Pro version.


I just installed Drafts onto my iPad and it immediately synced to the cloud and retrieved this post. So far, so good! That means that although I’m still going to use GoodNotes on the iPad, I don’t need to keep it on the iPhone, thus freeing up space for those all-too-crucial pictures of cats.


I also managed to export this post to Evernote, then copy/paste it into Open Live Writer, my editor of choice on my laptop. It’s really beginning to look as if Drafts Is here to stay! I’ve already replaced Apple’s Notes app on both of my mobile devices, and between Drafts and Ulysses, I no longer have any need for 53’s Paper or Apple’s Pages.

Tomorrow I’ll take a look at a few more of Draft’s operating details.

Is This The Ultimate Writing App for iOS?

Is This The Ultimate Writing App for iOS?

Ulysses. Ancient Greek adventurer and explorer. Legendary traveler. And now, a writing app for the Mac, iPhone, and iPad.

I discovered Ulysses whilst searching for a new blogging and writing tool. I had several requirements that any system or app had to satisfy:

     1. It had to be reasonably priced
     2. It had to have a clean interface
     3. It had to have a free trial period
     4. It had to be compatible with the apps already in my existing Writer’s toolbox
     5. It had to allow me to sync between my iPad and iPhone.
     6. If possible, I would like it to sync with my windows laptop.

At $4.99 a month or $39.99 annually, it definitely is reasonably priced. That took care of the first requirement. It also comes with a free 14-day trial period, thus fulfilling number 3.

So far, I’ve not found any conflict with my existing tools. That was number 4 on my list.

As far as syncing between my iPhone and iPad, I originally installed and configured it on my iPad. When I installed it on the iPhone and launched it for the first time, it was already synced with the iPad. Since my documents were set to store in iCloud, what I had written on the iPad was already available on the iPhone.

And syncing was almost instantaneous: I started this document on the iPad, edited it on the iPhone, and when I moved back to the iPad, all of the new changes were there!

As far as syncing to my laptop, it’s a bit trickier: I was able to export this document to MS Word .docx format, download it to the laptop, open it in Libre Writer, save it in .txt format, and then copy/paste it into Open Live Writer. Honestly, it sounds more complicated than it is!

One of the reasons for the clean interface is the fact that Ulysses uses markdown language for all of its formatting. There are only 25 commands to memorize, but if you’re lazy like me, there’s also a pop-up menu to give you access to all of them. And the interface doesn’t get much  cleaner than this:

ulysses interface

So that’s Ulysses in a nutshell. Over the next several days I’m going to spend time exploring all of its features, and just learning how to use it. But for now, if you’re interested, here’s the complete features list.

GoodNotes, Revisited

GoodNotes, Revisited

It’s not like me to go gaga over a new app of any kind, much less one for writing. But that’s exactly what I’m doing with GoodNotes. Although I’ve been using it for a little less than a week, I’ve already come to wonder:

  1. Why I didn’t discover it before
  2. How I managed to survive all these years without it
  3. Am I losing my mind

Okay, the last bit is a given: I’ve been losing my mind for years. And the reason I didn’t discover it sooner is I wasn’t ready for it. Simple enough. As for question 2, the same answer applies.

It took me a long time, a lot of trying, a lot of running down blind alleys, before I put together my writer’s toolbox.

toolbox

Apple Notes, Apple Pages, MS Word, Libre Office, Open Live Writer, Scrivener—I’ve tried far too many of them. They each have their strengths and weaknesses, and I’ve learned to live with them. And the main lesson I’ve learned over the years is this: don’t expect one program or application to do everything for you.

Very few of the programs above excel at taking notes. GoodNotes fills that gap as if it was made for notetaking. Oh, wait—it WAS!

Last night as I was drifting off to sleep I was jolted awake with the idea for a story. I was dreadfully tired, but I knew that if I didn’t write it down, I’d forget it. So I grabbed my iPhone, fire up Apple Notes, and jotted down my thoughts. This morning, after I had my tea and a light breakfast, I installed GoodNotes on my iPhone. Although the Apple Pencil doesn’t work on it, I can still write (with my finger) or type into it. Best of all, when I set it up, it immediately mirrored everything I had on my iPad—thanks to storing everything in the cloud!

And yes, I copied my idea from Notes and pasted it into GoodNotes.

And while the iPhone isn’t the best writing program, it’s good to know that, since (unlike my iPad) I carry it with me everywhere, I’ll always be able to capture my random thoughts, and be able to expand on them later.

And I’ve even learned how to create my own page template and import it into GoodNotes!

Character Sheet

It’s a basic character template I found on the web, converted it into a PDF file, and then imported into GoodNotes. If that’s something you’d like to try some time, you can find the instructions right here or watch a video here.

One of the best video tutorials on GoodNotes can be found here on YouTube.

Really, I haven’t been this excited about an app since I discovered Scrivener! Which, incidentally, I need to upgrade in the near future.

My Only Complaint?

Very few serious writing apps offer you a trial/demo version, and GoodNotes isn’t one of them. But considering the extra programming effort to create a separate version, I can understand it. After all, it costs less than $8.00 to buy it—and I’m okay with that.

Boy, Did I Ever Blow It!

Boy, Did I Ever Blow It!

I asked for the Apple Pen. The sales guy sold me an Apple Pen. I’ve been using it for over a week, wondering what the difference was between the Apple Pen and the Apple Pencil was.

Even the chrome band with “Pencil” printed on it wasn’t enough of a clue.

So this morning I decided to intensify my search. I picked up the box that it came in, and lo and behold, last night someone snuck into my room and replaced the Apple Pen box with one that clearly said “Pencil.”

Seriously, there is no Apple Pen. It’s been the Pencil all along. Sherlock Holmes I ain’t!

A Few New Toys

A Few New Toys

Well, I finally did it. I took the plunge and upgraded my old iPad Mini! It’s summer, and the idea of remaining in my Lonely Writer’s Garett™ just doesn’t appeal to me. What makes it the best room in the house during the winter (the fact that it’s the warmest room in the house) is the very thing that makes it almost unbearable when the temperatures reach 90°F/32°C.

But that’s not really why I bought the new one. I simply needed a larger format (I got the 9.7” model) and a lot more RAM. The new one has 128 Gb, which I consider the absolute minimum for a Serious Budding Writer™ like me.

iPad 97

Anyway, the stars (and my bank balance) aligned and I decided to go for it. Besides the memory, it’s also cell-enabled, so I can make and receive calls on it if I so desire—which I don’t.

Next, I took the old iPad Mini to the Apple Store where they gave me a $95 Apple gift card in exchange for it! I had wanted a keyboard and case combination, but they didn’t stock them. Instead, I went with the new Apple Pen.

apple pen 2

Don’t bother searching for the pen online; as near as I can tell, it’s just the Apple Pencil renamed and relabeled. In fact, the metal band around the top of the device says “Apple Pencil.”

But never mind: it works, and that’s all that matters.

Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes

I’m going to have to adopt an entirely new workflow for my blogs. Since I won’t be using my laptop as often, choosing instead to sit in a cool breeze on the porch, I’m going to have to invest in some new software.

I spent several days reading reviews of note-taking apps for the iPad/Pencil combination before finally deciding on GoodNotes. $7.99 made it the most expensive app I’ve ever bought; on the other hand, if a comparable program existed for my laptop (it doesn’t), it would probably cost at least $50, so I’m not complaining.

Apple Pen(cil) Specifications

It’s a USB device that requires pairing with your iPad before you can use it. Sorry, it doesn’t work with iPhones. Simply remove the cap and plug it into the charging port on your iPad and click on “Pair.” Once you’re connected, you will remain paired until the next time you power off your iPad.

Once paired, you can also use the plugged-in connection to charge the Pen, although my own Pen came fully charged. If you’d prefer, you can use the enclosed adapter to charge the Pen via a Lightning cable.

According to Apple, a 15 second charge will give enough juice for 30 minutes of constant use. A full charge takes 10 minutes, and provides 8-12 hours of use.

More About GoodNotes

For a (relatively) quick look at GoodNotes and it’s capabilities, here’s a video on YouTube. So far, I’m impressed with it. I’m going to spend the next few days learning how to use it and putting it through its paces.

I’ll get back to you about it.

apple pen