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On Writing On My iPhone, Revisited

Apple iPhone 10X

A Brief History of Technology

It’s funny how succeeding generations take technology for granted. My Nana’s first electric refrigerator must have seemed to her to be a miracle. Nowadays the only time I consciously think about it is when I’m looking in it to make my grocery list.

And even that is more about food and shopping than it is about the refrigerator itself.

June 29, 2007

Not exactly a Day of Infamy.

I sat at the Apple iPhone help desk on the evening of its release. Even though we had just completed 2 weeks of intensive training on the operation and capabilities of the device, that evening was the first time any of us had actually seen one, much less had an opportunity to work with it.

One iPhone between 8 techs. No wonder callers were frustrated.

Now my grandchildren all carry iPhones. And while I still look at mine with an occasional sense of wonder, to them it ain’t no big thang.

During those weeks of training, I had an epiphany: this was no mere mobile phone! No. What Apple had done was figure out how to fit an entire computer in the palm of your hand!

It’s 11 and a half years later as I write this. Cell phone (or if you’re British, mobile) usage has exploded. The phones themselves have evolved into various flavors of smartphone, and whereas they were once considered a luxury, they have become for many of us an essential part of life.

Hell, I wouldn’t be surprised if a few people I know don’t even go into their own bathrooms without it!

But Here’s the Thing…

I love my iPhone X, which I once swore I would never own. My next upgrade was to be to the 8S or Plus or Z or whatever was the top of the line 8 at the time.

But my carrier had a special offer: buy one iPhone X and get a second one free! And so I decided on the X, not realizing that it was about to be replaced by a few newer, more improved models.

But that’s on me. My iPhone X still runs circles around my old 6S Plus.

Writing and Publishing

I’ve written before on how I love writing on my iPhone. How it’s become my main writing tool for whatever site I’m writing: Medium, letters to the editor, blog posts—you name it, I’ve written to it on my iPhone!

And on Medium and WordPress, at least, published as well.

That’s About to Change

Ever have an improvement that really wasn’t? When I bought my new laptop 3 years ago, a Windows 10 machine, it booted blindingly fast. Now, after a long series of updates, upgrades, and “improvements,” I can turn it on and almost have time to get dressed, go downstairs, eat breakfast, and wash the dishes before heading back upstairs in time to see the damn machine is ready—finally—for use.

With the release of iOS 12.1.1, my iPhone is still blindingly fast—compared to my original Motorola flip-phone.

And there are far more things that are easier and faster to do on my laptop than on my iPhone. Things specifically related to publishing what I write.

Even Medium’s own mobile app isn’t designed to publish straight to Medium; more and more often I find I need my laptop to prepare my stories for final publication.

The Solution

So here’s what I’ve decided.

(What? Did you seriously think I was going to invest all this time bitching about things without offering a solution? You obviously don’t know me very well.)

I’m still doing the bulk of my writing on my iPhone, with an occasional detour to the iPad.

But rather than publishing (in Medium’s case, posting) what I write directly to the web or wherever, I’ll save my drafts. Then I’ll move to the laptop to massage them, add images and links, make them pretty, and then publish them.

And Apple? I’m sorry, my old friend, but I was wrong: you still haven’t managed to put a computer in the palm of my hand.

And as we techies like to say in our own inimical, technobabbly way, “Close, but no cigar.”

Image: Plasencia Cigars

 

Goodbye, Scrivener

We’ve had a good run, but it’s time to say goodbye. I never used you as an actual writing program; I merely copied what I’d written in other programs and apps and pasted them in to you. So I was only using you as a place to store all my writings.

My first mistake was configuring you to use Dropbox. I wanted to be able to access you across all my devices. But that created a problem: when I launched you, Dropbox had to sync before you would open. And when I’ve got an idea for an article or story, 2 minutes is too long to wait.

So I deleted you from my laptop, after deciding that I’m never going to own a Macintosh, desktop or otherwise.

Instead, I’ve moved all of my files into Evernote.

Why Evernote?

  • Because I can install it on all 3 of my devices—laptop, iPhone, and iPad—and it will synchronize across all 3 of them.
  • Because I can fine-tune my settings to a degree that Scrivener never approached.
  • Because it has a smaller footprint, loads faster, and in general just does a better job of what I want it to do.
  • Because even if I leave my devices at home, I can access it on the web via the nearest computer.

Still, it Hurts

It hurts because Scrivener has been a good friend for the past couple of years. And like any other friend, it hurts to say goodbye.

But nothing lasts forever, right? Just as we outgrow certain friends, so it is with computer applications. And I’ve simply outgrown Scrivener.

An Aside

QUESTION: What’s the difference between an app and a program?
ANSWER: There isn’t any. Software publishers decided that “app” sounded sexier than “computer program,” and the rest, as the cliché goes, is history.

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.

Price

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.

Syncing

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, I haven’t tried it yet. But since I can export documents in MS Word docx format, I don’t foresee any problems.

The Interface

Finally, the interface. It doesn’t get much cleaner than this:

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.

Of course, as I use the program, I’ll become used to and will learn the language.

Exporting

When I’m ready to publish, Ulysses will export my WordPress posts directly to WordPress. It’s an easy enough setup, and you can configure the program for multiple blogs.

My New Default Editor

Ulysses has replaced Scrivener as my default text editor. I still use Scrivener to archive my writings, but Ulysses is much easier to use.

Find it here. You get a free two-week evaluation period before you have to buy it.

It’s Been too Long a While

It’s been too long since I’ve posted anything here. Let’s just say June was a very bad month and let it go at that.

I promised to keep you updated on both Drafts and Ulysses, and I’ve failed on both counts. I’ll be making up for that—and a lot of other things—this month.

I’m surprised that I’m writing anything at all, to be honest; at 10 a.m. it was already 92° F/33° C. Even though it’s been almost 30 years since I left Alaska, my blood still hasn’t thinned enough for me to be comfortable with this much heat.

Yesterday I moved my “writing center” (laptop, iPhone charger, iPad, and iPhone) downstairs just outside the den-cum-office, which is the only air-conditioned room in the house. Even with that, I can only work about an hour at a time before I have to go sit in front of the AC and let it cool me down. And yes, I’m keeping well-hydrated.

Why So Many Devices?

Why so many tools? Because while I firmly believe that humankind has not yet evolved to the point where we can truly multitask, my ADHD keeps me hopping from thought to thought faster than I can process them, and so I try my best to write down those ideas before they disappear. My electronics have replaced my physical notebooks. And no matter how high the quality of Moleskine notebooks, by iPhone is just easier to carry with me.

And no, it’s NOTE “mole-skin:”

“We want people to feel free to say the name the way they want. Having said that, “moleskin” as a word is originally an English word. So the English pronunciation is ‘Mole-skin.’ But then you know, it was moved to France and over there, an ‘e’ was added and the French pronunciation is ‘mol-ey-skine.’” https://www.marketplace.org/2013/05/20/business/corner-office/moleskines-ceo-papers-advantages-and-how-pronounce-moleskine

Another Example

I wanted to find a couple of bookmarks in my browser to add to this entry—and I ended up spending 30 minutes sorting and rearranging my bookmarks. And no, I didn’t find the ones I wanted.

So I ended up spending yet another half hour finding and bookmarking some excellent references sites and tools, which I’ll add to my writer’s toolbox, an updated version of which I’ll be posting sometime this week.

In The Meantime

I’ll be spending the rest of the day doing a few mundane yet oh-so-necessary life tasks that we all would much rather not have to do—such as the laundry.

Until later,

Robyn Jane

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.