Category Archives: Blogging 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.

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

 

Who Is The Muse of Writing?

Who Is The Muse of Writing?

Writers and romantic high-school boys often refer to their muse, or inspiration for writing. As near as I can tell, the two muses most appropriate for blog inspirations are Calliope (the Muse of epic poetry), Clio (the Muse of history), and Erato (the Muse of love poetry). Sometimes I can stretch it to include Thalia, the Muse of comedy. And it was Plato, the famous philosopher who declared Sappho to be the Tenth Muse. (Source)

But try as I might, I can’t find a muse of general writing or journaling. And forget about blogging! Mybe that’s because the ancient Greeks wrote their tales and journeys as epic poetry or history? Now there’s an interesting idea for a PhD thesis!

And I guess the Romans were too busy conquering the world to bother with muses of any kind. At least, I can’t find any. Which is strange, because the Roman pantheon pretty much mirrors the Greek, with only the names being different. Were they anticipating Jack Webb’s Dragnet by centuries? “Only the names have been changed to protect the innocent.” At least, that’s what they claimed. I suspect it wasn’t so much to protect the innocent as it was to protect against lawsuits.

So why am I even interested in the nine Greek Muses at all? Because of a new writing tool I discovered yesterday.

TWORDS

From their site:

Twords nudges you to track your writing and establish clear goals for projects. Just set a target word count and fill up the bar!

This is the second day I’ve been using it, and I’m not sure I like it. This is what I’ve written there so far:

I’m going to write my next blog entry about TWORDS and how I’m using it to help me remember to write every day–even when I don’t think I have anything I want to write about.
I’m hoping this will help me do two things: write every day, and do it even when I can’t think of anything to write. Because that’s really what “writer’s block” is all about, isn’t it? An excuse to procrastinate,  to put off actually working?

500 Words

It seems like a lot. But in reality, it’s less than two single-spaced pages in any word processor, so it’s really almost nothing. And that makes me wonder: how many words is my average blog post? Should I add verbiage to pad them out to 500 words? Is that really being creative?

Or is it merely adding words to meet some arbitrary goal?

I just checked and my most recent blog post was almost 800 words, so maybe 500 is a reasonable goal, after all.

But here’s the thing: I’m finished saying what I have to say, and I’m only a little above 200 words. Maybe I’ll create an entirely new post for the blog, and use that to add to my daily word count here.

Back To The Muses

I thought with any luck, I’d be able to find a Muse I could beseech for assistance in figuring out what to write, but then I realized that was about as rational as praying to some non-existent deity to make me rich and famous.

In the end, I did what I always do, and called upon my own personal muses: hard work and perseverance.

They never let me down.

And for the record, that’s 565 words!