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Posts tagged with "writing"

My New Dropbox “Quick Note-Taking” App: Drafts 1.1

In my review of Drafts 1.0, I wrote:

Drafts is neither a text editor nor a minimal Twitter client. Drafts is a frictionless way to capture and save ideas that also happens to be integrated with system functions and applications you may be already using to elaborate on those ideas. Drafts can be used as an inspirational notepad to store the genius idea you have while you’re brewing coffee, or when you’re busy writing something else (just fire up Drafts, and quickly dictate your text if you have an iPhone 4S). I would like to see an even faster way to email text (like Captio or Note 2 Self do) as well as support for Evernote and more text-based iOS apps in a future update, so here’s to hoping the feedback on this initial version will be strong enough to encourage Greg Pierce, the developer of Drafts and Terminology (which the app also supports for definitions), to consider more functionalities and an iPad counterpart.

And from my Dropbox Writing Workflow, about the service I use to save "quick snippets of text" into Dropbox:

I am not always writing long form content. In fact, most of the time I am simply saving ideas and short sentences in Dropbox. The web service I use to quickly get bits of text as .txt files into Dropbox is Send To Dropbox. Using my “Attachments” folder, Send To Dropbox connects via OAuth to my Dropbox account and gives me a unique email address I can email stuff to.

Drafts 1.1, released today, delivers in the two areas I used to find myself dabbling in: quick notes and Dropbox. Aside from a new icon by Wet Frog Studios, some minor UI refinements, and better feedback for executed actions, Drafts 1.1 comes with direct Dropbox integration to let you easily save a draft with one tap into your Dropbox account. Drafts will save notes as timestamped .txt files, meaning that, if you're clever enough and want to automate your quick note-taking workflow, you could build rules in Hazel to look for specific timestamps and content inside the Apps/Drafts folder in Dropbox.

Personally, Drafts 1.1 fills a particular void in my workflow -- a native iPhone app whose sole purpose is to save quick bits of text as single .txt files in Dropbox. With Drafts 1.1 and TextDrop, I can reclaim control of my drafts without being forced to use Send To Dropbox (which still has the obvious advantage of working anywhere). I like how I can type text into Drafts 1.1, hit the Dropbox sharing button, forget about it, and then access my text snippets with TextDrop, iOS file managers like ReaddleDocs and GoodReader (which allow you to directly edit text or "open in" other apps), or my OS X Dropbox folder.

Drafts 1.1, however, doesn't just bring a few enhancements, bug fixes, and Dropbox support. For instance, third-party app integration has been supercharged with direct support for Sparrow (text will be passed along as email body, and the cursor will be automatically placed in the Subject field), Messages, and Simplenote. Even better, Drafts now lets you configure the apps and actions you want to keep visible in the sharing list with a dedicated menu; installed apps are automatically recognized, whilst supported-but-not-installed ones have a link back to the App Store (the App Store link button could use the same fresh coat of UI paint the icon received). You can enable and disable actions with a double tap.

Typically, 1.1 updates don't fundamentally change the nature of an app, as they improve on existing features and fix glaring omissions of the first release. For me, Drafts 1.1, with the addition of Dropbox and more stability, feels like an all-new app that now sits in my iPhone dock to quickly save .txt into Dropbox. If you liked the functionalities of Drafts 1.0 and were waiting for more, I highly recommend Drafts 1.1, available on the App Store today at $0.99.

My Dropbox Writing Workflow

Ever since I wrote about my new year’s resolutions to work smarter using better tools, compared my favorite iOS text editors, and shared some of my workflow techniques on Macdrifter, I thought it would be appropriate to share a bit more about the activity that takes up 80% of my work time: writing.

As I wrote in my comparison of iOS text editors:

Two months ago, I noted how there seemed to be a distinction between text editors focused on long-form writing, and the ones stemming from a note-taking approach. I think this difference is blurring with time, but there are still several apps that are clearly focused on distraction-free, long-form writing, like iA Writer and Byword, whereas the ones I tried for this article belong to the note-taking/Markdown/Dropbox generation of text editors. I like iA Writer and Byword, but I’m saving that kind of apps for another article.

In my workflow, there is a distinction between apps “for writing” and tools for quick “note-taking”, but in order to minimize the effort required to keep everything in sync and tied together, I set out to make sure the differences of such tasks could coexist within a single ecosystem.

My writing ecosystem is powered by Dropbox. Read more

WordPress 2.9 for iOS Gets New Text Editor, Fixes

WordPress has released an update to their iOS client earlier today, adding a number of features that have been requested since the original release of the blogging client for iPhone and iPad. I've been trying the latest WordPress, and while it's still far from being the perfect app to write long articles on the go, the new features introduced in the latest update surely contribute to enhancing the overall experience.

For one, WordPress 2.9 has a refreshed text editor. It's not the same visual editor you'd get on a self-hosted WordPress blog -- it still forces you to write with visible HTML, then hit a button to preview text -- but it's got an additional keyboard row both on the iPhone and iPad with buttons for bold and italic text, adding links, quotes and strikethroughs, bulleted lists, and more. The app is pretty smart in that text will be automatically wrapped between HTML tags both when you hit the buttons as you type, or manually select text afterwards. I'd like to see the possibility of manually arranging and customizing the extra keyboard row in a future update, but there's no doubt the feature gets the job done for now.

Editing is done in a pop-up window on the iPad (my main writing machine when I'm on the go), with buttons along the bottom to switch between HTML, settings, preview, and attach media. Whereas the iPad app lets you switch between modes with the tap of a button, on the iPhone you'll have to hit "Done" to go back to the previous view (with settings, title, categories, etc.).

WordPress mentions two more features in the iTunes changelog:

Full Screen Editing. No more teeny-weeny content editor — now you can view more text at a time while you post on the go.

Reading Made Easy. Keeping track of your favorite blogs has never been easier. Browse all the latest posts on blogs you follow in one place, right from your iPhone.

WordPress 2.9 comes with three minor fixes as well, which include posting pictures that you've already taken with Quick Photo (introduced in version 2.8), and stats/referrer links that can be opened in-app. In a post on the WordPress for iOS blog, the developers explain the new "Read" feature:

If you have one or more blogs in your WordPress for iOS app you’ll now see a Read button in the blogs list. This is the fastest way to keep up with posts from blogs you’re following on Here’s how it works: if you go to any blog and click the Follow button, you’ll not only get email notifications about new posts from that blog, they’ll also show up right in the app!

WordPress 2.9 is an interesting update, one that I'm sure will get more writers to consider the iOS app as a feasible alternative when a laptop is not available. I'm definitely looking forward to version 3.0, which is going to be the "biggest update to the WordPress for iOS app since its birth".

Download WordPress for iOS here.

MarkdownNote Brings Live Markdown Previews to OS X

Folks who enjoy writing in Markdown have already installed Brett Terpstra's fantastic Marked for Mac, a nifty utility to generate HTML previews from Markdown documents written in any OS X application. You can read our review of version 1.2 here. Those who prefer a more cohesive writing environment with plain text/Markdown and HTML output living in the same application, however, might want to take a look at MarkdownNote, a new entry in the Markdown editing space that's got some interesting features.

MarkdownNote has been available for quite some time on the iPad, and it's now jumped over to the Mac with a feature set that takes advantage of Lion's full-screen, Resume and Versions. MarkdownNote's distinctive functionality is "live preview", a split interface that lets you write in plain text with Markdown on the left, and have another panel immediately format Markdown as HTML on the right. This happens as-you-type, and with Markdown's **strong** and *italic* formatting options you'll only have to properly close such "tags" for the preview to refresh accordingly. MarkdownNote has a menu on the bottom left to resize the panels for Markdown and Live Preview, with options to set the editor and preview at 50, 70 or 100 percent.

MarkdownNote can save .txt files (everyone loves plain text, right?) , it lets you pick your own font and it's got some further options to play with in the Preferences. When you're done writing, you can copy the HTML and paste it somewhere else as usual. I've found MarkdownNote to be extremely useful in full-screen mode, as the split interface makes for a great alternative to having large borders around your text -- with this app, you don't waste space and you've got a live-updating preview at the same time.

MarkdownNote and Marked

Best of all, MarkdownNote works great with Brett's Marked, although you may wonder why would anyone use Marked when MarkdownNote has got a live preview. I think MarkdownNote is great at letting you write and quickly keep an eye on the correct visual output, but I still prefer Marked for editing -- after I've written a long piece, I fire up Marked, choose my favorite style, see how many words I've typed, and I go through my Markdown. I love this combination of writing tools.

At $3.99 on the Mac App Store, MarkdownNote gives you an easy way to write in Markdown and instantly see how the words you typed will look like, and use keyboard shortcuts to facilitate the process of Markdown writing itself. MarkdownNote works really well in combination with Lion's full-screen mode and Marked -- if you're a Markdown nerd, you should give this a try.

Customize Your Mac’s “Paste and Match Style”

On the Mac, the paste function associated with the CMD + V keyboard shortcut has a well-known side effect: if you're writing a document and you paste something from your clipboard, the document's style won't be automatically matched. Quite possibly a "feature" per Apple's design choice, since I switched to the Mac I've always been annoyed by such "remember every style" behavior, and from the reaction I've seen on Twitter, it turns out quite a few people dislike when they end up with weird styles in their outlines or email messages as well.

But, you might argue, there is a way to paste and match style, and that's represented by the ⌥⇧⌘V shortcut...which requires four fingers to execute, and it's not always implemented in the same way in third party apps. Chrome, for instance, uses ⇧⌘V, and many other apps follow a similar trend to modify the default shortcut for Paste and Match Style.

In the past few days, I've come across some interesting solutions to unify Paste and Match Style with a simpler keyboard shortcut, and make it the default paste action on OS X if you never want to paste with "styles". This can be particularly handy for writers, who often prefer a plain text environment or a styled one that's, however, consistent throughout a document. Read more

Daedalus Touch for iPad

I've started to shy away from the bulk of text editors that hit my inbox since few bring something different to the table. There's only so many ways you can rewrite a text editor, and while I'd love to cover everything the ones I really want to showcase have to offer something truly unique for me to sit down and crank out a review in TextMate. It's terribly difficult to find something that stands out, but I think those disappointed with the App Store's current offering may find something of interest here. Daedalus Touch for the iPad is different in part because of how it allows you manipulate documents in a hybrid stack & coverflow style that takes advantage of gestures, and not lists, to organize your ideas. There are no lists or hierarchy of folders, but rather stacks of sheets that contain your text. Of course it has Dropbox and TextExpander support (a must nowadays), which means you don't have an excuse not to check Daedalus past the break.

Read more

Byword: Distraction-less Writing App For Mac

Byword, a new app by Metaclassy, aims at bringing a minimal, focused writing environment to the Mac. The OS X platform isn't new to this kind of applications that want to take the distraction away from your writing experience: Ommwriter for Mac tried to provide an uncluttered background for your text that, eventually, turned into a distracting experience for many due to the use of sounds and animations; the usual Text Edit, on the other hand, still maintains a strong hold on users with its minimal UI and powerful text editing features. When combined with apps like Think, Text Edit can become the ultimate writing app for the Mac.

Byword, however, wants to step up the game with a really minimal interface made of no toolbars, and just text on a light background. You can run the app in its own window, but Byword is meant for distraction-less fullscreen mode that will feel just right on Lion, but works well on Snow Leopard as well. When you're writing in Byword, nothing else is on screen. Just you and the cursor. Read more

The Future Of Writing On Tablets

The Future Of Writing On Tablets

iPad is often described as a “lean-back” device, which is wrong. It’s a lean-back device, if you are in a lean-back situation where you read. But it also works as a lean-forward device. It works for writing if it’s optimized.

The lean-forward/lean-back change is hard on the iPad, but if you have a program that helps you just do one certain task, iPad can be useful. It’s that single-mode atmosphere that makes the iPad fun and strange at the same time.

Reading works well, but writing works well too if it’s just input and not editing.

The first wave of iPad apps was mostly made of bigger iPhone apps. The second wave saw Flipboard, Writer and OmniFocus coming to our tablets. The third wave is going to be real fun.


IA Writer Now iOS 4.2-ready

I've been waiting for this update: when IA Writer first came out, I couldn't use it. I was already running iOS 4.2 beta on my iPad, and the app had a few bugs with the new operating system. The focus mode wasn't working (and that feature is possibly the most important one in the app), custom keys didn't match.

With the latest 1.0.2 that showed up a few minutes ago in iTunes, the app is finally ready for the elusive OS. Subfolders and auto-sync aren't included yet, but they're coming soon.

Finally, I can use IA Writer. Go get it, as it seems totally worth it.