Thursday, August 20, 2015

Top 5 Apps for Writers part 1


I just got back from When Words Collide. It was a blast. I met so many great writers and publishers. I helped launch an anthology I am in (Enigma Front). I talked shop with a local publisher and even learned a lot about wuxia from an old master (hi Lucas). On Sunday, I felt exhilarated and I signed up for WWC 2016 before I even left the hotel. Shout out to Randy McCharles and his army of volunteers. They always do a fantastic job. There is also a great post on Linked In about what he has done for the WWC and writing communities throughout Western Canada. Go read it. I'll wait.

And we're back. One of the panels I was on was entitled "Apps That Improve an Author's Life." As panelists, we discussed our top 5 apps that we use as mobile writers. So, I thought I would share it with you.

I knew I wanted the iPad for writing when I first saw Steve Jobs demonstrate it in January, 2010. When it became available in Canada, I ordered one and picked it up in May, 2010, eager to start writing my next story.

Well, those early days were a bit rough. Pages and Notepad was all that was really available. But things improved over time and I started using the iPad as a content creation device and not a consumption device when iA Writer hit the App Store.

In the years since, a lot of writing apps or apps that help the writer write have graced Apple's App Store. I've tried many of them. I've tried making a few of them work even though they were filled with quirks. I've even returned to a few apps after erasing them just because they've gotten new features.

In that time, I've decided that any writing app that is going to take up space on my iPad (or iPhone) is going to have to have the following features:

(a) It has to be intuitive: I don't want to spend a huge amount of time figuring out how to type or manage files with an app. Sure there will be some learning curve, but suffice it to say that I don't want a steep one.

(b) It cannot get in the way: I want an app to work with me, not against me. Apps that try and do everything and make every step I take painful, I don't want. The app could be easy to use, but if I have to press multiple buttons just to move an app when dragging and dropping will do, I might reconsider it's place on my iPad.

(c) Cross-Platform Compatibility: This is the big one for me. In the past couple of years, saving to the cloud has become huge. We have Dropbox, OneDrive, and iCloud just to name a few. An app that works on my tablet, phone and computer is huge. No more keeping track of the latest and greatest version. You open up the app on whatever device you want, and voila, all your WIPs are there.

So, without further ado, here is my TOP 5 List of Apps that Help Me as a Writer. Just one caveat. If you haven't noticed, I am a Mac man. I use iOS. I freely admit I drank the kool-aid. I make no apologies for that. I like Apple's walled garden. So this list is heavily biased toward iOS. Some of these apps are available on Google's store, but some are not.

So here we go:
5. Wordbook by TranCreative Software - Every writer needs a dictionary and a thesaurus with him while he is out and about with his mobile device. There are literally hundreds of them. I consider this one a better one. Wordbook has over 150,000 words, etymologies, pronunciation guides and even a word of the day.

4. Dropbox by Dropbox Inc.: After you've written your literary masterpiece, where are you going to store it? These days, it is in the cloud. Gone are the days of storing individual chapters on disks or thumb drives only to copy over one and losing lots of hours of hard work, or worse, forgetting where you put them. Now everything can be synced up to a document in the clouds. How secure things are and what the terms and conditions of storing things there on copyright, I cannot comment on. I just know Dropbox stores things well and iCloud has become very stable, and you can access your files in iCloud just like in Dropbox. 

3. Drafts 4 by Agile Tortoise - Every author needs an app to write quick notes or even full articles. Smartphones are perfect for that. I absolutely love Drafts 4. Drafts 4 is a text editor that does markdown and shares to everything - e-mail, word, Evernote, everything. The only negative I can think of is organization. There are no folders. Everything is saved in one long row. But the designers created it to be a text note taker and the first place your text goes - meant to be viewed or processed in other programs like Word. 

There are quite a few text editors out there and it was tough to decide between this and iA Writer, especially since iA Writer has focus mode and is made only for a writer to concentrate exclusively on text. Drafts won out over iA Writer because I can access it through Apple's Notifications menu. It is not available on the Mac, so not complete cross-platform.

So that's it for this week. Next week, I'll talk about my Top 2 picks as well as talk about a couple of Apps that just missed my list. This includes the big elephant in the room...

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