I am an avid writer. I write for work, for my blog, and for fun. I am also writing a novel, which if it doesn’t kill me will be decent, and hopefully entertaining. I also have an iPad, and like to do writing while on the go.
I don’t always like to lug the laptop around, as it is not always accommodating. A lot of my writing is pen to paper, which I then transcribe when I am back at the screen. I just ordered a keyboard for my iPad, because, you really do need a keyboard sometimes. (Sorry Steve Job’s Ghost).
When I did NaNoWriMo last year, and started my novel, I did some of the writing from the iPad in my local library’s write in’s. While I didn’t have a real problem writing on the device, I did think that a keyboard would be helpful. I did it twice, and then just brought my laptop to the next write-in so that I was able to work faster, and more efficient.
One of the reasons why I felt I was ineffifcient was because there were so few good writing apps out there. I was looking for several features.
- Ease of use – I am not saying that MS Word is the gold standard of word processing, but it sort of is. Any word processor worth it’s salt needs to have some if not most of the functionality that MS Word, and Open Office provide.
- Sync with Dropbox, or Google Docs
- Ability to count words, undo, and edit if needed.
- Printing Capability, or the ability to export as PDF
I ended up trying out several apps, though one of my pet peeves with the iTunes App Store is that there is no way to sample and app to decide if you want to buy it.
On my computer, I tend to not use Word until I am editing. Instead, I use yWriter, which is basically a project management system for writers. It breaks your work into chapters, scenes and then lets you organize your information based on the outline data, like you characters, places, etc… Its pretty simple to use and is freeware. You can pay $12 to register it, and that money goes to help development tasks. They are up to version 5 now, and it’s a great tool for writers. However exporting is clunky, and there is no way to sync your project into any other format unless you export it first. Which makes portability difficult, but not impossible.
There is also Scrivener, which I will totally buy if they come up with an iPad app as they speculated earlier in the year. (It’s due this month). Scrivener is a storyboard and word processor in one. It’s pretty robust, and has a hefty price tag at $40. Previously only available for MacOs, it’s now available for PC and I am always tempted to just buy it.
Back to the iPad. I started off with some free apps, which I didn’t like. A Novel Idea was the first one I tried, followed by Plain Text -Dropbox Text Editing, neither of which had all the features I wanted, but were free. I also tried Nebulous, and iDo Notepad, which is interesting as a Journal, but not for writing documents.
I finally ended up purchasing Elements from Second Gears Software ($4.99) after some good reviews, and recommendations for other readers. I like this one because it’s distraction free, does word counts, and has a quick notes pulldown for editing. However, it only reads .txt, .markdown, .md, .mdown, and .mdwn documents, so formatting is out of the question.
Right now I am looking at Pages from Apple, ($9.99 iTunes) and have been playing with the free One Note App, which syncs to your computer’s version of the program but limits the number of pages/projects you can have.
I have also started playing with OnLive Desktop which replicates Windows 7 on the iPad. It’s free with limited support and includes it’s own 2gb data storage.
None of these have thrilled me, and I keep going back to Elements because it’s just easy to use.
As you can already tell by now, I am a cranky writer. When I don’t like the interface, I would rather just write on paper. So app makers, please make a better writing app for tablets, or we will just keep buying laptops and using MS Word, and no one will benefit from that.