My iPad Writing Process
Until recently, I used my laptop for all my creative ventures. I used it for writing, for researching, for social networking, for school work and for entertainment. After purchasing an iPad Air, that has changed considerably. In fact, it has changed so drastically that I don’t really use my laptop at all. And it’s not so much the fact that I want to get away from my laptop, but more so the fact that the iPad Air just seems to suit better for a few specific tasks. Writing, for instance, has been completely revolutionized by the iPad. The iPad has a few apps that aren’t made for OS X which makes writing — more specifically, the research portion of writing — far more efficient.
The following workflow demonstrates the process I use to write articles on my iPad.
Drafts for iPad does exactly as its name implies. Like Scratch on the iPhone (which I have now replaced with Drafts for iPhone for uniformity), all my ideas begin in Drafts. Drafts is made to be a starting point and excels in becoming a funnel for my most important ideas and tasks. This article, for example, began as a draft titled “How I Write” with four simple bullet points. I then shot this draft into Editorial (which I will discuss further) and typed the rest of the article from there.
I’ve written entire documents in Drafts before firing the document into Pages for formatting and editing purposes. Drafts works with many different apps and works best with those that use URL schemes for inter-app communication.
As I’ve said in the past, all great ideas begin as a seed. From there, they grow into fruition. For me, these ideas begin in Drafts for iPad.
After I have completed jotting down my idea, more often than not, that idea ends up in Editorial. Editorial is a fairly new app for the iPad that houses the essence of what a writing app should be. I won’t venture too deeply into the app because I’m not the most qualified person to do so. In fact, Federico Viticci, whom I have mentioned before, has written an entire book on how to utilize Editorial to its potential. As Viticci states:
"Editorial makes me want to work from my iPad.”
For me, Editorial isn’t so much about how many scripts, URL schemes or workflows I can pack into it. The most important workflow I use is “Search Google”. As I hash out my article, I will run into ideas, quotes or theories that have been created by someone other than myself. Like any proper writer, I must cite my sources. It has never been easier to quickly search where my links and sources came from. Without Editorial, I would have to constantly switch between Safari and a text-editor to copy and paste the necessary links into my article. With Editorial, all that comes with the touch of a button.
Although not as important as references and source links, Editorial also has nifty keyboard shortcuts which can be used to automate items I write over and over. For example, I can quickly hit the “P” key three times to insert the item copied to my clipboard. There are others as well, like hitting “D” three times to insert today’s date.
The developer of Editorial is meticulous and expects nothing less than perfection. It shines throughout Editorial. The negative side of meticulous craft and perfectionism is the fact that it will be a little while before we see Editorial come to the iPhone or OS X. When it arrives on OS X, I will hit the buy button faster than I did when Tweetbot 3 came to the iPhone.
Once I have completed the bulk of my writing in Editorial, I fire what I have come up with over to Byword. Byword is another text-editor, but unlike Editorial, aims for an absolutely distraction-free environment. Where Editorial excels in allowing you to do, Byword excels in allowing you to not. Sometimes the best writing experience is done in complete zen.
I’ll write further about Byword in the future, but for now I want to focus on its premium feature of publishing. After editing my article in Byword (which has a beautiful Markdown preview feature that almost looks too beautiful), I can quickly publish my article to my Tumblr blog. Byword supports Wordpress, Tumblr and other prevalent blogging platforms. Press the button, insert your applicable tags, and hit “Done”. There is no cutting, copying or pasting involved. Byword quickly and efficiently sends your edited and marked up article straight to your site.
How each individual writes, funnels ideas or completes papers will be unique to that person. These three applications have allowed me to work from my iPad, which in turn, has allowed me to work from anywhere. And that’s the beauty of the iPad. Its portability and easy-to-use software make it super easy to consume and create from anywhere. Sometimes easy-to-use software limits what can be done (hence the need for URL schemes for inter-app communication), but now that many apps utilize these new communication methods, more can be done on an iPad.
Drafts, not available on a Mac (yet, although my fingers are crossed), allow me to funnel all my ideas into the channel I want them to follow. Drafts is a fantastic starting point and takes up a spot in my dock on both my iPhone and iPad.
Editorial’s features are second to none when it comes to writing and researching applications, both on iOS and OS X. The only writing application that comes to mind when discussing powerful writing apps is Scrivener on OS X. At $5, Editorial becomes not only a powerful text editor, it becomes an economical text editor.
And finally, Byword is my editing and publishing app of choice. There may be many options to edit and publish articles to a Tumblr site, but Byword has worked quite efficiently for me. With apps like Drafts and Editorial, Byword acts as my “finisher”. When an article reaches Byword, it means that article is ready to be shipped.
Completing your own app workflow for whatever type of work you do is both challenging and rewarding. Some people will never spend the money necessary to find the app workflow that suits them best. I, on the other hand, find app shopping to be an incredibly cheap hobby. That cheap hobby has resulted in a level of efficiency I never expected to find, especially when using an iPad. Like Viticci, I want to use my iPad to create.
And I never thought I would say that.
The following are links to the App Store for the three apps above:
There are few products that have drastically changed how I go about my daily business. When I bought my first laptop, I experienced mobile computing for the first time. I was able to watch a movie while laying in bed or I could write a paper while at the library. A 15“ MacBook Pro was hardly ”mobile”, even by today’s standards, but it marked the beginning of a lasting hobby.
I remember the instant connectivity plunge when I bought my first smartphone. The speed of Blackberry Messenger changed how I communicated with friends and colleagues. Blackberry Messenger died away for me (like everyone else), but it singlehandedly made the biggest impact on my personal connectedness.
Recently, my wife and I bought our first car together. Used (very used) vehicles never seemed to offer an incentive for upkeep and maintenance. They also didn’t offer a method to deter fast or irresponsible driving behaviour. The car’s efficiency tools and minimal carbon footprint have had a profound effect on how I transport myself from one location to another. I have learned a level of patience on the road that I (nor my wife) ever expected I would attain.
I could name a few more products that have altered my life. But the most major of those other products is the iPad Air. In the same manner that my laptop, smartphone and car have changed my daily habits, so too has the iPad Air changed how I do my daily work. Yet, the most profound effect of the iPad Air isn’t so much its effect on my digital lifestyle. Rather, its effect on my attitude towards general computing has altered me — my personality, my mores, my norms, or what have you — for now and for the future. The iPad Air is my paradigm shifter.
If there was one factor in the past that held back extensive use of a larger iPad for work, it was its awkward size and weight. Therefore, I bought an iPad mini last December after reading countless reviews highlighting the mini’s size. I enjoyed the true sense of one-handed use, the ability to read comfortably in almost any position and the sense of true iPad portability.
Like everyone else, though, I ended up hating that screen. It wasn’t its level of sharpness (evidence being my not knowing I was holding a Retina mini recently) or even its colour gamut. Rather, I despised the usability of the mini’s screen; navigation buttons always seemed too small, interfaces were skimmed down for the 7.9” screen and, worst of all, the mini’s keyboard was just too small for my intended use.
I’m not one who obsesses over using my iPad for everything but the thought of using my iPad more has always been tantalizing. I’ve used a full size iPad for typing out university lecture notes and assignments and for maintaining the occasional spreadsheet. Turned out I wasn’t using the mini for my past iPad uses. In fact, I wasn’t using my mini at all. And when a device isn’t being used in my home, it gets shipped off.
The Air has rekindled my iPad work spirit and filled those usability holes that the mini had introduced to my digital life. Screen elements are the proper size again. The keyboard is nearly full size and it didn’t take long to regain that knack for touch typing. The high resolution retina display — which I hadn’t experienced on my prior iPads — was the icing on top. These three characteristics quickly had me infatuated with the Air.
These three factors were not, however, reasons for why an iPad has become my primary computer. They are elements of a recipe — the nuts and bolts — that represent something greater, something paradigm shifting… at least paradigm shifting for my life. Putting this paradigm shift in words, let alone cohesive thoughts, has only driven my curiosity for the Air’s greater purpose.
You see, the iPad Air is the first “I can” computer in my life. It’s the first “I can” product in my life. The iPad can, but yet, it can also be conquered.
The Air’s retina display can be as clear and as sharp as a printed book. Text — the single element I deal with most on any screen — looks better on the Air’s screen than on any other screen I own. Sharpness of text was the first thing I noticed after I fired up the Air.
The Air’s 64-bit A7 chip can process tasks as fast as three year old notebooks. It’s the fastest iPad to date. The Air’s potential, specifically through application development, is sky high. The Air (and so too the Retina mini) is a blank canvas for potential — the blank canvas for potential. It can be someone’s only computer, let alone swiftly handle anything you can throw at it.
The iPad Air can be the most portable computer in your arsenal. It is most certainly the most portable full size iPad yet. Its heft has been drastically reduced and its ergonomics vastly improved. The smaller side bezels have yet to hinder anything I’ve tried to do. The Air can be a couch computer and it can also be a coffee shop computer. Most importantly for me, it can be a workplace computer.
And while the iPad Air is busy “canning”, Apple has limited its complexity. iOS 7, like every iteration of iOS before it, is conquerable. Ben Thompson recently wrote another touching article about the simplicity of the iPad. His story outlined how his nearly technologically illiterate mother had found a way to connect to airport wifi in a busy Hong Kong airport terminal. Then, on the opposite end of the spectrum, how many times have we seen footage of toddlers instantly understanding an iPad? The magic of the iPad only continues to mature and blossom.
For some iPad users, and specifically those like me who may find code or Terminal slightly overwhelming, the iPad is that single surmountable device. I can edit HTML for a site, but never could I write it. I can admire the accomplishment of implementing fabulous animations inside a well-designed app, but I will never know how to implement those animations. I know where Terminal.app is located and I understand its power, but I will never understand the true depth of its utility. Every time I fire up Tumblr’s HTML editor, I am reminded of the depth of this digital world. I’m sure I’m not the only person in this boat. I can’t be the only person in this boat.
So for someone like me, the iPad Air is the first computer I feel I can conquer — the first computer that I know inside and out — or, at the very least, the first computer I know I can figure out. Viticci’s incredible Editorial review always reminds me of this. Linking applications together, finding the app for a specific job, utilizing the iPad to its fullest potential; the very core reason for the need of an iPad is highlighted by the concepts in that review.
Federico points out that the iPad can. Yet, he also points out that we can. Like Ben Thompson’s mother, we can be technologically deficient and still conquer the iPad.
I’ve shipped off countless devices because I never knew how to use them or never took the time to learn. This is the first device to teach me what I don’t understand and the first device to fully satisfy my digital needs.
These are the reasons why the iPad Air is a paradigm shifter for me. MG Siegler has done a far better job than I could ever hope to do when discussing which iPad to buy. I bought the Air because it fits my needs perfectly. A Retina mini may be the device that fits another person perfectly.
My Air is my game changer. What’s yours?
To see some beautiful imagery — not to mention a well-worded review — of the iPad Air, check out Minimally Minimal’s review.