Entering text on your iOS device – How to use the Drafts app
When I first saw the application called Drafts I immediately thought that it was a silly idea and should have died at birth. On account of the fact that there were a number of people that were raving about the Drafts application and saying how useful it was, I thought I would keep an open mind and have a look for myself. I have to admit that when first using it still didn’t get it. Really, it comes down to how you think about what you’re doing with your iOS device. It is whether you are thinking in an app centric way or whether you are thinking in terms of the output from your head, ideas. I kept doing the jump from deciding to write something and going directly to where I thought that text, idea was going to go. So I would think, okay let’s do a tweet, or okay let’s post something to Facebook, or Google plus, or wherever else and go to that app for the task. What I really needed to do was to bring the application Drafts to the forefront and any time I want to put in some text, just dive in there. Why open Pages on the iPad.
Thinking differently with the application Drafts
So I dived in and worked with the application using it as a dump for any ideas and writing, bits of text I wanted to deposit into my iPad. It also works with the iPhone, but seeing as I have the iPhone 4 without the Siri dictation available, it works better for me with the iPad. So whatever I was doing I would open up Drafts and throw some text into the iPad and generally the first port of call would be Twitter. This would be because of the fact that there is the character limitation of 140 characters. So the first part of the text are put in would be short enough to send off as a tweet – possibly. I could send that out as a tweet and then I could continue adding to it and the next destination would be to send to ADN and again the limitation now was for the 256 character rule for that social network. Drafts is still quite handy for writing longer pieces for Google plus and also with Facebook. So something that has started off as a quick tweet could easily be added to and end up going to a number of different places as I add to the idea contained within that initial text.
Technical details about Drafts app
The Drafts application has an extra row of keys on the keyboard that gives easy access to the keys you need to be able to write in markdown syntax. The extra keyboard row actually scrolls across, in effect giving two extra rows of keys. It is easy to tap on the keyboard row on the right-hand side to quickly get to the other set. This makes it very easy to do the characters necessary for headers, bold text and italic text and other useful characters.
Drafts also has the advantage of having Textexpander integrated within the application. Any Textexpander snippets that you have created either on your Mac or within the iPad, you can use within this application. This is a another bit of goodness to help a writer on iOS get the ideas quickly out of the head and onto the digital page.
Sending your text to different places
You start by tapping the share button in the top right-hand corner and then choosing where you want the text to go to. You will have linked to your Drafts application to the various social networks, so just tap on the destination and away it goes. There is a notification to let you know that you have sent to a particular place and you can choose whether you want the text to stay onscreen and is still available to add to or just to send to somewhere else, within the preferences. The way that I have mine set up is so that I get a fresh empty screen if I go back to it after 60 seconds. It is also possible to decide whether you want the text you have input into Drafts, either be archived within the application or deleted. It could well be that you don’t want to keep the text in any form that you have put into, for example Twitter and upon a successful post to Twitter from Drafts, the text will be deleted. I just prefer to let it all be archived and do any tidying up at a later stage if necessary.
Customising Drafts with various sorts of actions
The application Drafts comes with a number of destinations already set up for you and there is a certain amount of customisation that you can do with these defaults. There is also a possibility of setting up new destinations and even downloading actions that other people have created that you can further customise and use yourself. So for example, you might use the action which will send the text that you have within the text entry window to OmniFocus. Another possibility is to have the text sent to a single file in the form of an appended or prepended entry and a typical use for something like that would be a journal. The best part of this is that you’re able to use text entry codes to allow you to add predefined text, Textexpander snippets and built-in codes such as the one that puts in the date. It is fairly simple automation for iOS, but it is incredibly useful. You can make email actions, Dropbox actions, Message actions, Evernote actions and URL actions. This allows you to have connections between the Drafts application and other apps on your iOS devices.
NoStylus is a convert to the Drafts app way of working
So as you can tell from this review of the Drafts application, I am most definitely a convert to the to this way of thinking with regards text entry on iOS. It is quite efficient to be able to use portions of text in multiple destinations and have it changed by merely adding more text to the original starting point. So now I don’t think about things in terms of, it is time to do some Twitter or some Facebook, my starting point is the idea contained within my text that might have no specific destination, or on the other hand multiple destinations. If I was intending to work on something more specific, such as an idea for a novel that is going to be a longer piece of writing altogether, then probably I would open up the application Byword. That would keep me concentrating my efforts in one definite direction, although I would most likely also have Drafts easily available so that I could do some of the more nebulous writing work that all of us tend to want to do these days. I can thoroughly recommend the use of the Drafts application, especially on account of the fact that it is so customisable with the various actions you can add.