App-titude

Back in the 90’s Palm Pilots and PDAs were the hot must-have gadgets. Suddenly, we had computers in our pockets soon followed by phones that did more than make calls.

I had a Dell Axim tricked out with a wi-fi card (pre-blue tooth) and a folding keyboard. Writing nirvana. I cranked out countless short stories, surfed the net, listened to music….you get the picture. It still works great, although the battery tends to die quickly, wiping out all files and downloaded programs. 

I moved my writing on the go to iPad a year ago. With the blue tooth keyboard, it’s perfect for writing anywhere. Right now, I’m at the Observation Deck at the airport enjoying lunch and chatting with you.

The only text app that comes with iPad is Notepad. You can buy the pricier Pages from Apple, but shopping around, I discovered two apps that I use daily to keep up with editing, writing blog entries, and tracking ideas for works in progress.

My Writing Spot $4.99
It’s a clean app without the fancy formatting features. In the past 10 months or so, it’s had 1 app update that added word and character count. They also fixed the landscape view, allowing you to hide the document menu and work full screen while holding the iPad in landscape position. It backs up manually to your Dropbox account and is reliable. I used it for editing Perfect Copy… twice….because one good edit deserves another:)

Plain Text $Free
This nifty app works much the same but allows for folder creation so you can nest various bits of a project under one header. I have folders for blog posts and at a glance, can see the titles/subjects to assess what I’ve covered and get quick ideas for new posts. For a novel, you could break out by chapter, or like me, create docs in the folder for quick character details so you don’t lose track of habits, personality ticks, etc. Any promo copy I write for the novel can also be added as a separate doc, keeping all of the related bits together for quick access. Plain Text backs up after each edit (minute by minute) to Google Docs. 

I like Plain Text for novel writing because of the nesting folders and also for its clean layout and the white background is easy on the eyes. 

However, I discovered a few pitfalls.

During NaNoWriMo, I used it primarily with the blue tooth keyboard for the heavy writing and saved the on-screen keyboard for lazy edits in bed, usually well after midnight. With a physical keyboard you have CMD+Z, the all wonderful undo function.  Not so with the on-screen keyboard.  

So, imagine if you will, I’m 28k into the novel, editing at 2am when I accidentally ‘select all’ and instead of clearing the selection I delete the full manuscript. My husband thought I was having a seizure.  

I ran for the laptop and logged onto Google Docs and sure enough, it was gone in the backup copy as well. Then I noticed Google Docs saved versions. With my hands shaking from the sudden adrenaline rush, I clicked a version from 30 minutes prior and all 28k+ opened up. I could have kissed the Google engineer that added that feature. It saved me two more times before November 2010 closed.

For all the drama, I still love Plain Text and type with care on my work in progress. My Writing Spot holds ideas, it’s great for typing tweets since it counts characters and it has password protection to ensure my 5 year old doesn’t write her own great American novel over mine.

I apologize for the long-windedness. Share your favorite writing apps, I love trying out new technology.