Drafts: The Swiss Army Knife For Text

After the post about my writing process, I’ve been bombarded with questions about how and why I use the software that I mentioned in the post. I’ve decided that since so many people want to know about the software and seeing that one of the software in question just released a major overhaul, I’d write about each of them and give them some time in the sun. I want to start off by saying that I’m not sponsored by either company and all the images of the product are pulled from their press kit.

This week I figured I’d start with the software that I use the most, actually I’ve written this post in this software using markdown annotation language. I’ve been using Drafts 4 for the last year, and when I heard that they were releasing a new version I pre-ordered it as soon as it became available. In this post, I’m going to focus on the newest version that was just released, Drafts 5.

What Is Drafts?

Simply put Drafts is a text editor for iOS, but it can do so much more. Its developer, Agile Tortoise call it “a Swiss Army knife for text.” I used Drafts for primarily taking notes, writing my blog posts, and compiling text that I will later export to other tools and formats.

Dictate With Drafts

I use Drafts the mostly from my Apple Watch while I’m unable to look at my phone but I need to make a note to remind me of an idea for later. Drafts dictation bypasses Apple’s default time limit to allow me to dictate complete thoughts, articles, and lists. If you are like me ideas hit you at the most inconvenient times. It never fails that I’m in the middle of rush hour traffic and can’t use my phone and a great idea strikes me. I click a complication on the lower left of my Apple Watch then I can dictate a complete story if I wanted to. For those time that I just want a quick note or list, I can go completely hands-free by using Siri with the “Hey Siri, Create a note using Drafts,” command. Siri will prompt me, “what do you want your note in Drafts to say?” I just dictate and she doses all the work. Just note when working with Siri the normal dictation time limits apply.

Draft saves all my notes in a central inbox that I go through at the end of the day and using actions I export as reminders or flag as notes for my ongoing and future projects.

The best example of how I use Drafts dictation is while writing dialogue. I start the dictation and just speak the dialogue and will go clean it up and format it after the fact before exporting it into Scrivener. This allows me to make sure that the flow of my dialogue is natural. Very few people speak proper English and complete sentences every time. Therefore to make my dialog seem natural I find it easier to forget the rules and write the words as the characters would’ve said them. Drafts’ dictation allows me to do this the easiest way I’ve found yet. Once Drafts dumps that dialogue into the inbox I copy it into Scrivener and add it to the chapter text I want it in, or into a note inside Scrivener for later insertion into the project.

Blogging With Drafts

When I write my blog posts I use Drafts to compile my thoughts on the page. Since Drafts supports markdown, which is a lightweight markup language that uses simple text formatting syntax that can convert to HTML easily. It was created by John Gruber in 2004. I write in markdown for my blog because I find it easier than using HTML. Especially when I know I’m going to be formatting it for the web. I even have my site setup so when I publish my posts in markdown it’s automatically reformatted to HTML that any web browser can read.

Working Inside Drafts

Drafts is a wonderful tool for text. Every time you open Drafts by default it opens a new blank note ready for you to enter your text. In Drafts 5 you can even assign tags to your notes and filter them. Where Drafts I feel outperform any other text editor, and why I use it the most, is its processing actions. Clicking on the Drafts logo in the top right corner opens a list of actions that Drafts can do with the text. There are things like Tweet this text, save to all different cloud storage options, send as a message or e-mail, and create reminders. Those are just some of the defaults, but there is a wide community of users creating their own actions to do more that can be added to Drafts from their website. My most used one is an official action to convert markdown to rich text. All these actions are what makes it a “Swiss Army Knife for text.” No matter what you want to do with text once you’ve got it onto the page in Drafts you can most likely find a way to get it exported, however, you need it.

Costs of Drafts

Drafts is a free software from the Apple App Store with added features with a paid subscription. These added features may not be essential for most users, but it also gives the developer income so they can continue to make enhancements.

Downsides

I feel that you can’t review anything without mentioning the things that can be improved or the downsides. Drafts I feel is a wonderful software for text editing, but I couldn’t see myself using it to work on long-form writing, a book for example. I’m sure it’s possible for some users, but for me, it’s set up for that kind of work. I don’t always write my story in order. I jump around as ideas hit me. Drafts is not designed for this kind of organization. Another downside that I have, at the time of writing this post, is that there is no desktop app. There are times when I’m working on writing on my MacBook Pro and since there is no Drafts app for macOS I have to export what notes I started in Drafts and use other software to complete my work on the Mac. The developer has stated that they are working on a macOS version of the app, but until they do this is a slight headache.

Conclusion

I find this an essential tool for my writing process and I recommend it to anyone that needs to take quick notes on their iOS devices. I invite you to learn more about their website getdrafts.com.

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