iPads are portable and convenient and powerful enough for simple computing and gaming, but can they cope with the demands of a serious writer? Or would a writer be better off investing in a laptop or desktop?
It depends on the writer, of course. As an emerging writer, I rely almost solely on my iPad. I have a $20 Bluetooth keypad that snaps onto my tablet, because if I had to rely on the screen keypad, it just wouldn’t work for me. The silly native keypad slows me down and gobbles up half the screen space.
So what writing can I do with my iPad?
With my cheap keypad and the apps listed below, I’ve written one novel and mapped another, concocted umpteen short stories, and spun off hundreds of blog posts on my iPad. Here’s a list of web tools and apps that help me..
While Pages, the Apple word processing app, is good, I prefer to write my drafts with the PlainText app because the documents are instantly synced my Dropbox folder. No worries about losing something! The formatting is pretty basic, but I know I can pretty up things later with other software.
I write posts, edit them, upload them, and track my blogs on my iPad. I use the WordPress app for tracking my stats and managing comments, but I prefer the Blogsy app for writing, formatting, and uploading. Its interface is super easy, especially when adding images, and the customer service is outstanding.
…Plan & Outline
Idea Sketch is a mindmapping tool that helps me conceptualise an article or outline a story. I’ve found Pinterest to be fantastic for the early stages of planning a novel. I collect period costumes, scenery, historical information, and more to feed my imagination. I created a companion board for a completed novel that shows all of the places and foods mentioned in my YA travel adventure novel.
The ease of surfing the web is one of the iPad’s strengths, but keeping track of all that glorious info is the trick. For basic research, I use the Wikipanion app to access and store wikis. More in-depth searches are stored in SpringPad, which I love for organising notes, links, photos and more. I have individual notebooks for competitions, freelance opportunities, writing tips, and individual writing projects.
PDF Entry forms can be filled in, signed (with a stylus) and emailed off from the GoodReader app. Very professional and convenient! No more wasted paper, SAS envelopes, stamps and time. (The Pages app can convert documents to Word or PDF when submitting, but remember that formatting can go wonky in the process. Send yourself an email first to check it.)
Grammarly is a web tool that allows writers to give their work the once over, checking it for grammar, spelling, punctuation and plagiarism. There’s an annual subscription, but it’s money well spent. I use the CloudOn app to work on Microsoft Word documents. It’s can be a little clunky, but it’s great to be able to make changes to a Word document using Word software. Documents are synced to a file in Dropbox.
StoryTracker helps writers keep a record of what story has been sent where and when. You can even keep a record of earnings and total word counts. It becomes a database of editors’ contact details. Just make sure you back it up regularly! (I learned the hard way.)
So what CAN’T I do on my iPad as a writer?
Advanced Editing of Word Documents
Tracking changes to Word documents by various editors is not possible. For example, when I was revising a manuscript with my agent, I had to revert to a laptop to get the best possible view of her suggestions. I could see the changes, but it wasn’t always clear who made it and why.
Printing from an iPad is still a bit cumbersome, but there are ways to get around this (and the ways become second-nature.) The iPad has trained me out of my paper dependency. Printing is simply something I do less and less of.
All in all…
An iPad is definitely adequate for most writer’s tasks. With a decent bluetooth keypad, a writer can accomplish almost everything on her ‘to be written list.” Access to a laptop or desktop will probably be necessary at the advanced editing stage and makes it easier to ensure the formatting is up to scratch.
My advice? Get the iPad now and keep your clunky old laptop for the tidy-ups and printing. Set yourself a goal: Upgrade to a slick new MacBook when you make the first significant sale of your writing.
Check out this article in the series iPads for Serious writers. Pimp My iPad – Writers’ Accessories – 5 Pimpin’ Keypads