5 Essential Apps for Writers: Research & Reference

The 5 Essential Apps for Writers series aims to help you customise your iPad into a writer’s super-tool. Earlier posts covered 5 Basic Apps for Writers and 5 Apps for the Business Side of Writing. Today we’re going to look at my favourite research and reference apps.

Research is all about discovery, and the hunt for more knowledge, particularly when it relates to the topic I’m writing about, is exhilarating. Little details, cleverly placed, make prose twinkle with life and richness.

Research & Reference Apps for Writers

The All-Important Dictionary

Every writer needs a lexicon. I like the combo of Dictionary.com and Thesaurus Rex. The free version has ads, but for a couple bucks you can spare yourself the blinking banners featuring games and horoscopes. If spelling is your bane, bear in mind these apps feature American spellings and aren’t great for those of us who love and live by “the Queen’s English.” (Long live the “u” in colour, honour, and neighbour!)

If you know of a better app for writers of British English, please leave a comment!

Wrestling with Wikipedia

We’ve all heard the cautions about relying on Wikipedia as a solitary source of info. That doesn’t mean writers can’t use it at all. For me, Wikipedia is a primer on a topic, but I’d never dream of relying on it solely. Wikipedia’s most useful offerings can be the references cited in the footnotes. Click those babies and your really researching. Wikipanion lets you create a catalogue of pages you’re using for various projects. Very handy to come back to.

Write & Research in the Same Screen

PaperHelper turns the iPad screen into a super-useful workspace by dividing the screen in half (in landscape orientation). One side is for writing and the other is a browser. You can do your research right there, without having to flick back and forth between the browser and your writing app. Brilliant–especially if you’re using a Bluetooth keypad so you don’t lose the bottom portion of the screen to the native keypad. And it helps you save your references–awesome for academics, essayists and students.

Here’s a screenshot of the PaperHelper app in action:

The left half is your notepad, and the right half is your browser.

Save it for Later with Pocket

Find a great link on Twitter but haven’t got time to digest the whole article? Pocket is a handy app that lets you stow away for later the interesting bits and pieces you stumble upon on the Net. You don’t even need an internet connection to read it. It syncs between devices, and get this–you can save that neato article on writing craft to a writer-buddy’s Pocket. How cool is that?

There you go! With these research and reference apps, your iPad will cover most of your needs as a writer. Start digging!