Your smartphone as a writer's lab
Why your muse has been sitting in your pocket all along...
The pen may be mightier than the sword, but smartphones are a lot more useful for writers nowadays. Whether you're a professional author, a prolific blogger, a journalist, or simply someone with a penchant for making lots of notes, harnessing your smartphone's capabilities can help maximise your efficiency, connectivity and creativity when it comes to producing the written word. And while size constraints do mean that many apps designed specifically for writing are optimised for (or available solely on) tablets, there are a surprising number of ways to power-up your work productivity – from conducting research and collecting images to making voice notes – all using the power of your phone.
Take better notes.
Evernote is an old favourite for many writers, and for good reason. Available on just about any platform you could wish for, this neat multifunctional tool offers support for making notes, saving links, pictures, webpages and PDF attachments, as well as OCR for converting handwritten notes into digital text. The paid, premium edition offers increased storage and also syncs across unlimited devices.
MS OneNote is in many ways similar to Evernote, but recent updates have seen it pulled from the paid Office suite and made it available for free without having to buy the rest of MS Office. Where it trumps is its offering of certain exclusive features, such as offline access, that you can only get with Evernote's paid plans. There is also a standalone OneNote app for iOS and Android.
If you're looking for something to help you stay organised during a long project, free app Vizual Einstein is a great way to store information and notes without generating clutter. Utilising a system of hyperlinked keywords to identify notes, this tool makes searching for last month's brainwave that much easier. Available on most platforms.
Write without distractions.
While writing reams on a smartphone can be relatively time consuming, there are plenty of apps seeking to provide procrastination-free methods for typing and editing at length on a small screen. One of the best is iA Writer, which works with Android, iOS and Mac. Offering live sync to Dropbox and iCloud, and replete with features such as night mode, focus mode and even an average reading time estimate, you’ll wonder how you ever concentrated without it.
Text editor Writebox (Chrome, iPhone and iPad), meanwhile, is one for the control freaks: it allows you to customise your writing environment right down to the keyboard colour. Writebox also offers a keyboard extension for navigating text left and right, perfect for when your fingers get weary.
Dictate straight from voice to text.
No-one enjoys dictating: it's a universal chore. So if you've a long interview to do, let Dragon Dictation (iPhone and iPad app) pick up some of the slack. Claiming to be up to five times faster than typing, simply press record on the app's simple interface, and watch spoken words turn into an editable, shareable text file. What’s more: It actually works pretty well. The app is free to download, with paid subscription services on offer. It’s also a great tool for making notes to yourself when you’re driving, or are otherwise unable to type.
Track your submissions easily.
As any freelance writer knows, keeping track of submissions to editors can be as time consuming as actually writing in the first place. That's where Story Tracker (iOS) comes in. Keeping track of your contact with various publications, this thoughtful app also keeps notes about each pitch and reminds you of things that need to change between submissions. It costs US$7.99, but that’s still far cheaper than a PA.
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