Drafts, Quickly Becoming my Main Text Editor

I’ve been using Drafts for many years. But merely as a quick notepad as it’s lightening fast to open and to let you write anything and then, much later or immediately after jotting something down, to let you decide what to do with it–making Drafts the perfect and fastest ‘everything bucket’ there is on iOS: no need to hesitate, just write everything, anything, down in Drafts knowing you’ll decide what to do with all your notes later on.

But Drafts is much more capable than being the fastest note-taking app. Much more. It was just that I had no need for more features in an iOS app… that had no Mac companion app to let me, well, access my texts and notes outside of iOS.

Since then, the dev has released a Mac version. Alas, it was lacking some advanced features that would make me consider using it. That’s no more the case since its latest update: the Mac version now fully supports Actions–in short, Actions are the scripting thingy that comes with Drafts, that let you do many, many funny things to and with your notes.

And that changes everything.

So, even though the Mac version still has a few rough edges, for the last two weeks I’ve been almost only using Drafts to write on the iPad, the iPhone and on the Mac. And it has been an amazing experience. So much, I can hardly believe it myself.

Drafts stays lightweight and fast (it now contains a tad less than 700 notes, as I imported quite a lot of research in it, some very short or very long), while offering me as many–or as few–advanced features as I need to organise my notes, without ever turning itself into an ugly, cumbersome monster.

Advanced features like Workspaces (think ‘saved smart folders’), Tags and now Actions that let me organise my notes and projects like I want them to be, with only the tools I need within each project (this is amazing), and with an almost instant-on search engine to find whatever I need within a specific project or through all of them, with the tools to do whatever I need to do with my notes–and that includes publishing content to WordPress, though I’ve not tested it yet.

Drafts is lean, it’s fast, it’s powerful, and it’s well-thought. I’m in love with this app.

It is not perfect, sure. And it lacks a few features to replace Ulysses in my toolbox–give me inline images (not in Preview), first-line indentation (it’s a visual clue I rely on a lot to navigate my prose), and give me a Split/Merge tool–but nonetheless I’m so tempted as it’s such a pleasant experience to use it on the iPad and the iPhone, and now on the Mac too.

Drafts is free–like in free beer, no string attached to fully enjoy the fastest notebook on iOS–or subscription based (20€/year) if you need its advanced features.

BTW, if you read French and want to find some real world use cases, it might be a good idea to go read my old friend Urbanbike: he is a long time Drafts user and share a lot of advice 😉

Edit: Some precisions in what I’d love to see in Drafts.

Writing French, using a qwerty keyboard on the iPad

Yesterday at the library, while I was happily typing my way through some research, a young person asked me how I enjoyed the iPad and, after noticing that the ‘odd little keyboard’ it was connected to was US/qwerty, how I typed all the accents we use in French.

I looked at her. As far as I could tell, she was a student and it was surprising to imagine students today not being taught to type but, hey I also had to learn it all by myself back then. So, I briefly explained her how it works (well) and–learning to write English–why I decided to switch to a qwerty layout.

She seemed genuinely interested. So in case you were wondering too, here is the written version of what we talked about.

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iPad and Poor Vision Part 1: Setting up the iPad and iOS

The iPad is an amazing device–for leisure, for reading, for listening and for working–as long as you don’t take into consideration one tiny detail: out of the box, I can barely use it at all.

Why? Because of my terrible eyesight, texts, menus and buttons are unreadable: too small, too thin, and not contrasted enough.

Luckily, iOS comes with many accessibility options that can help a lot. Depending your needs.

In this post, I will list the settings I use to compensate for my bad eyesight. It’s not an exhaustive list–not even as far as vision goes.

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Cloud & Privacy: Boxcryptor

Abandon privacy all ye who enter the cloud” is something that should be engraved over the entrance of most, if not all, cloud services.

At least this is what it feels like to me, having to relinquish all notion of privacy and intimacy knowing my files will be analysed—some cloud providers being more invasive than other in that regard. 

I’ll gladly open all my files and folders to any legit authority asking me to do so, provided they have a reason and the right to ask. But I don’t want anyone else accessing my files–be it on purpose, in order to offer me some service, or because of a security breach–to be able to read them.

I don’t want anyone to discover that I’m the author hiding behind the pen name of dear « Dulcinea Von Liebe, Duchess of Hot Steamy Romance ». I don’t want anyone or any algorithm to be able to read my medical documents, or to see the pictures of my cat. That’s none of their business. That’s, you know private. And that’s not the reason why I decided to use cloud to store my files.

The obvious solution would be to not use the cloud at all. Problem solved, thx for reading, bye. Save that I want to use the cloud: it’s a great tool. It’s just the lack of a stricter legislation that makes it such this Wild West and this Eldorado for those companies, giving them free rein over our data.

Enters Boxcryptor. 

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GoodNotes 5 is Out

Many cool improvements in the latest release of GoodNotes. Among which, one of the things that most frustrated me with their previous version: the lack of vertical scrolling. It was so not-practical having to write on the bottom of the screen with the Pencil–another reason why I went for Notability instead of GoodNotes.

We’re happy to finally introduce “vertical scrolling”. In GoodNotes 5, you can set a default scrolling direction for your documents. Both, horizontal and vertical page scrolling, are supported.

Also, worth noting:

  • The ability to search across all notebooks.
  • The new QuickNote feature looks interesting.
  • Some improvements in the UI and access to tools.

But what might convince me to give GoodNotes another go is this:

“Editable PDF” can now be selected in the export options. This will export a non-flattened PDF version that can still be edited in other apps. Also, structures like the document outline, bookmarks, and hyperlinks will be preserved after exporting.

For most users it won’t be that important. For me, it means that I could use a “true” dedicated note-taking app, like GoodNotes, in order to annotate and comments my PDF, and keep those notes editable in any other traditional PDF apps. I will have to see how it fares compared to, say my dear PDF Expert but it’s certainly worth a try.

Let’s just hope that the devs of GoodNotes also made some improvements in the way their app behaves in regards of some Accessibility features. Like the “Smart Inverted Colours” of iOS, that I now require if I’m to see anything when using an app that doesn’t have it’s own integrated dark mode.

Inside Creative Writing, with Robert Olen Butler

Art does not come from the mind, art comes from the place where you dream. And in a sense then, I’m welcoming you into my dream. (…) I want you to see the whole process as it happens, in real time. (Robert Olen Butler)

A series in seventeen instalments of approx. 2 hrs each, made by Robert Olen Butler, and that should date back to around 2001.

I have only started watching the very first video. So, I can’t tell much except that I like the way he uses some old postcard, a little bit of googling, a map, and music, to trick himself into having something worth writing: ideas are everywhere.

But even watching none these vids, just by looking at their sheer length (~34hrs), there is something to learn for any budding writer, and that is: writing takes time.

Something that might not be that easy to understand, and to accept, in our intensely hostile to delayed-gratification culture.


I also like how he doesn’t bother with fancy tools, taking notes and diving in with his word processor of choice–even if I’d rather use Ulysses, but that’s just me being nerdy and… bothering with fancy tools 😉