In part 1 of this series, I talked about my experience so far reading on the iPad. Today I want to discuss my experience writing on the device. Once again, my goal is to see how much of the work I do on a laptop can be transferred to the iPad. There is one exception in all of this, and that is writing. With my writing, I still plan on making use of my laptop as my primary tool for writing and there are a couple of reasons for this:
- I do most of my writing in my home office. The laptop is right there on my desk and so there is no reason to use to the iPad.
- I use Scrivener, which is an outstanding writing tool, by far the best that I have come across. While this is available on the Mac and Windows computers there is no iPad version.
However, there are times when I do write outside my office. When I am on a business trip or vacation I usually bring my laptop along with me. I sometimes write during my lunch hour at work. In these instances, if I have my laptop, I just go ahead and use it, and if I don’t I write in Google Docs and then transfer what I’ve written back into Scrivener when I am back in front of my laptop. But I now want to avoid having to take my laptop with me on these trips. And when I don’t have my laptop, I’d like a more seamless way of working with Scrivener. This is where the iPad fits in. It is small enough to make it easy to take with me. It has a far better battery life than my laptop. And while it doesn’t run Scrivener, it integrates with it far more seamlessly than Google Docs.
To integrate Scrivener with my iPad, I use an app called SimpleNote. As the name states, it is a simple note-taking application with a couple of important features:
- It can organize notes by project.
- While the notes are stores locally on the iPad, SimpleNote, like Google Docs is really a cloud-based application.
With these two features in mind, the good folks at Scrivener built in functionality that allows Scrivener to sync with SimpleNote. They have even produced an easy-to-follow video on how to sync between the two application. I watched the video, created an account with SimpleNote, and then proceeded to sync my current work in progress from within Scrivener to SimpleNote. When I opened the SimpleNote app on my iPad, there was my project with all of the notes that I requested by synchronized. It is easy to select a note (which can be a chapter, a scene, an outline, whatever) and start editing it right on the iPad. I can add new notes (scenes, chapters, etc.) and they will sync back into Scrivener so long as I tag them with the appropriate project keyword. For me, therefore, the overall process looks something like this:
- Work on story in Scrivener at home office.
- When finished, sync to SimpleNote.
- Outside home office, open SimpleNote on iPad, continue writing/editing
- When back in home office, sync to SimpleNote to pull in most recent changes.
So far this has worked pretty well. And since SimpleNote is nothing more than a simple text editor there is no need to play with styles or worry about formatting. I don’t worry about this stuff from within Scrivener since I ultimately just compile the finished story to standard manuscript format. That means that in SimpleNote, there is no need for rich-text editing.
When I am writing on the iPad, one thing that I don’t do is write with the on-screen keyboard. While I have found that I can type much faster on the on-screen keyboard than I can on my iPhone, I am still prone to make too many mistakes to make it practical for prolonged writing. Instead, I used a BlueTooth keyboard that I pair with the iPad. Using a keyboard makes all the difference, turning the iPad into a fully functional device for writing fiction (or essays, or whatever). When I am at work, writing at lunchtime, here is what my setup looks like:
On the screen is my SimpleNote project. The column on the left lists the files in the project and the window on the right is the text that I am working on. The text can be small and I haven’t yet found a way to increase the size of it, which would be a nice feature and is something that I do within Scrivener to make the text more readable. But the process of writing works well. The only awkward thing that I have encountered so far is my desire to reach for a mouse in order to highlight some text. Of course, there is no mouse for the iPad, but my muscle memory has me reaching for a mouse again and again. I imagine that once I’ve written on the iPad enough, I’ll get used to touching the screen instead of reaching for the mouse.
Of course, then, as my friend John pointed out to me, the truly awkward part will be sitting at my laptop writing, and instead of reaching for the mouse, swiping at the laptop screen with my finger.