Turn your iPad into a writing machine: Here’s how

By Rob W. Hart

This is what my perfect world would look like: Wake up, eat a bowl of cereal, brew a pot of coffee, and write until the sun goes does.

Here’s what my real-world, average day looks like: Wake up, commute to work, try (and generally fail) to leave at 5, commute home, make dinner, clean up, go to the gym, come home, attempt to write, fall asleep on the keyboard.

Surely I’m not alone here, and this is one of the biggest challenges that writers face: finding the time to write.

Luckily, tablet computing can make it a bit easier.

I take the Staten Island Ferry back and forth to work. That means I’ve got about 25 minutes each way of uninterrupted time to myself. Sometimes that means reading. Lately, it means firing up my iPad to edit a short story or do a little research.

Because the iPad is much more than an e-reader; it can be a formidable writing tool as well.

Now, right off the bat, I’ll say this: I don’t use the iPad for long form writing, and I still keep a Moleskine with me to jot down notes and generally work things over. I know the iPad can take a Bluetooth keyboard, potentially making it a much more powerful word processing tool, but I prefer to use it for stuff that doesn’t require a lot of keyboard input.

That being said, these are the apps I’ve got installed, and how I use them:

Twitter – This app is beautiful in its simplicity, and makes managing your Twitter feed a breeze. You don’t know why Twitter is important? You must be new here.

Dictionary and Thesaurus – We all need these.

Dragon Dictation – This can be useful when I want to take something down but I’m balancing an iced coffee and a breakfast sandwich, or driving around in the car and rambling. The dictation software is quite accurate, and useful if you find yourself with notes to take down but no free hands.

Evernote – I’ve got Evernote installed in my browsers, so when I’m reading an interesting article – something I think might inspire a future short story or be useful as research – I can clip it, save it, and access it on my iPad.

Penultimate – This is a basic drawing app that lets you sketch with your finger as the input. Most of the time I write silly notes to people, but I’m also a visual guy, and it’s helpful for me to draw things out sometimes.

Notes – The basic Notes app that comes with iOS is nice, barebones, and pretty useful for jotting down an idea. I keep a separate note for each project I’m working on. It syncs with the notes on your iPhone, which is really helpful if you go back and forth between them a lot.

Dropbox – A few weeks ago I wrote about how incredibly useful this was for storage and management. And you can even access it on your iPad. Which leads me in to…

Word processing – Besides the official Apple-endorsed app, Pages, there are a ton of word processing apps for the iPad – and a lot of them even sync with Dropbox, so if you want to pull up a file and make a few edits, the corrected copy will be waiting for you when you get home. I tend to favor iA Writer for its clean interface.

(Word of advice, though: Some of the iPad writing apps don’t let you tab indent paragraphs with the on-screen keyboard. If you want that function, do your research before you download.)

These are just the apps I use, and this is by no means a definitive list. If you’ve got any suggestions (or you know of any good apps for our non-Apple users), sound off in the comments.

About this post’s author:

Rob W. Hart is a writer with a background in PR and journalism. He just completed his first novel, Apophenia, and maintains a blog about books and writing at blogduggery. You can also find him on Twitter.


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