Tag Archives: iPhone Apps

Notebooks Icon

Notebooks

Notebooks Icon

Update 20 March 2011: As of Notebooks version 4.1.1 you can now print from directly inside the app. A EuroSmartz printing app isn’t required. The new version also has Markdown formatting, support for lists, additional editable file types, additional fonts and you can convert a plain text document to PDF.

Writers get their ideas from many places. A jotted down lyric, an image-heavy web page or a carefully researched PDF can be the inspiration for tomorrow’s article or next year’s novel.

But no matter how good the idea, if you don’t write it down, you’re sure to forget.

What writers need is a way of storing and organising their ideas, the files that inspired them, and the resulting notes and drafts.

On the Mac, Scrivener is the solution. It can store, play and organize anything: text, image files, web pages, PDFs, sound files, and even video files.

Now iPhone users have an app that can do nearly everything that Scrivener can do. If you have Dropbox installed, it can even exchange data with Scrivener.

The app is Notebooks and it’s the perfect digital scrapbook and word processor for your iPhone or iPad.

Is there anything Notebooks cannot do? You can use it to scribble down ideas, or write entire drafts. It saves as you go without having to be told and integrates with the TextExpander app for automatic spelling correction. For ease of screen reading, there’s a choice of seventy fonts and you can vary the font size with the slide of a bar. You can write in both landscape and portrait orientations, with a Bluetooth keyboard or the on-screen keyboard.

If you have one of EuroSmartz printing apps installed, you can print directly from Notebooks.

Notebooks can be your daily journal. It can list tasks and notify you when they are due. It can take and store photographs from the camera, and store audio files, PDFs, Microsoft Office files and iWork files (though you cannot as yet edit them.)

You can organise your files in Books, which are folders that can be nested inside each other.

Most importantly, Notebooks integrates seamlessly with Dropbox, so you can pick up or drop off any type of file. As Scrivener version 2.0 also integrates with Dropbox, you can keep text files on Scrivener that can also be accessed and edited from your iPhone using Notebooks.

Notebooks has far more features than I could mention. To give you an idea of how much this app can do, the PDF handbook is 42 pages long.

Notebooks is $7.99 on iTunes. If you want to write on your iPhone, get Notebooks now, you won’t regret it.

Arrow Keys

Why No Arrow Keys on the iPhone?

Arrow Keys

Because editing text requires the most precise cursor control of any iPhone function, arrow keys would revolutionise writing on the iPhone with the on-screen keyboard

Being a millimetre or two out when you’re poking your finger at a game sprite is rarely enough to ruin your game. But if you’ve typed wont instead of won’t, and your iPhone hasn’t autocorrected your mistake because wont is a word, sticking the apostrophe in before the W or after the O just won’t work.

iOS4, the current iPhone operating system, relies on a magnifying glass system to place a cursor in text. First, you poke at the portion of the screen where you’d like the cursor to go. Then you wait. It takes a second or so for the magnifying glass to activate, most likely so people won’t accidentally set it off every time they brush their fingers across the screen. These seconds can drag on for years when you have a lot of editing to do and you’re right in the flow of writing.

Finally, the magnifying glass appears, enlarging the text so that you can focus on dragging the cursor where you need it. Usually, the cursor overshoots the area you’re aiming for, and you have to grit your teeth, maintain pressure and drag your finger back, while feeling frustrated at all the time you’re wasting. If you accidentally release pressure, perhaps if you’re on a bus and it hits a bump in the road, the magnifying glass will disappear, and you have to go through it all again.

There’s a simple solution: arrow keys. There’s no wait with arrow keys. Simply press them and the cursor moves immediately, with character-by-character accuracy.

Unfortunately, arrow keys aren’t part of the official iPhone on-screen keyboard. There’s an app called 5-Row QWERTY Keyboard, which adds a top row of number keys to the on-screen keyboard, and a secondary keyboard with arrow keys. But it only works on jailbroken iPhones. There’s no chance of an official arrow key app, according to programmer Brice on Elance.com, when I tried to get one made in July 2010, because such an app would go against the SDK agreement.

If I’m wrong about that, and Apple has changed their minds since then, please let me know!

Until Apple comes to their senses, there is a way to get arrow keys onto your iPhone without jailbreaking your iPhone. Just use a Bluetooth keyboard.

A word processor that fits in your pocket.

Why Do I Write on My iPhone?

A word processor that fits in your pocket.

A word processor that fits in your pocket.

So why have I starting blogging about writing on my iPhone?

Why should anyone even attempt to write on an iPhone at all?

The (rather blurry) photo on the right shows why.

It’s my writing kit, circa October 2010: a MP-0118+ Bluetooth keyboard (inside the black pouch) and an iPhone 3GS.

The whole package fits into the palm of my hand and weighs an incredible 341g (12 ounces). Only a notepad and pen can match an iPhone for sheer writing portability. But an iPhone, depending on the apps you use, can be a full-featured word processor and much, much more.

I use My Writing Nook, a word processing app that saves documents to the phone’s memory without being prompted and backs them up into the Cloud. This means I’ll never lose my documents, even if I lose my phone, and I can access them from any computer. Email backup, for extra peace of mind, is available at the touch of a button. My Writing Nook has a built-in dictionary and thesaurus, and works with a second app – TextExpander – to give me full autocorrect and spell checking on the fly. This is what you’d expect from a word processing program, such as Word, on a laptop or desktop computer. But while Microsoft Office will currently set you back nearly US$300, My Writing Nook is only US$3.99 and TextExpander US$5.99.

I’ll be straight with you; the MP-0118+ Bluetooth Keyboard is not the fastest keyboard I’ve ever used. To achieve its tiny size, it lacks a designated number and punctuation key row. This means a lot of incorrect keystrokes and hunting and pecking, especially in the beginning. But after five minutes, I was touch typing away on it quite happily. Even the most awkward Bluetooth keyboard is about ten times quicker than using the iPhone’s on-screen keyboard.

Of course, writers need more than just a word processor, and the iPhone can help you there too. If you need to research what you’re writing, the World Wide Web is only a press of the Home button away. You can send and receive emails, listen to music, illustrate your work with photos taken by the camera, or doodles from any one of the hundreds of graphical apps. There are apps for blogging, and recording and editing sound and video for uploading to your blog.

In short, an iPhone can be a useful, portable and inexpensive tool for writers. I’ll be using this blog to explore how I get the most out of my iPhone, especially in terms of getting text in and out, and how you can too.