Who Else Wants to Take Writing on the Road This Summer? (Part 2)

 

Inspiration Can Be Anywhere! (www.cherylreif.com)Best Practice #3. Find a writing app (or apps) that works for you.

I already covered the benefits of using a cloud service to help you keep documents easily accessible–but many cloud services only allow you to view files, not edit them. Editing files stored in Dropbox, for instance, requires opening them in another application.

In the past, I’ve had iffy success with iPad and iPhone word processing apps. Although great when they worked, they had the unfortunate tendency to crash unexpectedly. If (like me!) you’re used to the autosave features of your desktop machine, you might not remember to save as often as you’d like–resulting in hours of lost work.

It’s important to choose a program or app that works and plays well with your primary computer, your mobile device of choice, and the cloud service you decide to use.

Recently, Dropbox integrated with Microsoft Word for iOS. I’ve had a good enough experience with the iPad version of Word that it’s now my go-to app for editing Word documents. Unlike other iOS word processing apps, it doesn’t strip away or mess up formatting or Endnote codes–which means that files transfer seamlessly from mobile device to desktop and back again. (Note: that some functionality, such as Word’s Track Changes feature, are unlocked only if you have an Office 365 subscription.)

Simplenote, Evernote, and Onenote, mentioned last week, are also good options for writing and note-taking. Whatever program you choose, make sure you will be able to access files while offline. Some store files exclusively in the cloud, so you’ll need an Internet connection if you want to access previous documents.

This isn’t an exhaustive list by any means, just a list of the apps I’ve specifically tried. You can find more great apps for writers here; the list is a few years old, but almost all info is still accurate. Definitely chime in if you have others to recommend!

Continue Reading

Who Else Wants to Take Writing on the Road This Summer?

FlatironsI’m writing this blog post in the shade of a Ponderosa Pine, on the Upper Bluestem trail in the City of Boulder’s Mountain Parks. I can hear half a dozen different kinds of birds whistling, twittering, warbling, screeching, and cawing–all to the musical background of one very happy poodle’s panting. Insects buzz and the air smells of sage, carried to me on a deliciously cool breeze. (Yep, that picture above shows my current view!)

Ribbet collage

Even though the parking lot was overflowing, the trails have been peaceful. I passed a half dozen moms with babies in those little front pack carriers and a troop of elementary kids clambering over (and into) the deep ruts left by the flooding we had a year back. Sitting here, surrounded by waving grass and wind and birdsong, I can feel the week’s stress evaporating.

I’ve gotten pretty good at taking my writing on the road–or trail–with me. Earlier this summer, I took writing on a backpacking trip to Zion National Park. There I spent 5 days hiking and camping, taking photos during the days and transferring notes to my iPad in the tent after dark.

I haven’t always been the write-everywhere gal, though. I used to stick to my desk. It seemed that every time I tried to take a project elsewhere–say, my local coffee shop–I’d end up forgetting something.

Or batteries would die in a key device.

Or I’d need a power outlet when none was available. Can you say…

frustration

You can’t beat the inspiration provided by a change of setting, though, so over the years I’ve assembled some “best practices” that make such outings more successful. In fact, now taking writing out the door is relatively stress-free! I’ll cover the first 2 best practices this week….

Continue Reading

Fun Publishing News

My friend and fellow writer, the fabulous Anna-Maria Crum, announced the release of her new interactive picture book Monster Numbers. It is SOOOO cute! This is an app for the iPad, iPhone, or iPod touch. The program will read the story and count the monster parts—or you can record your own narration for a personal touch.

imageI’ve purchased a few picture/photo books for the Kindle and been sorely disappointed. The Kindle format is great for text, but isn’t kind to a book’s layout—resulting in picture books where the pictures are divorced from the relevant text and captions and graphs are difficult or impossible to read.

I love Anna-Maria’s book/app, because it takes advantage of the medium to accomplish more than a picture book could. It’s not a game, though—it retains that picture book feel but adds an interactive touch seldom found in an actual hard-copy book.

Plus it’s easier to pack :).

Another successful book-for-iPad effort I’ve seen recently is Bats! Furry Fliers of the Night, by nonfiction children’s book author Mary Kay Carson. This book/app is written slightly older readers, but it’s so filled with fascinating facts, illustrations, text, and animations that my high school kids confiscated it to read. This book, too, takes advantage of the medium with panoramic screen shots that give you the feeling that you’re flying through the forest. “Callouts” offer sketches, additional facts, and photos.

I’ve never seen a book experience quite like this one…but then again, I’m not an expert in the growing electronic picture book world.

Have you seen any great book apps for the tablets, smart phones, or other devices? Any features that work especially well for the electronic format?

Tuesday Ten: Fave iPad Apps for Writers

I’ve been traveling for the past week, on an “official” writing trip (weird, I know), and it’s made me acutely aware of exactly how much I use my iPad.

This is partially because I have an ENORMOUS laptop, so large that it’s practically a desktop machine. I needed something that could handle multiple PDFs, PowerPoint files, and web browser windows without crashing, and this one had a big screen (great for reviewing graphics) and a great price. So it’s wonderful for working at home, but not so wonderful for toting on an airplane. Or to the local coffee shop, for that matter.

75132v1

But my iPad…well, that lasts hours on the battery, connects to the Internet wherever I can find WiFi (no, I didn’t pay for the monthly 3G service), and has enough memory to store every book I’m considering reading, plus every PDF and Word document for every project-in-progress, plus every app that I might or might not use.

Yes, perusing the app store is a favorite time-waster for me…which means that the number of apps on my iPad considerably outnumber the apps that I actually use. On the other hand, it means that I’ve sampled lots and lots of different applications, and can weigh in on which are the most beneficial for my fellow writers.* Here’s my list of absolutely must-have apps for writers:

1. Kindle (FREE). This one probably goes without saying, but just in case…if you have some kind of tablet device and you’re a writer, you MUST have an e-Reader. It doesn’t have to be Amazon’s Kindle application; Barnes and Noble has a Nook app, Apple has an iBooks app, and there are probably a hundred other out there as well. An iPad gives you the opportunity to carry hundreds of books with you. This is the perfect solution for those of us whose books take up more room in the suitcase than our clothes. Don’t have the cash for an extensive library of ebooks? Download free classics from the Guttenberg project. Watch Amazon for free book promos–they often give away the first book in a series, in the hope that you will be so hooked that you’ll buy more. (Yes, this has worked on me, but I’m weak. You’ll resist, I’m sure.) Or check out authors like Corey Doctorow, who give away their books in electronic formats as well as selling digital copies.

Continue Reading