Writing Advice: Dealing with Technology

Last week, I write a blog on the intricacies of being a writing while dealing with a busy, chaotic life. As promised, I am following up that blog with this one where I go into some detail with the technology that I use. Since the cornerstone of last weeks piece was on using your phone as it is the one device you always have with you, this week we will go into some of the apps that helps to facilitate this practice.

The three that I know of immediately and are designed to write in as word processors are Microsoft Word (IOS/Mac and Android/PC compatible), Apple’s Pages (IOS/Mac compatible but offers a web interface), and Google Docs (IOS/Mac and Android/PC compatible). As I am not as familiar with the latest version of Google Docs, I am using the IOS Docs app to write this blog.

There was are apps to try, some specifically meant for writing and some are just feature rich note apps. I tend to stay away from these for a few reasons, the first of which is that with any app developed and uses a cloud platform you must always be aware of security. Be mindful of who can see your data. If a smaller company is offering a free app that allows for cloud sync, How is that company making money to support that app? If the app isn’t the product that makes the company money, then you and your data become the product. Secondly, if the app isn’t making any money, then what happens when the app gets shut down or turned off? All your data could be lost. Third, before you start using any app, look into how you are going to export your data? What I mean is, after writing your novel, How are you going to get it out of the app and into a print ready format? It would really suck to get done writing your thousand word masterpiece and have to copy and paste it into another program. Especially since by doing so you would probably have lost all your formatting and will have to go back through re-paragraphing the whole thing.

So that being said, I will now focus on the big 3, and l’ll be honest, Pages is my favorite by far. It is the reason that when I had switched away from an IPhone for a year, that I came back when my contract was up. Android has some great qualities, but I am first and foremost a writer and Pages works better than anything else I’ve used.

Since I mentioned my favorite, I will delve into my least favorite first. Google Docs…

My first issue with Google Docs came shortly after creating this document. You will probably not notice that there are no tabbed paragraphs as WordPress does not typically allow for them, but there are none in the original document as well. That is because Google does not allow for you to tab on your phone. I don’t know if the Android version is any different, but in the IOS version, all the ways that you are allowed to tab in Word and Pages are not available. I tried going deeper into the settings and what still not able to find any. That is a huge drawback, as it would mean that unless you are writing for an exclusive Kindle only release, you would have to re-paragraph everything in another program in preparation for print.

I will admit, that the cloud feature is nice. It instantly syncs from PC to App and back with very little delay, however, if there is no data connection, the App can get weird and sometimes not save work that has been done even once a connection is reestablished.

I do feel that Docs is a decent note taking application, but would not trust it for much more.

Then there is Microsoft Word…

This would be my first pick and favorite had I not had some issues with it in both past and present. It is a multi platform tool that is excellent to write in, has all the features a writer needs and saves into an industry recognized file format used by everyone. Even if you write in another application, at some point you will probably need to bring it into word to put the final touches onto it. (Microsoft Word is not available on any Amazon Kindle devices)

So why not use it all the time? I don’t trust the ‘save.’ How Word handles saving documents is awkward sometimes and due to its handling I have lost whole chapters expecting something to be saved to the cloud but wasn’t there later. It does have ‘versioning’ which allows you to go back to different versions of a document later, but there are also glitches that have required me to save as a new document because Word was having some issue reconciling saved copies. This has also taken me down paths when I had to reopen a book I was writing and was not sure which copy was the latest and correct one.

Word with Onedrive tries to help with this. The autosave should keep your one document saved to the cloud and always up to date, however I have had the same issues still present themselves as previously mentioned.

Which brings me to Apple’s Pages and why I will use this as my first choice.

Pages is a simplified writing platform that hides most the features that make it comparable to Word until you need them (though they can be hard to find sometimes). It saves to the cloud and I have never had an issue with it auto saving. Documents are updated on all devices with very little delay. I can finish a sentence on my phone, walk over to my laptop and sit down and there is the file updated without me needing to reopen the file. To tab to start a new paragraph, I do have to hold down on the screen until the ‘right click’ menu pops up and I choose Insert>Tab, but that is only a minor inconvenience that is easy to get used to.

The downsides of Pages is that it is IOS and Mac only. If you are on Android and PC you have to use the web versions of these programs. The web version is okay, but can have a delay if the connection is bad. Plus you would have to have an ICloud account to use the service, though I do believe anyone can set one up so that you can still use the service.

For any questions, or suggestions, please comment.

If you have your own particular favorite, I would love to know about it as I love playing around and trying new apps. The only one I am against is Scrivener due in part to it being overpriced when their are comparable programs.

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