Sunday, January 15, 2012

Writing on the iPad

Many writers complained that typing on the iPad wasn't as fast. This might be true if you're good typist. But the analog keyboard has been in use for over a century; it has classes taught in high school and college. It could be that writers are accustomed to a certain paradigm and if they changing habits to reflect a different typing experience could prove over time to be just as effective, or even more so. Hard to say. I, for one, type faster on the iPad, but I wasn't a good typist under the old paradigm. This is something you'll need to consider before continuing.

I had started writing scenes and ideas before the iPad was released. I'd used Scrivener for the Mac since it was still in a phase of random ideas, research, and experimentation as I tried to precipitate the story out of the cloud of abstract ideas living in my brain. Scrivener is a great program for that. I mention all this because that was my jump off point when I started writing on the iPad.

The iPad is not just a device, it's a methodology. It's an approach to working. It's the Cloud. It's extreme portability. It's the very embodiment of efficiency. It's working casually, in comfort. It's flinging the very concept that work happens at a desk out the window like you're mad as hell and not going to take it anymore. It's the archer's bow in the study of zen, where you learn a device in order to learn something transcendent. I don't mean to make this into Zen and the Art of iPad, or worse, an Apple commercial. I mean that figuring out how to use the cloud to sync your content to multiple, portable devices so that you can work anywhere, anytime is the abstract concept you learn, when learning to use the iPad. The cloud is not yet perfect, but it's come further since the release of the iPad then it had in the previous fifteen years since it first became touted by the industry. In other words, my plan was to get serious writing done on my computer, writing on the go with my iPad and even editing done on my iPhone anytime I had a few minutes to kill -- waiting in line or whatever. You see? The goal was to get this difficult Tasked that I wanted to prove to myself I could do without sacrificing the other important things in my life. And it has, but not without a lot of tinkering.

My first order of business, then, was to find out how I could sync my Scrivener project with the iPad. Step one was Dropbox. Dropbox is a cloud service that offers 2 gigs of storage for free and more at an additional fee. The are other services like this, but Dropbox is used be so many apps in the App Store, it's a must have to maximize compatibility. So I started out using Simplenote, Index card and ScriptWrite with Dropbox to sync the different parts of Scrivener. This worked, but not too smoothly. I was using ScriptWrite because I had been using the screenplay template in Scrivener. There are no official or universal formats for writing comics, but I had learned screenwriting in college and liked that format for the way it visually organized dialog, action and so forth so I ran with it for the comic. But syncing back and forth kept messing up the format and I was loosing a lot of time fixing things over and over and over. I never like Simplenote either. Index Card is great, but again, moving back and forth just wasn't fool proof. In the end this pushed me away from using the computer to write, which is for the best really. I don't need it to print or format and what can I cay, I don't want to work at a desk anyway. It's too much like work. I'm writing this blog on the couch and the iPad is far more comfortable to use on my lap than a laptop ever was. After all that attempted simplicity, it was all to complicated.

Now, believe it or not, I'm just using iOS's built in Notes app to write. I'm not a fan of the yellow legal pad look or loosing some of the screenplay layout, but iCoud ensures that it syncs immediately across all my devices, which is worth it. What can I say? What I was trying to achieve all along was simplicity and it finally came with iCloud. And. With a little luck, more options will be forthcoming.

If you are going to use Notes, here's the set up:

1. Go into System Preferences and change the font in Notes to Helvetica.

2. Go into Settings -> General -> Keyboard. First, make sure Enable Caps Lock is on so you can double to the shift (up arrow) button to into cps lock mode. Second,add shortcuts.

This is a great feature. It allows you to create your own autofills. Use it for your characters' names. As I use a screenplay like format I even have the shortcuts configured to autofill these words as all caps. It's also good to use it to fill anything that requires a lot of keyboard switching because switching keyboards costs time and momentum. You'll notice for example in this screenshot that I have "vbv" to autofill 2 HTML breaks. That's not not may characters, but the < & > are deep in the keyboard so it takes a while to type anyway and I use them often in this very blog. It's stuff like this that can make the digital keyboard faster than the analog kind, especially if you're a bad typist (in the traditional sense). The trick is to remember that a 2-3 letter code that starts lots do words will make autofill annoying so stick to letter combos you're unlikely to use for anything else. In the example above, you'll see that my shortcut for FRAME is "ff" instead of "fr", but I don't want autofill coming up anytime I try to type "fragile" or "frozen". Why "ff"? Simple, what we're aiming for is maximum efficiency and my finger doesn't have to move between the 2 taps. Just ask yourself, "what's fastest and easiest to remember?" and make your choice on that basis.

I do what I can to keep everything digital. I still find final editing and critiquing to benefit from using paper. I'm trying to ween myself off of that, but there's something psychologically significant about holding something physical I you hands that reminds you that this is all really happening; you're actually making something and it's getting done. I also find it easier to brainstorm ideas about what isn't working or drawing thumbnails of how I might make the drawing. For printing I bought an HP with AirPrint to make printing easy from iOS devices.

Well, that's it for writing. My next entry will delve into drawing. I'll start with the basics.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

No comments:

Post a Comment