Apple’s mobile devices can do many things very well, but one feature Apple seems to have trouble with is the ability to sync personally generated text data. Sync calendars? Oh, sure! Contacts and email? Absolutely! Photos and music? You betcha! Text documents? Ummm, well, you can use the Notes app which syncs your missives in OS X’s Mail app. (Mail???), or you can buy Pages, then export your writings which will appear in the Downloads folder on your Mac (Downloads???). If you want to work on your documents while out and about then you have to first sync your iPad, then select the document, then sync it again, and the document has to be of a type Pages for iPad will recognize.
Whew! That’s a lot of work for a device that suppose to make my life easier. Apple supports automagic cloud syncing for email, calendars, and contacts wirelessly, but not text syncing. I sure hope this is a ‘coming’ feature, and I sure hope Apple will do it right and allow any and all data from any and all my text producing apps to be wirelessly synchronized, placing data in folders on my Macs, PCs, iPads, and iPhones, and in the cloud as appropriate for each app. I completely understand that this is not an easy thing to do, and that it must be planned and executed properly in order to insure the best possible user experience.
I still want to sync my stuff now, dammit!
If you have any iWork application then you can use iWork.com to wirelessly sync your documents to the iWork cloud. iWork.com works, but it limits you to making editable versions of you document in iWork or Microsoft Office formats, neither of which are ‘open’ standards, which Apple claims to embrace. The process of syncing your documents is also cumbersome in the iWork.com setup; you have to log into the iWork.com then proceed to download any updated documents, making iWork.com marginally better than just using email.
Note: It’s hard to believe that, in the text syncing scenario, Microsoft trumps Apple for being more open! Apple Pages documents can only be read by Pages whereas the Microsoft version that was created when you uploaded your Pages documents into iWork.com can be read by many applications such as Bean, Star and Open Office, TextEdit, MarinerWrite, even the Mac version of Pages. This is a pretty sad state of affairs and Apple should standardize all Pages document to the Open Document Format (ODF) and Rich Text, both of which are far more open and, ironically enough, are supported by Microsoft.
Can you believe that Apple is still offering email as a means to move documents from your mobile devices to your Mac or PC? Email!! What year is this, 2003? Emailing docs works, but it is the absolute most basic way to keep data synced across several devices. Each time you update your writings on one device you have to then email copies to yourself to make sure you always have the latest version available. That’s just plain silly.
It’s hard to believe that Apple has hobbled its own products in such a way as to render them far less effective than other applications available today. For instance, Evernote seems to have been around even before the iPhone existed. The Evernote app, which works on iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad, lets users create notes comprised of darn near anything; text, sound and voice, photos, and any combination thereof, and save them instantly, wirelessly, and constantly to your Evernote account in the clouds. You can then use any of your devices to grab that newly created data almost instantly. Take a photo with you iPhone and it appears on your iPad. Write a grocery list on your Mac and you can read it on you iPod Touch. No Fuss, no bother. It just works.
What cool about Evernote for the iPad is that it takes advantage of the extra screen real estate and lets you organize like you never thought would be possible on a mobile device.
True enough, Evernote is not a full feature word processor, or image processor, or sound processor, but it stores any of these media types and marks on a map where you entered the data so you can find it later.
Evernote is a powerful tool and it’s free. You can buy an upgrade which gives you more space in the Evernote cloud as well as a heaping handful of other nice features, but many of you won’t need more than the 40MB Evernote starts you off with, at least for a while. You want Evernote.
If you’re chaffing at spending US$9.99 for Pages and just want a simple word processor for your iPad or iPhone, and you don’t mind emailing your finished docs to yourself then look no further than DraftPad.
First of all, it’s free. I count that as a good thing.
Secondly, it’s simple. No bells or bloatware whistles here, just pure text writing pleasure. And when you’re done writing you can then email your musings to yourself or anyone.
Yes, it’s true that DraftPad has less features than the built in Notes app on the iPad and iPhone, but at least with DraftPad in landscape you have the full width of the screen to type in.
That’s about all I can say about DraftPad.
Right between the feature richness of Evernote and the feature sparseness of DraftPad sits Simplenote, an easy to use note taking app that instantly syncs your note to a cloud server so that they can be accessed anywhere.
Where DraftPad did no auto-spellchecking Simplenote does. In fact, all of the basic editing features most writing apps have are included in Simplenote, which makes sense to me. Like Evernote, you have to create a free cloud account for the syncing magic to happen, and that just requires an email address and a password that you create.
Note taking is really all you can do in Simplenote. There’s no geo-tagging, no multimedia attachments, no distractions, just your words saved without worry. The only thing I hope they add soon is the auto-text recognizing features in iPhone OS. That’s where things like phone numbers, addresses, and links are recognized for what they are and appropriate options offered within the app. It’s convenient and it’s a iPhone OS feature.
I like Simplenote’s …um, simplicity, and that it’s free. Grab it and see what you think.
Well, that’s a wrap for this week.
More free stuff below with direct links.