Rewiring my brain with Drafts and TextExpander.

Drafts has become one of my very favorite apps on iOS. Prior to this week, it was iPhone only, but a recent update has not only extended its usefulness on the phone, but added a new iPad app too. It’s not universal, but that’s no reason to overlook it. This app belonged on the iPad from day one, and I couldn’t be happier that it’s here.

I’m going to skip the review, since there’s already a whole bunch of those, and they’re far more comprehensive than I’d be. What I was thinking about is whether or not I could take a highly extensible app like Drafts combined with a tool like TextExpander and change the way I use my iPad.

Since iOS prevents apps from running globally in the background as they can on OS X, apps like TE have a hard time being as useful on the mobile platform. Sure, you can try to do everything in the app itself, but after years of training myself to jump between apps on my iPhone/iPad, it seems unlikely that I’ll be able to (or want to) live in a single new app and try to push text everywhere. TE can allow your snippets to be made available in other apps though, and this is fairly useful, but the app needs to expressly support it and not all apps do. However, an app like Drafts feels like it might work. It supports TE snippets, and I’ve already grown accustomed to using it on my iPhone. It’s worked its way into my workflow, being both an instant scratch pad and a brain dump for chunks of text that will end up in other apps. It’s highly configurable, clean, and fast.

On the iPad, the interface is very similar to a handful of other apps that I’m using right now (Byword, Writing Kit). There are a variety of attractive font choices and a few different interface color themes to choose from, as well as variable text sizes, word count, and some quick shortcuts to useful text insertions. The thing that’s making me really reconsider what I do on the iPad is that I’ve grown fond of using text snippets on my Mac lately (I know, I’m a little late to that geek party, but whatever). I want to do the same on iOS, but the limitations of the system prevent me from doing it smoothly. If I pair the functionality I want with an app I’m already using, can I rewire my brain to do a lot of my text entry from a single start point? Obviously, I’ll still need to jump into apps to read things like Twitter and email, but for things like quick bursts of creativity, blog posts and longer emails, it’s a pretty compelling option. OH. I almost forgot – half the reason I’m willing to try this is that Drafts 2.0 has added a sync option. So your text goes between your devices effortlessly. It’s not through Dropbox (awww) but it works phenomenally well in my testing (yay!).

I’m going to give it a shot. I’ll probably talk about how it works at some point. If you want to ask about it, feel free.

Author: Seth Clifford

I'm here for the open bar.