How To Use Drafts To Take Quicker Notes

iPhone/iPad: Drafts for iOS is an excellent way to quickly jot down a note without worrying about where it goes. If you dig deeper, you'll find that it does far more than just that, why is why it has replaced every writing app I have on my iPad and iPhone.

What makes Drafts immediately interesting is how quick and easy it is to make a note. Drafts understands that it's a mobile app, so it always opens to a new, blank page. You write first, then decide where to send it afterwards. You can keep these notes within Drafts or configure it to work with other popular services such as Dropbox, Evernote or Simplenote. Drafts also supports multiple email clients, social network clients and task apps.

In short, you can use Drafts to control every single text-based action you do on your iOS device. Here's how to get started with it.

Configure Your Apps, Accounts and Syncing

Drafts can sync and work with lots of different services, provided you have the apps installed on your iPhone. Even if you don't use the apps, you can use Drafts to kick text over to built-in apps, including Messages and Mail.

Step 1: Configure Accounts

The first thing you should do is set up accounts you use that integrate directly with Drafts. This includes Evernote, Dropbox, Facebook and Twitter. Tap the arrow on the right above the keyboard (upper right on iPad) then scroll down the Settings (or just tap the gear icon on the iPad version). Under your Accounts, link the services you want to link.

In the case of Twitter and Facebook, you can use Drafts as a means to quickly write a tweet or status update without actually opening their respective apps. With Dropbox, you save files directly or Append notes (we'll talk about that more in a minute). Linking to Evernote links Drafts to your default notebook in Evernote.

Step 2: Manage All Your Actions

Drafts currently supports 35 different actions that trigger different apps, and it only includes actions for apps that you have installed. For instance, if you use Echofon for Twitter, you won't see Tweetbot and vice versa. If you use a lot of different apps, this can make Drafts confusing.

Thankfully, it's easy to customise the order of the Actions. In the settings panel, tap Manage Actions > Arrange. Here you can rearrange the order in which Drafts displays Actions, or double-tap to remove them completely. Set it up with your most-used Actions at the top, and you'll get more out of Drafts in the long run.

Why You Should Use Drafts: Draft, Send, Repeat

So, now that you're set up, it's time to start using Drafts. Here are some of my favourite uses that aren't immediately obvious when you start using it.

One Writing App to Rule Them All

The core of what makes Drafts awesome is the fact that you can use it as an app launcher for lots of other apps. It's your starting point for 35 different writing tools, and you'll find Drafts infinitely more useful if you use it that way.

I've had Drafts installed for a little while, but it just sat on the second page of my home screen. One day, I pushed it over to the dock and everything changed. I now use it for every piece of writing I want to do -- emails, Simplenote, notes and Day One. Why? Because I don't have to worry about naming anything or contextualising a note in a larger scheme. I just dump my thought, move on, and push it over when I have time.

Quickly Create Calendar Events

You can quickly write a note, select the Event action and create a new event in Calendar without ever opening your calendar app. This is great when you just need to add a new event and don't want the (possible) terror of opening up your calendar and finding a billion other things.

Markdown Support with Preview, and Email Export

Want to send out an email with some fancy formatting? Do you just want a decent, cheap Markdown editor? Drafts can do both. Type up your note in standard Markdown format, preview it, and then send it straight to Mail or Sparrow. Drafts also has full support for TextExpander Touch to make writing even faster.

Save Those Contacts You Don't Want in Your Address Book

Need to save a list of contractors you have bidding on a home improvement project? Or a collection of all the nice people you met at a party but probably won't ever call? Maybe you want a quick place to dump web links for a research project and don't want to dirty up your Instapaper account? Draft's Link Mode lets you do just that. Drop any address, phone number or URL into a new note, tap the link icon in the top right, and Drafts kills the keyboard, disables editing and makes everything tappable.

Append to Dropbox: My Favourite Idea-Dumping Method

Append to Dropbox is new in Drafts 2.0, and it's one of the more interesting features. With Append to Dropbox enabled, Drafts creates a Journal.txt file in your Dropbox folder. When you write a note and select the Append to Dropbox action, your note is automatically added to the text file.

This ends up creating a gigantic list of different notes, without you ever having to worry about what came before or after. You can use this in a number of ways. I use it for my rolling To D'oh! list, but it could also be used for to-do lists, generic idea dumps or shopping lists. Essentially, it's a simple way to stuff heaps of ideas into a single text file without ever having to open the actual text file.

Drafts has some limited syncing features (using Simperium), but its purpose isn't necessarily to replace your feature-packed writing apps -- it's more of an app that gets you started. Drafts lets you quickly kick ideas out of your head and through to another service without having to worry about anything.


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