Writing tools - Drafts, Terminology & Phraseology

Writing tools - Drafts, Terminology & Phraseology
Mountains and Sea, Promenade des Anglais, Nice, France, Leica M (Typ 240), Summilux-M 50mm, f1.4 ASPH, 1/1000 sec., f8, ISO 200

How agile is the Tortoise?

For the past week or so I have been working and testing out three nice pieces of software developed by Agile Tortoise. The first one I bought was Terminology because I wanted to have a tool providing alternatives to certain words in my texts. Soon after I read about Phraseology and it seemed an interesting addition to my writing arsenal. It analyses your text and gives you insights on different aspect of your wording. This is very handy and is a nice asset for anyone who wants to improve his writing skills (I recently posted something about writing and photographing daily to improve your skills. You can find this here). I was so pleased with them that I started to pay attention to another Agile Tortoise title named Drafts. Oh well, why on earth would I need another text editor? I already have nValt on OSX, Simplenote on OSX and all iOS devices, Same thing for Byword. Not to mention Ulysses and recently Matcha. To be honest, it is the author’s reputation (Greg Pierce) and the native integration between Drafts, Terminology and Phraseology that interested me the most.

Do we have affinity?

But how does it fit in my workflow? Do I have to let go if some of the apps I already bought and like? Keeping in mind that I want the most effective (and simple) workflow possible, it is out of question to have many tools for the same task. Covering OSX and iOS is certainly a big plus for me.

The easiest part is probably in Terminology. It does exactly what you would expect and it does it very well. But for someone starting with Phraseology and Drafts, there are nuances that need to be clarified. It can be confusing until you understand what their respective roles are. At first I started to work on texts with Drafts, then switch to Phraseology from time to time to check the structure and avoid too much repetition of certain words, etc. Then I realized I could also write within Phraseology and started to get confused about their purposes. After all, why would I ever need Drafts if I can do everything in Phraseology? Fortunately, this feeling only last about 15 minutes, until I realized how each tool is different but a complement to the other. The dream app would be a merge of all three, but that’s another story. For now, the most important step I reached is to clearly understand the purpose of each of these apps. All together they provide an awesome offer. And I barely touched the customization flexibility they offer. This suite of app can be used by anyone but is of big value for power users who want to program some scripts and automate certain tasks.

The way I see things

For me things go like this with these three apps:

  1. Create a file in Drafts to drop in some notes that will be used for your writing.
  2. Use Terminology to define words, change them and fine-tune while your text evolves.
  3. Once your text is completed you run it through Phraseology for some analysis and make changes based on the findings before completing the process with publishing.

I’m still a bit confused about how I should use this in my workflow. Draft supports iCloud and Dropbox but not as a syncing option. You can’t start in Drafts, continue in Byword on OSX using the same file synced between all these tools! And then come back to Drafts. You can “send-to” many apps and define what they call “actions”. That’s very different in comparison to Byword support for OSX and iOS through iCloud and Dropbox where you can pick up a file there and continue working on it any way you want. That’s not the way Drafts works, and it’s not even what it was meant for. Keep in mind it is a note taking text editor. It’s fast, very complete and well organized. This is quality software my friend.

Still a bit foggy for me

What is still unclear in my head is how it should be used when you work with many apps sharing a Dropbox folder, on an iPad and OSX. Dropping notes to start in Drafts is fairly straightforward. But I prefer to do most of the editing in Byword because I can work on the file anywhere I want. When do I stop in Drafts to start in Byword? When do I bring everything back in Terminology for fine tuning and in Phraseology for validating the structure before switching to Byword and even MarsEdit for publishing. MarsEdit is the most complete tool for posting and updating texts and images to a blog (WordPress, Blogger, Tumblr). It works both ways (to and from). Byword, through in-app purchase, can simply publish to blog. It is not as complete as MarsEdit but is very convenient and I use it regularly. It can also post to Evernote, which is neat. All of this without Dropbox syncing? Youch. They say the problem is always between the screen and the chair. So I assume I am the problem.. :-) But I’d like to clarify this and end up with a solid workflow. For now I find it very cumbersome to switch back and forth between apps and worst, to rely on “export to” and “open in”. I read something recently about Drafts and it says the app is “a means to an end”. I perfectly understand that, but I haven’t figure out how to use it optimally. This blog post has been written entirely in Drafts before running it through Terminology and Phraseology, and then sent to Byword for filing and publishing. But I don’t want that because I prefer to do most of the editing in Byword. Inversely, I don’t want to use Drafts only for file creation and note taking. That would be a pity to not use all it has to offer.

OK but what’s next?

For now I’ll continue to explore these three apps and make good use of them, get to know them better and ultimately “get it”. There is something I didn’t get yet and I’m pretty sure this suite of apps deserves my attention. They are perfectly integrated and are awesome pieces of code individually. Thumbs up to the developer for such a high level of quality and functionality. I just need to experiment a bit more until things fall in place. One thing is sure, these apps are installed on my iOS devices, and for good. Let’s find the best way to put them to good use in my workflow.

I’d be happy to hear from those of you using Tortoise apps along with Byword (or any other markdown text editor) and Dropbox.

Good Light!


© Normand Primeau