My Digital Writing Tools

My writing has always been mobile. Long before the iPad and the iPhone, long before the laptop computer, even long before the household computer became commonplace, I carried a backpack filled with books, dictionaries, a dozen pencils and pins, my personal journal, and at least one pad of paper. I wrote on the go. I wrote as I ate lunch in fast food restaurants, drank beers at the local tavern, and took breaks at work. When I lived in Denver (1988-1990), I wrote at the Denver Library. Everyday I would grab my backpack, head to the downtown branch, find a carrel in the reference section, and write. I would sharpen six to ten pencils. When a pencil became too dull for my taste, I would replace it with a fresh one. My daily writing session ended when all pencils were too dull to use.

I still write on the go, but technology now makes that easier and more convenient. It makes it lighter. Instead of a backpack weighing twenty pounds, I now carry a shoulder bag weighing less than five pounds. Two eReaders and an iPad have replaced the books, the personal journal, and the pad of paper. Since I had recently written about my writing routine, a routine invested with technology, I thought it might interest the reader to learn in more details what technology I use and how I use it.


My home computer is an iMac; my tablet is an iPad. I do not own a laptop computer. Since my first computer was an Apple computer, I'm more comfortable working in an OS rather than a Windows environment, but I do not believe that what is right for me is right for everyone. Though available software and apps may change, I know the techniques I use can be achieved with a PC-and-Android mix as well as with my combination of Apple products. I use my desktop computer for writing at home and my tablet for writing on the go. What brand they are is a matter of personal preference. It is the software I use rather than the logo on the case that does the work.



ByWord is my first draft app. More than any other writing software, it replaces the dozen sharpened pencils and the pad of paper. It provides a blank page, a clutter-free writing environment. There is no fussing over margins, paragraph leads, or font styles. Though it can save documents in rich text format, I write in plain text. Though it offers Markdown capability, I do not use it. All I want is a place to record words, to write sentences, to tell a story. ByWord provides that place.

I have ByWord installed on both my iMac and my iPad. Since I save the documents in iCloud, I can access them on either my computer or my tablet. This allows me to start a document at home and finish it on the go, or vise versa. When I finish writing a document, I copy and paste it where I want it. For novels, stories, and articles, I paste it into Pages. For blog entries, I paste it into Blogsy.


Pages is Apple Computers word-processing software. I own both the desktop and iPad versions, and I sync them using iCloud. When I am writing a project—be it a novel, a short story, or a nonfiction article—I use Pages for the manuscript. In Pages I can concern myself with the style and formatting concerns that I ignored in ByWord. Single or double spaced. Blocked or indented paragraphs? It is now time to make these decisions.


As the name suggests, Blogsy is my blogging software. Though I can (and sometimes do) write my blog postings in Blogsy, I prefer to write them in ByWord and then paste into Blogsy. Blogsy allows me to add images and links with a few steps. It also allows me to format my blog postings before publishing, giving me flexibility over headings and images and other page layout features. I know how a posting will look on the Internet before I publish it. To the best of my knowledge, Blogsy doesn't have a desktop or Android version, but I recommend it for anyone blogging on the iPad.


Evernote is more a service than an app, but it offers applications for both mobile devices and desktop computer. Evernote is my note-taking software. It allows me to set up notebooks to help organize my notes, so every writing project can have its own notebook. It also allows me to tag notes for further organization. Since a writer's notebook can contain ideas, facts, photographs, clippings, drawings, diagrams, character sketches, plot outlines, charts, and more—resembling a scrapbook rather than a notebook—it is essential that the digital note-taker is flexible and easy to use. Evernote is both. Since it is cloud-based, whether I write a note on the go or at my desktop, it is available anytime and anywhere I need it.


Since every writer has his own writing tools and habits, it isn't my intention to convince you to adopt mine. I wanted to give you an idea of the software that is available and inspire you to think about how you want to write. I hope this short survey helps.


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