in Apps

Drafts 5: New features, New Pricing

Drafts is one of those little apps that shouldn’t be a big deal, but it really is a huge deal. It might seem like a simple text writing app with a few cool features but it can fundamentally change how you use iOS. Here’s how and why the latest version, Drafts 5, is a great step forward.

Why Drafts matters

Drafts is the place where text starts for me (with a few exceptions). If there is a specific writing task I need to do in a specific place (such as an assignment for work) then i’ll start there, but if I want to tell someone something, fill in a website form or just take a quick note, I open drafts.

It’s much better to write (and edit) in than using the web field on a site.

The second key aspect of drafts is that it allows you to do some powerful actions upon that text. It could be turning several comments into a task, sending it as an email, add a comment or similar. This means that the text doesn’t just stay in drafts but is put to work.

What’s new in Drafts 5

Drafts 5 has a brand new editor that takes some different steps from the previous version. You still have the shelf with your different drafts and the action directory but now there are multiple keyboard menus. This means you can set up a separate markdown and taskpaper menus with different shortcuts. Or you can have different actions for different situations.

In addition to the changes in layout, you can also customize the theme and app icon more than before (these are premium features, more on that later). I particularly like the grey theme though I bet the black is great on the iPhone X.

If you had issues finding notes in the past and wished you had a good tagging system, well now you can. Tags can be accessed from a cmd + T shortcut

One of the unique features of drafts is the way that it will open on a black screen when you open the app. This means you can start writing right away and not have to carry out unnecessary taps to get into a blank slate. Of course there can be disadvantages with this, if you have to go back and forth to check information, then you constantly have to tap to reopen the draft which you were on. Well, no more. There is now focus mode which will keep the draft you are working on open. Focus mode can be activated by either pressing the “eye” in the bottom left hand corner or by going into settings and adjusting the setting there. It can be deactivating in similar fashion and there is a further setting to adjust how quickly a new draft is created. I wondered if there was a way to set up a keyboard shortcut to toggle focus mode and @wonk71 had created an action which you can attach to a keyboard short cut.

There are new scripting option and integrations (alluded to before) which allow you to do some really powerful things. This includes JavaScript scripting (the tool used in the afore mentioned focus mode actions).

However, the good and bad news is that this is now a subscription app rather than a single paid up front app.

Uh Oh, another subscription app!

The advantage of this is that you can try drafts for free and if you want the basic features only, then you don’t have to pay. However, there are some extremely useful features which are held behind the paywall as well as some nice to haves.

  • creating and editing actions (pro tip, you could keep drafts 4, create your actions there and then migrate them across to drafts 5.)
  • workspaces (a saved set of filters to find the drafts you are looking for)
  • enhances URL automation
  • custom themes
  • changeable app icons

Thanks to the action directory I suspect many people could get by using the free version but if you really like making custom actions (or just want to say thanks for such a great app) then you might want to consider giving donations to Greg (the developer).

Buy/Don’t buy?

Overall, Drafts 5 is a good update. Ignoring the pricing model I don’t see why anyone would stick with the last version (there are some actions which aren’t supported anymore like Google+ so that maybe a reason) however the pricing model will no doubt annoy some people. Greg is keeping Drafts 4 around and the free version will work for most people but moving from a $4.99 one time app that was update for two years to a $19.99 a year subscription is a huge increase in price. If you use drafts all the time and love making custom actions, maybe that isn’t too much for you. If you’ve never used drafts or understood it, then maybe you should try the free version.

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