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Treat Different Writing Apps Like Different Size Notebooks

The Medium is the message – Seth Godin

This oft quoted saying of Seth Godin has become commonplace in marketing. The medium we choose to show our message matters a lot and will carry a great deal about the message itself. However, there is an even deeper truth, the situation affect the product.

Just think about the difference between different sizes of paper or notebooks. The larger it is (say A4) the better it is for long form writing or large sketches. However, smaller (say A6) are great for jotting bullet points and ideas. This is pretty obvious but the real magic starts when you try and use the wrong format for the other task. (i.e. writing a novel in a small A6 notebook or writing bullet points on a huge a3 piece of paper). There is a huge impact. The thing is this isn’t limited to just paper, it’s also true of apps.

Different Forms Of Writing

Nobody only does one form of writing. We write in different ways in different situations and use different styles. Perhaps it’s no surprise that we should favor different tools and apps for different styles of writing. Here are just a few quick examples of different styles of writing.

  • Academic Essay Writing
  • Novels
  • Blog Post
  • To do lists
  • Brainstorming
  • Emails and correspondents
  • journaling
  • Shopping lists

You can certainly find apps that will let you do many of these forms of writing (in fact drafts is a great example of an app like this). However, it is worth considering having a certain app that is designed exactly for that task. Here are a few select examples and why they are worth having.

Scrivener

Scrivener is designed for long form writing. It has a whole host of features that aim to help you with this but I think that the core feature is the ability to create an outline with multiple small text documents that you write in each one. With this you can view the overview and you can move them around as you write, easily inserting whole new sections.

Scrivener makes it so much easier to keep the big picture in mind when writing. But to use it for a to do list would be stupid.

Pages

Pages is designed for making great things to print off and have a physical copy. Sure you can’t do all that you can do in indesign but for the average person who needs to print off a poster or write something to print off for school then Pages is set up to help you keep a physical page in mind.

As such Pages is a great app for basic letter making, poster or even business cards.

Editorial/Byword

Writing for the web is different from writing for physical pages, elements can move around, sizes can and do vary. It’s not as important to make sure it all fits into one page but can continually scrole and that’s not even mentioning inserting code for audio and video media and hyperlinks which you just can’t do with a physical page.

The nature of responsive web design, elements that need to be shown on a variety of different screen sizes, hyperlinks, embedded media and even the simple fact that we can scroll rather than be bound by the limit we have on the page all come into effect in how we write for the web. As such writing in a system like markdown makes a lot of sense and editors such as byword and editorial can really help you in that context.

Drafts

Drafts is a great app for quick ideas or jotting notes down in. I like to think of it as my electronic A6 notebook. In some cases this maybe the start of a blog post with an outline, or it will be a the outline to an email, or just some ideas of things I should do. Whatever it is, I can just start writing in Drafts and then send it to the right application to finish it off, or if it is finished send/save it straight away.

In many ways I view drafts as my small notebook for writing quick ideas down or drafting an outline before sending it off to be fully fleshed out later.

I hope you’ll agree that there are some application that help you do one task well, although you can do many of these things with just one app (and maybe if you are only experimenting with writing a book it’s not worth buying a whole new app.) But sometimes having a unique app will be like having that larger or smaller notebook.

What apps do you have for a specific writing context

About Chris Wilson

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