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Review: Drafts for iPhone and iPad

Dan Frakes | Jan. 2, 2013
It's easy enough to cut and paste text between apps, but these days, much of my iOS-composed text starts out in the aptly named Drafts, a stellar app from Agile Tortoise. Available for both the iPad ($3) and the iPhone ($2), Drafts is a catch-all bucket for typing messages, jotting down ideas, storing templates, and--just as useful--doing things with that text when it and you are ready.

It's easy enough to cut and paste text between apps, but these days, much of my iOS-composed text starts out in the aptly named Drafts, a stellar app from Agile Tortoise. Available for both the iPad ($3) and the iPhone ($2), Drafts is a catch-all bucket for typing messages, jotting down ideas, storing templates, and--just as useful--doing things with that text when it and you are ready.

Launch Drafts, and you can start typing right away--there's no need to create a new document, think of a title, or leap any other hurdles to getting your thoughts out of your head and into the app. The iPhone version of Drafts offers a clean document view with just a few buttons and the onscreen keyboard; the iPad version adds a couple additional options (more on those in a moment), as well as an additional row of keys above the onscreen keyboard that are useful for formatting links and typing frequently used symbols (including common Markdown and MultiMarkdown notation characters). Unlike the special keys found in many other iOS text editors, Drafts's remain on the screen when you use an external Bluetooth keyboard.

To start a new draft, tap the the plus-sign (+) button; whatever draft you were previously working on is automatically saved. Tap the documents button (an icon of a piece of paper) to view a list of all your saved drafts. The first few words of each draft are displayed in the list to make it easier to find a particular one; you can also use the search feature by tapping the magnifying-glass button and typing a search query.

On the iPad version of Drafts, a nifty Link mode displays the current draft with all addresses, email addresses, URLs, and phone numbers formatted as tappable links that open the appropriate app--Maps, Mail, Safari, Phone, and so on. On either device, you can view live-updated word and character counts, and Drafts supports TextExpander for iOS for inserting frequently typed text snippets. If you have Agile Tortoise's Terminology dictionary app installed, you can look up--and insert--words right from within Drafts.

Your drafts sync between iOS devices using the Simperium service. I wish the app offered the alternative of storing drafts in Dropbox as plain-text files, so I could view and edit the drafts on my Mac, but Agile Tortoise says that Simperium is faster and more reliable than other sync methods. (If you really want to get your text into Dropbox, Drafts offers a couple Dropbox actions--see below.)

But what really makes Drafts useful, and much more than a simple text-notes app, are all the actions you can quickly and easily perform actions on your text. Just tap the familiar Share button, and the resulting popover offers a staggering list of options--over 50 in all--for using the text.

 

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