Big Update for Drafts 

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Drafts, one of my favorite utilities for the iPhone just got a big update to version 5. For some of you, that’s all you need to hear. Download the new version and subscribe. For the rest of you, let me explain a bit further.

Drafts is an iOS app that does two things remarkably well:

  1. It lets you capture text.
  2. It lets you process that text.

Capturing Fast

Unlike any other text app, Drafts doesn’t require you to open a new file, create a new email, or do any other process before you start writing. Instead, when you open the app, you get a blinking cursor and a blank screen. Just start writing. That makes Drafts the starting place for just about any text I write on iPhone or iPad, including these very words.

Drafts doesn’t just let you type, it also lets you dictate, and through some smart programming, it gets around the usual 45 second Siri Dictation timer. With Drafts, you can dictate as long as you want to Siri Dictation and it just keeps going.

One of the nice things about Drafts is that because you go straight into writing, you don’t even have to have a clear decision about where the text will end up when you start writing. Maybe these words will end up an email, or an OmniFocus task, or a Ulysses project, or something else entirely. It doesn’t matter; I just need to write.

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Processing Text

Once you’ve finished writing your precious words in Drafts, then you get to decide what to do with them. There’s a lot of options. If it’s possible to add an integration for words to Drafts, the Drafts developer has added it. (Not many people realize it but Draft’s developer, Greg Pierce, was instrumental in the original development of URL scheme-based automation on the iPhone.)

You can do simple things with your text, like send it along to another text editor, send it as a message or email. You can also go deep down the rabbit hole.

One thing I love about Drafts is using it to send an email. This way, I don’t have to go into my email application and get tempted away by the siren song of the inbox. Instead, I write and send the relevant email and then get back to work.

One of my favorite productivity hacks is to go into Drafts on the iPad and just dictate through 5-10 writing tasks on my plate every day. It lets me eliminate all the process steps while I’m doing the hard work of getting words out of my head and on the page. Then later I process all those words using Drafts’ automation tools. I get more work done this way, faster.

Drafts also has one of the best implementations of an Apple Watch app. I keep it on my Siri watch face, and if I’m walking down the street, I just press the button and dictate into my watch to capture the draft for later processing. (Here’s a Drafts power tip: enable the app badge to show for any unprocessed tasks.) Also, it uses iCloud to sync your text to all your iOS devices.

For me, Drafts was a game changer. It’s one of the few apps I vividly recall loading for the first time, realizing how useful it is, and audibly saying “yes!”. It’s the poster child for apps that uniquely grew out of the App Store for a touch-based interface. 

Drafts is in my dock.

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About Drafts 5

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With Drafts 5, Greg rewrote most of the code to make it faster, more efficient. He also added a bunch of features. Most of the features I discussed this far come with the free version of the app. If you want to go deeper, there is a pro version for $2 month or $20 a year that includes additional features including:

  • The ability to create an unlimited number of customizable actions. These are helpful. For instance, I have one called “Sparks Prime” that lets me send a text message to key members of my family very quickly. In my mind, that is there in case we ever have a significant earthquake an I want to get a message out before the networks get flooded and go down. These days, however, I just use it to send pictures of cute puppies.
  • Themes and Icons. There are a bunch of themes, and now you can set the icon color if that’s your thing.
  • You can add saved workspaces
  • Get even more powerful workstations.

These are all great features but for me, the best reason to pay Greg $20 a year is to ensure Drafts continues to exist and flourish. I use this app every day, and I don’t want to lose it.

If you’ve never used Drafts before, I encourage you to download the free version and try it out. If it grabs you the way it grabbed me, I’d further encourage you to subscribe.

I’ve made a few screencasts for Drafts 5. Enjoy.