Text on an iPhone can be a real pain. I don’t mean writing — the keyboard is very nice, and in some ways, nicer than ever on iOS 7 — but I mean text management. Copying and pasting feels like a tedious chore involving lots of app switching and long tapping. By the time you’re done, it takes forever.
And iOS 7 sadly removes some of my favourite ways to quickly send out a tweet or a Facebook post from Notification Centre. As such, I thought I’d check out Drafts, an app that’s simply way more powerful than I need in the best way possible. Read on to find out what makes this app, which recently migrated to become an iOS 7 exclusive with its latest update, so special.
Automation Makes Your Life Easier
Drafts started out as an easy way to start typing your text and send it to whatever service you need to send it to, whether that be Messages, Twitter, Facebook and more. As it’s grown, it’s added many more features to its list. With version 3.0, its biggest addition was Evernote. The nice thing about this, of course, was that it also allowed you to easily add to specific Evernote notebooks with a simple line.
3.0 also brought TextExpander snippets. If you use TextExpander, but you don’t use Drafts, I have to wonder a little bit. Both services are very useful and work very well together. TextExpander allows you to simply type in a short-form for a longer phrase. For example, you can set up “sig*” to automatically fill in your entire email signature. When you pair it with Drafts, it’s easy to short-form your way through a ton of huge text and then send all that text to whatever service you need it to be in.
It’s actually a pretty powerful system. If you haven’t used it before, I should explain how it works. Basically, the app comes pre-installed with a bunch of “scripts” built into it that allow you to send any text to any service imaginable, so long as it’s got HTML scripting built into it. It also taps directly into some of the API that Apple has incorporated into iOS.
From the get-go, you should have no problems sending text to any of the built-in iOS apps. In fact, some additional ones will appear by default. Without installing anything extra, I already had the ability to send text to Byword, Day One and Simplenote.
Once you’ve selected a service, you can then send the text to multiple places. You don’t have to type it in again. It’s easy to tweet the same text with multiple Twitter accounts and Facebook. And of course, if you’re typing up some text and decide you need to send it to a different service halfway through, you can do that with no difficulty. That’s the attraction of the service.
The attraction of Drafts is definitely one that comes from the pro market of users. These are the people who want to chain multiple actions together, so that a URL they want to save gets sent to both Evernote and Day One, for instance.
I am not one of those users. Federico Vittici is, over at MacStories, and if you’re interested in some of how those details work, he’s written quite a few articles exploring the app. He’s a much better resource on automation than I could be, in this regard, but he’s also a great example of what makes Drafts so powerful. For him, he rarely has to work on a Mac anymore. His iPad and iPhone, equipped with Drafts, have more than enough power for him.
That being said, maybe you don’t consider yourself a novice iOS user, but you don’t feel the need to put together your own automated URL strings and actions. I’m certainly in that position. I’m certainly not a novice, but my iPhone is mostly a communication and social tool for me.
But I’m still interested in expanding Drafts’ abilities. Thankfully, that’s not too hard. Drafts even has a small website meant for mobile screens that compiles a publicly available directory of actions you can easily add to Drafts with the tap of the Install button.
Using that website, I was able to build Drafts into a tool that served purpose for me and got me into all the apps I needed it to. For me, I wanted to easily send text to my preferred third-party calendar and daily list apps. I wanted to be able to grab text and instantly prepare it for all of my frequently used apps. If I really wanted to or had a need for it, I wouldn’t hesitate to make my own actions — it really doesn’t seem that difficult.
What 3.5 Brings To the Table
Drafts 3.5 is the latest update, and it’s an iOS exclusive. Along with all the stuff from version 3.0 — including Evernote and TextExpander support, of course — it also brings a simplified interface that takes advantage of some of the iOS 7 technologies.
As far as the interface goes, there are some button changes that bring the app in line with iOS 7’s new look and feel, but the app was already largely white and text focused. There isn’t much here that’s a surprise. There’s some translucency in the Settings that wasn’t there before, and all the iOS 6 toggles have been replaced with iOS 7 toggles.
One new feature that I really like is the ability to simply launch an app without typing any text. I can see a future where Drafts is a little bit of a Launch Center Pro killer for some people. I don’t use LCP, so it’s nice for me to get at least a small smidgeon of that app’s functionality.
The app also brings along the ability to share any text with AirDrop. Some people aren’t going to care, but I expect AirDrop to be a game changer and I’m looking forward to seeing how this functionality gets used with callback schemes.
For writers, Drafts is a must-have. For anybody that has to manage their text at all, it’s a must-have. And for anybody who’s upgraded to iOS 7, Drafts is an example of what the future might be like. The app doesn’t lose any of its charms, but it looks a little simpler with a stronger focus on white space. In the case of Drafts, the white space is the content. I’d call version 3.5 a job well done.