The iPad is an excellent content consumption platform for Web-surfing, photo or video viewing, and suchlike, and a decent email device, but most of my computing hours are spent in content creation and editing, which are not the iPad’s long suit.
Nevertheless, after five months of iPadding, I’ve finally got a setup with which I can access or initiate text-based works in progress on the handslab, but it’s far from being as transparently convenient as managing and synchronizing production using my three production Mac laptops.
I found the key to making the iPad moderately useful as a composition and editing tool initially in two apps,: Nuance’s Free Dragon Dictation speech app for iOS, and Hog Bay Software’s PlainText text editor app for the iPad, whose marquee feature is its ability to sync with Dropbox the Cloud service I use to keep current projects synched and accessible among my various Macs and the iPad. The basic, ad-supported version of PlainText is also free.
Setting up PlainText’s linkage to Dropbox is neither straightforward nor intuitive, but it works. You can find some helpful notes and info on linking/unlinking PlainText and Dropbox here:
Also in Hog Bay Software’s PlainText FAQ here:
One bit of tedium is that you have to use the “.txt” suffix on your text documents in order to render them openable with PlainText. Fortunately for me, this works fine with native documents created in Tex Edit Plus, which has been my main production text application on the Mac for some 15 years now. Unhappily, PlainText can’t open RTF files. Consequently, formatted text is out, but that’s not a great hardship for me most of the time since the universality of plain text appeals to my affinity for open standards. However, I do miss the deep feature set of text cleaning and manipulation tools and AppleScript macros in Tex Edit Plus on the Mac.
Then there’s the keyboard issue. I don’t really hate the iPad’s virtual keyboard, and I agree with Apple that it’s the better compromise in a handheld device, but it’s not a really satisfactory tool for typing more than a paragraph or two partly because of its configuration, mad I do miss the Mac’s F-keys and the AppleScript macros I toggle with them in Tex Edit Plus.. Yes, you can use a freestanding Bluetooth keyboard. My iPad pairs up nicely with a Logitech diNovo Edge for Mac keyboard I have. However, other than experimenting, I’ve never been able to see the point of connecting an external keyboard if one also has access to a perfectly good Mac or PC, upon which the working-with-text experience is so much better. Consequently, I’m most inclined to do raw input and rough first draft editing on the iPad, then transfer the document via DropBox to a Mac for its final reworking.
The iPad’s keyboard input shortcomings make voice input even more attractive than it is on the Mac, where I use Nuance’s excellent Dragon Dictate application. A particularly cool thing about using Dragon Dictation on the iPad compared with Dragon Dictate on my MacBook is that it’s so much more spontaneous. I can just grab the iPad and dictate a few thoughts in real time as they occur, rather than sitting down at the computer and waiting for full-featured Dragon Dictate (a wonderful tool that love,by the way) start up and load my voice profile, which takes at least a couple of minutes on my not-terribly-speedy Core 2 Duo MacBook.
It’s a lot more spontaneous with the iPad app., and you can use it anywhere you have Internet connectivity. Nuance claims using Dragon Dictation 2.0 is up to five times faster than typing on the idevice’s keyboard, which I won’t dispute, especially being a 50 word-per-minute max non-touch typist even on a regular freestanding keyboard.
Getting back to PlainText, it does have a clean, uncluttered, and attractive user interface, and is reasonably nice to use as a text editing medium within its limitations, and the systemic angularities of text manipulation in the iOS, with which I find the lack of support for a mouse or other pointing device much more profoundly frustrating than I do dealing with the virtual keyboard.
Speaking of which, the software ‘board banefully has no forward delete function or shortcut that I’ve been able to discover a significant efficiency slower-downer. Presumably that could be addressed with a software modification at the OS level, and while they’re at it some F-keys would be a welcome addition as well.
Anyway, I had been taking sporadic stabs at composing and editing on the iPad using my combination of Dragon Dictation, PlainText, and the iOS Notepad, but had consistently found the process too cumbersome and frustrating after the dictation phase. However, now there’s an even better text editing tool and word processing app. for the iPad, the Textkraft English smart text processor from German software developers Infovole GmbH, is quickly proving to be a game-changer, making text crunching on the iPad a more of a pleasure and less of a pain, with smartly-conceived keyboard enhancements, as well,as proofing, document data, and dictionary/thesaurus tools, combined with Dropbox integration to keep everything in sync. among your computers.
Textkraft – An iPad Text Revolution
The TextKraft app is focused on the main activities of the writing process: to write, correct, research and share, designed for writers in particular, who mainly want to edit text, complain about the iOS’s inaccurate cursor navigation, complicated selection of words and phrases, missing tabs and em-dashes, as well as other hidden keyboard options.
Textkraft addresses the iPad’s text-handling shortcomings by providing an integrated working environment for writing experts as well as for casual users. It restores many of the missing text editing and navigation features, has an excellent built-in dictionary and thesaurus as well as online research tools, and an intelligent spell checker that identifies the right words, just the way you pronounce them.
Textkraft says it complements Apple’s Pages word processor app. I can’t speak to that experientially, I don’t like the full Mac version of Pages, and have not been inclined to pony up ten bucks for the iOS app version, especially since I very rarely have occasion to need formatted documents, so the second part of the creative process suggested by TextKraft’s developers, ie: find the right words, compose and polish your story with Textkraft first, then send your text directly to Pages to layout your final document, is not especially relevant to my needs, although It could make great sense for some users.”.
Textkraft features include:
– a dictionary with synonyms and potential follow-ups
– Wikipedia full-text search and several online-dictionaries
– text import/export from Macintosh, Windows, Linux and other iPad Apps
– Dropbox integration: Synchronize documents on your devices
– detailed text information for editors, e.g. word count and file size
– active and intuitive spell checker. No reference and no interruption of the writing flow.
– Cursor keys better than on a real keyboard. 8 keys with 10 functions.
– selection markers for word, sentence and paragraph without bustle and finger fractures.
– Undo/Redo, and gradient function for testing the formulations.
– Upper and lower case Change button.
– Supports external Bluetooth keyboards and cables.
– Import text from Mac, Linux and Windows via iTunes file sharing.
– Import text from other iPad apps. For example, texts from open mail attachments.
– Text export via clipboard, e-mail and direct transfer to other iPad apps.
– Printing directly from the iPad. AirPrint compatible iOS 4.2.
– 9 font styles to choose from and freely selectable text size.
– Extensive textual information, including page count, word count and file size.
– Standard Auto corrections switched off.
– Read mode prevents accidental keystrokes.
Textkraft gives you a lot more controls for working with text than do PlainText and the Notepad, as well as an advanced and attractive user interface. There are 5 “memory keys” that allow you to work on 5 different text documents without having to create a new document for each text and allowing you to switch quickly among works in progress.
You can also import files from either your Dropbox folder or via iTunes filesharing. Both services allow you to synchronize data with your Mac or PC. Textkraft opens text files in Macintosh, Windows, and Linux encodings. However be aware that as with PlainText’s Dropbox support, only files with the file name extension . txt are available for opening.
You can use a 2 finger pinch gesture in order to change font size. This function can be disabled in the settings if you wish.
Other key controls are provided to change the case of the current word, i.e.: the one closest to the cursor, and buttons that allow you to jump directly to the beginning of the previous or the end of the following word. More buttons allow you to move the cursor to the beginning or end of the current line, and there are keys for special characters.
One of TextKraft’s best features is a “Select” button allows you to select the word currently nearest the cursor with a button-tap rather than going to the touchscreen. By pushing the button several times you can select a word, sentence, or paragraph automatically, and this feature substantially mitigates the iOS’s forward-delete deficiency that I find one of the many efficiency-killers in Apple’s mobile OS. There is mercifully also an n-dash key in the TextKraft basic interface without having to shift to numerical keypad mode the latter another brain-dead decision made by iOS programmers, who are obviously not writers.
Arrow keys extend your selection by one step. The step size depends on the prior selection. The X button defines what the category extension (blue marked words) displays on the dictionary. The dictionary/thesaurus will automatically choose words that begin with the current word or word fragment, that contain the word or word fragments, or end with the word or word fragment, and it works both on or off-line, which can be very handy. The “Done” key saves your text, activates the reading mode, and shows the main menu. The “Use” key replaces your word or completes it with a suggested word. You can use the “Look Up” button to toggle a search for the suggestion word in the online dictionaries.
You can also share or print the current document. A button on the bottom margin of the user interface window displays all the export possibilities for your text:
– Copies your text to the clipboard, so it can be applied to other applications. You don’t have to select text for this.
– Saves the content of the current working memory or the current document under a new file name.
– Send short text as an email. The text will be applied as the main message into its email form.
Send email attachment
– Your text is attached as a file to an email message. The document format is text/UTF-88/.text and can be used on all operating systems (i.e. Mac, Windows, Linux, and others.
– Send your text directly to other iPad apps that are able to handle text. For example, you can send text directly to Apple Pages and insert it into a layout.
– Print your text directly from your iPad with a printer that is compatible with Apple Air Print.
When you want to check your document, TextKraft’s proofing interface is outstanding, providing probably more data than you need, but in a good way.
To say I’m enthusiastic about TextKraft is a major understatement. This application has transformed my iPad into a usable tool for text composition, and the experience from frustrating to enjoyable. The iPad is still not even close to being a really satisfactory replacement for a laptop for serious writers, but TextKraft takes it a major leap farther toward that objective for eight bucks.
System requirements for TextKraft:
Compatible with iPad. Requires iOS 3.2 or later
For more information, visit:
Have a look at the video on:
Apple App Store
Dragon Dictation (freeware):