Writerly iPad

by kipress

Okay, so, finally, some more thoughts on iPad, because we all know the world needs more blog posts about that.

If I were to write a post about the apps I most frequently use, it would be embarrassingly full of simulation games and a creaky progression of inadequate Facebook apps and notetaking apps used and discarded one by one for Just Not Quite Being the Thing, Yet.

Back to the notetaking apps in a minute. First, allow me to stop strategizing about SimCity or Civilization long enough to write a brief list of writerly apps I consider noteworthy and have actually used.

  1. Really Cool in a Totally Nerdly Way: Ampersands. Ampersands is the baby of a designer who always wanted to do a book of just beautiful ampersands, but there isn’t really a big enough ampersand market to justify the beautiful printing costs. That’s exactly what the beautiful iPad screen is for. I love to gaze at those fancy ands.
  2. Dictionaries! Let’s start with the Oxford Dictionary of English and Oxford Canadian Dictionary. These weren’t cheap, but I use them all the time. I now always have a proper dictionary with me. (Theoretically, you don’t need to buy apps of Oxford reference books if you have a library card—Winnipeg Public Library, for one, offers on-line access to the Oxford reference library, as likely do many other libraries. But I find these apps much easier to use and more convenient.) They each have a different use – the COD for verifying Canadian spelling, yes, but the OED app has recorded pronunciations. In other massive reference books, I’ve also made some use of Larousse when confronted with a translation question. Now will someone please make a Chicago Manual of Style app?
  3. For That Inky Experience:  I love using the iPad to write with my finger or a stylus; I’m awful at two-finger typing. So far the best inky response from notebook apps has been from Bamboo and from Penultimate.  But for ink good enough for doodling, try Zen Brush –made to mimic an ink brush. Nice “paper” backgrounds too.
  4. No More Random Purse Paper: One of the things iPad is good for is eliminating all the random scraps of paper  with notes to myself on them. (Well, theoretically. I’m getting there.) But finding the perfect notebook app is tough. I’ve tried a zillion, and there are a zillion more waiting. I’m looking for…
  •  simplicity, so I’m not bogged down with functions I don’t need;
  • automatic date stamping, so I know when I wrote each page/note;
  • a visual way of finding different notes and notebooks/folders (cause I just am that way);
  • both ink AND typing functions;
  • good ink response;
  • search feature;
  • iCloud integration or other automatic backup;
  • both landscape and portrait orientations.

If anyone knows the app that does all that, please tell me. The newest update of Noteshelf is getting there – they’ve just added typing, but still no iCloud backup.

5. And yes, I do use Pages, but it makes me angry when working with long documents.


A kind of random assortment there, yes, but all writing related. Now how about things I thought I’d use, but don’t. Until next time…. go check out my Tumblr, where I actually post short stuff regularly.