Where should I store my writing: 2018 edition
September 16, 2018 5:02 PM   Subscribe

I want to start writing again. I want read/write access to my content via both my iPhone (with and without a Bluetooth keyboard) and my Windows 10 laptop. This makes me think I need a web-based application to allow for syncing between devices. What apps/services/options work best these days?

Info that may influence your answer:
  • I have an Evernote account, but it's a bit of a mess, and I want to start fresh
  • I have a Google account and I've been looking at Google Keep and it's seems like it's not really for longer writing. Docs may work, but it's fiddly when working from a phone.
  • I want to have some formatting options, but not so much that I'm spending all my time making the doc/contentlook good versus focusing on what it says
  • I use Day One and have a premium subscription. I'd love to be able to port my content into Day One via IFTTT to keep it there as a copy but it's not a must-have
  • I have a neglected blog, but I don't really want to put my writing there as drafts/private posts - too easy to press the wrong button!
  • I looked at Microsoft OneNote but am not loving it yet.
  • Simplenote is interesting, but I'd like some formatting options
  • I have a Dropbox account so could sync things there
  • I'm willing to spend some money if there's a really great option
I have a tendency to overfocus on how to manage my content, which keeps me from actually creating said content. I've obviously been overthinking this so I turn to you hive mind: what do you use? Thanks for any insight!
posted by melissa to Computers & Internet (12 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
I use Google docs and on my phone, it starts getting wonky (app crashes and such, Samsung galaxy 9) at about 50ish pages. I just break docs up at that point.
Easy to add comments and document headers on mobile, so that's good.
posted by AlexiaSky at 5:11 PM on September 16, 2018

Google Docs.
You’re welcome.
Get writing.
posted by Major Matt Mason Dixon at 5:44 PM on September 16, 2018 [2 favorites]

Google Docs is by far the best option, for better or worse. I work on my phone, iPad, desktop and laptop and Google Docs is the only practical way to manage it.
posted by Narrative Priorities at 9:05 PM on September 16, 2018

Check out Workflowy. It has all the multi-platform sync goodness built in. I haven't used it for Writing per se, but according to their blog, some people have. I've been using and misusing it for several years and have found it quite solid and reliable.

posted by armoir from antproof case at 9:56 PM on September 16, 2018

Simplenote’s limited formatting (headings/bold/italics) was a huge plus for me as a writer. Even though I wished for a simpler writing/syncing system, I stuck with Word and then Google Docs for years because damned if I was going to give up my line spacing and centered headings. But I’ve come to the belief that most formatting is just fidgeting. Simplenote was a bit jarring at first but it made me focus on writing in a way I’d never done. The cross-platform functionality is great, too.
posted by not_the_water at 12:09 AM on September 17, 2018

I have tons of writing saved in Google Docs. It's easy to sort into folders by project (very handy when you have multiple projects on the go) and can be accessed from anywhere with an internet connection. Overly long documents do become a bit difficult to load and edit, though.
posted by Ziggy500 at 3:56 AM on September 17, 2018

Have you considered writing in Markdown to focus on the content and not the formatting? There are many Markdown-compatible editors on both of your platforms, but the first two that came to mind were iA Writer and Simplenote.
posted by youknowwhatpart at 6:12 AM on September 17, 2018

I'm gonna take a different tack here.

1. Write in plaintext or markdown, which is simple. Choose an editor on your Windows machine you like. Maybe Sublime? Doesn't really matter; it could be Notepad, even.

2. Save the files in a folder that's part of a sync service. I use Dropbox.

3. Identify an editor you also like on iOS, and use that on your phone. I like Editorial, but Drafts, Byword, and many others are great options, too. Then point that editor at your Dropbox folder.

I have done this for literally YEARS AND YEARS. It works VERY seamlessly, and has lots of benefits over using a web service, but the biggest two are results of having local copies of everything:

a) You can work without a network connection;

b) You can keep local backups.
posted by uberchet at 6:55 AM on September 17, 2018 [3 favorites]

One of the benefits to google docs not mentioned yet is that you can do a local backup and you can edit documents offline.
posted by tofu_crouton at 8:28 AM on September 17, 2018

Thanks everyone for taking the time to share your workflows. I think I'm leaning more towards writing in plaintext or Markdown (I'm new to Markdown, but getting the hang of it. I meant to include this in my list). I do document design for a living and when I'm working on personal stuff in Google Docs, I spend more time than it's worth formatting the content into something attractive. What I'm working on now doesn't need to be attractive yet, but I like being able to bold/italicize here and there as well as have the ability to include a heading structure if I need it.

For now, I think I'm going to experiment with iA Writer on my phone and save my files to Dropbox. I may spring for it on my Windows machine too, but I've downloaded a trial before I commit to that. I figure I'd be able to feed any files I store in Dropbox into Day One via IFTTT too so there's another place the files could be stored.

Now to silence my inner mean girl who tells me to not even bother because we all know it's going to suck! Baby steps, right?
posted by melissa at 10:45 AM on September 17, 2018

I really like Bear. I use it for notetaking, primarily, but you could use it for any kind of writing I imagine. I like its tagging and markdown capabilities, and that it (that is, the pro version) syncs seamlessly between my iOS devices, my home laptop, and my work laptop.
posted by synecdoche at 6:00 PM on September 17, 2018

uberchet has the right idea. Keep it simple. Dropbox works great. As far a a plain text editor on iOS, I use TexTastic. Editorial is good, too. Drafts is subscription-based, FYI, and may be more in the long run than you want to spend.

The benefit of Markdown is that you write in plaintext, but include simple makeup to indicate formatting. There are various editors and conversion utilities that show you the rendered formatting, even a Word plugin.
posted by lhauser at 9:06 PM on September 21, 2018

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