The Swiss Army Knife for Text



Introduction

Hi all and welcome to another episode from Productivity Matters. 

In this series I've been looking at apps that are designed to help you be more productive; to get things done as efficiently as possible.


I'm Julian, and on this episode I'm going to tell you about Drafts 5 - an app that lets you decide what to do with your text AFTER you've written it down..

Drafts 5

So, what is Drafts 5 and where can you use it?  Well, firstly, it's only available on iOS (via iPhone and iPad).  There is a Mac version coming, but it's not here yet.  It's not available on Android, Windows or the web.  It's a shame it's not everywhere, because, when you get under the bonnet (hood) and take a look, this is a very clever piece of software.


Imagine you are needing to take some notes.  They're not tasks, and they're not something you're going to do anything with immediately.  What do you do?  Fire up ToDoIst?  Open Evernote? Get a notepad?


Drafts 5 is an app that lets you type what you want, and just holds on to it, until you decide what you want to do with it.


Functionality

The application for Drafts 5 is immense.  In fact, at first look, it can do so much, it's scary.   In fact, on their website, they state that Drafts 5 is like the Swiss Army knife of text.

It's possible to create entire fully formatted, documents

When you launch the app, you are presented with an empty page, along with some navigation icons.

  • Show existing documents

  • Open a new document

  • Get the information for the current documents

  • Tags

  • A character and word count

  • Action button

At the bottom of the screen:

  • Focus mode

  • Navigation between documents

  • Arrangement button

  • Link

  • Appearance

  • General settings

Formatting and Dictation

I'll begin with the built in functionality.

  • Text formatting

  • Bullet points

  • Bold/Italics

  • Task lists

  • Add web links

  • Dictation - without the normal Siri limit

This last one is amazing.  You can quite literally speak, and Drafts 5 will capture it all.  You need to use grammatical words to punctuate the text, like, period or comma, but, of course, you can always go back over the text when you've finished, to format it and correct any words that were misheard.


There is also support for Apple Watch, Siri integration, iCloud sync, version history, custom app icons, different themes - yes, dark theme is available.  You can use iOS widgets for quick access to documents and more.


You can set up a text editing experience that's just how you want to use it.  There are tons of adjustments, like custom fonts, control ver spacing, line height and margins.


There are also extended options in a row above the keyboard, giving you easy access to the functionality.


If you write long-form articles, Drafts 5 gives you the ability to re-arrange complete blocks or individual lines - just by drag and dropping.  It's a great, simple, way to edit an article.


There are workspaces, which allows you to keep related documents together, and there is also tagging; helping to keep everything organised.


The power of Drafts 5 comes from the Actions catalogue.  There are so many integrations; too many to list here, that you can use to enhance the Drafts 5 capabilities.


Having said all that, let me give you some real-life examples of how I use Drafts 5.  I'm no power-user, but the way it helps me is fantastic.


Examples

Basic

First and foremost, I use drafts to capture thoughts.  It's an app in my iPhone dock, and therefore can be reached quickly.  I just type and type and that's it.  Later, I can review and decide what to do.


ToDoIst

I also use Drafts to add to my To Do list, in ToDoIst.  Entering the task details, I then run an action to create a task directly.  I can also enter multiple tasks, one per line, and use a slightly different action to create multiple tasks in ToDoIst - that's a real time-saver.


Fantastical2

There are times when I'll receive and email with lots of different dates for various meetings.  In Drafts, I will enter each one on a separate line, along with the date and time.  I then run an action called Fantastically Good Event Parser. 


This bit is really clever - it will take each line and create a separate event in Fantasical 2, using the natural language ability of the app.  This has saved tons of time.


Automation

Those are a couple of basic applications; but it's possible to take the automation to another level.


I also use Drafts 5 to update a Google Sheet.  When I take a payment from a parent at my Cub group; I have a pre-formatted page, where I enter the date, amount and reason - I then run an action, which in turn calls a Zap from Zapier; and the sheet is updated.


How about creating an invoice?  Again, using a similar page to the one I just mentioned; I enter the date and number of days to be invoiced; and when I run the action, a Zap will enter this onto a new line in Sheets.  Another Zap then picks this up and creates the invoice inside my invoicing software.  Brilliant.


One final example - returning to the Cub pack; if I want to send a group message, I can write it in advance in Drafts, and when it's time, I'll send it directly via WhatsApp, to the group.  It means I can create the message without fear of sending it in error; and if I have a task in ToDoIst to remind me to send it - then, job done!


More

I have only scraped the surface of what Drafts 5 can do once a Draft has been created. 


Other functionality includes; saving to online storage services, like Google Drive, OneDrive, Dropbox etc, or saving locally, to Files.


You can even integrate Drafts 5 into a Shortcut workflow, so you can retrieve a Draft document, do something with it and continue.


Cost

Almost every developer offers a free version of the app, that gives you the chance to try it before you buy.  Others have free use forever, but without the full feature set available.  Drafts 5 falls into this second category.  


You get one week of the full application, to try everything, then either pay £1.79 per month, or sign up for the annual subscription for £17.49 to get all the features.


Drafts Pro gives you the ability to edit Actions, different themes, Workspaces and more.  


Do you NEED all this?  


Many users can get by with the basic version, and quite rightly, the developer hasn't held back on the necessities; but if you feel you'll want workspaces to better organise your texts, you want the dark theme, or you'll be making use of Actions and need to edit them, then it's definitely worth the investment.


Thank You

You may have gathered that I enjoy using Drafts and I hope you’ve found this episode interesting.


Find out more about Drafts 5 at their website


If you have any questions about Drafts 5 or anything else, then please get in touch via the Contact Me button at the top of the page


Don’t forget to subscribe where you normally listen to your podcasts and until next time, remember, Productivity Matters.

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