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Are you sick of writing 500 words per hour when you know you’re capable of so much more? If so, your problem might be the writing process — the physical act of getting words on paper. But if you want to make improvements here, you have to know what’s broken before it can be fixed and improved.

That’s where Draftback comes into play. This simple but effective browser extension will grant you insight into your own writing process and allow you to diagnose areas where you struggle and slow down. Fix these issues and you’ll see a boost in your words per hour, guaranteed.

Draftback Teaches You About Your Writing

In order to use Draftback, you have to use Chrome and Google Docs. This is problematic for those who have given up on Google How To Quit Using Google How To Quit Using Google So what can you do when Google encompasses a ton of products and services all around the world and you want to escape their control? When complaints and protests don’t work, the best way to... Read More , but the extension author has made no indication of intent to expand to other browsers or storage services, so for now there’s nothing that can be done about that.

First, install the Draftback extension from the Chrome store.

draftback-extension

Then, navigate to Google Docs on the web and open up the document that you want to view. Draftback will analyze the entire revision history for that document (a revision is created every time the document is saved) and use that data to generate a playback video that shows those changes happening in real-time.

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It’s as simple as that.

Due to the way revisions are stored on Google Docs, Draftback only works if the document is edited within Google Docs Word Processing In Google Docs? 5 Important Tips To Keep In Mind Word Processing In Google Docs? 5 Important Tips To Keep In Mind For the majority of my life, Microsoft Word was the word processing tool to use if you were going to do any serious work. Sure, there were alternatives like Corel WordPerfect and later on OpenOffice,... Read More itself. If you had created a massive document using Microsoft Word, for example, and then uploaded that documented to Google Drive, the revision history wouldn’t be recorded. Thus, Draftback wouldn’t work.

Analysing Your Writing Via Playback

Depending on the size of the document and the number of revisions, the rendering process can take a while. One of my own documents, which tallied up to 26 pages and ~7,750 revisions, took approximately 9 minutes to render. The cool part is that you can preview the rendering process live if you want.

draftback-playback

The result of rendering isn’t a video. Rather, Draftback provides its own playback web interface that shows the changes occurring in real-time complete with a play/pause button, a seekbar, and a playback speed slider that ranges from 0.1x to 1.9x speed. Along the left side, you can see an overview of the entire document as it changes.

Segments of the rendered playback can be extracted and shared with others, either by direct link or by embedding into a webpage. The embedded player isn’t a video either, but a simplified version of the Draftback playback web interface. It still has a seekbar and playback speed slider for convenience.

draftback-embed

If you’re worried about privacy, have no fear. Draftback doesn’t work on documents if you don’t have permission to edit said document. Rendered playbacks are also private unless you explicitly share them with others. The extension is completely local except for when it retrieves your document from Google using a secure connection.

No one ever has unauthorized access to your data. Plus, Google Drive is secure How Secure Are Your Documents In Google Drive? How Secure Are Your Documents In Google Drive? Read More as long as you set up your settings properly. Once that’s done, you should have no real worries.

This is where it gets interesting. Watch how your draft evolves into the finished piece. Are you jumping backwards and forwards? Do you set the titles and flesh things out later? Are you leaving notes for yourself and embellishing them as you reach that point? Do you occasionally dwell on one sentence in order to make it just right?

Sharing Playbacks Of Your Writing Habits

If Draftback seems a bit simplistic, that’s because it is. There isn’t much more to it than what we’ve covered to this point. It does one thing but it does it well, and the final result is what you’d expect.

The only problem is that Draftback bugs out when documents are too large with too many revisions. For my 26-page document, I wasn’t able to extract playback into an embed, though it worked just fine for another document that was just a few pages long. Other than that, the extension works pretty well.

Draftback’s biggest potential is found in its ability to share playback. You can have others — e.g. editors — view your writing process and give you tips, advice, and wisdom. If you can get playback from your mentors and models, you can study their writing processes to improve your own. I’d love to see a community rise up using Draftback as a foundation.

Is Draftback Revolutionary Or A Gimmick?

This is just one of many apps that improve Google Drive 5 Google Drive Add-ons You Need To Use 5 Google Drive Add-ons You Need To Use Google Docs and Google Spreadsheet are both amazing free services, but when you include some of the add-ons listed here, it can breathe new life into these tools. Read More . Give it a try and tell us what you think.

Is it a gimmick or is it a revolutionary idea? Will you be using Draftback to analyze and improve your own writing? Share with us in the comments below.

Image Credits: Man hand on laptop Via Shutterstock

  1. Ron MVP
    January 5, 2015 at 1:27 am

    As an "old fart" I too agree that pen and paper is a good way to get started on a first draft.

    If you are willing to compromise, you could try using a pen and tablet to hand write into the computer. Then you can use OCR to convert the handwriting into computer text.

    Granted, writing on a tablet does not have the same feel as writing on paper. And, tablets have the disadvantage of boot time that paper does not.

  2. Silverlokk
    December 29, 2014 at 4:58 am

    Re: uploading a Word doc into Google Docs. Not sure this will work, but I think you can review any revisions you make after the upload. You don't see any revisions you did before the upload though.

    • Joel Lee
      December 30, 2014 at 3:46 pm

      Yes, I believe that's how it works. Every edit that you make using Google Docs will be stored and thus usable with Draftback.

  3. Silverlokk
    December 29, 2014 at 4:55 am

    @RustyRiley, same here. I did type directly into my word processor in the beginning, but for the past several years have carried pen-and-paper wherever I go. Faster booting times than even a smartphone or tablet, and crash-free.

    Oh wait, coffee can crash it.

    Still, it's pen-and-paper for my first drafts.

    • Joel Lee
      December 30, 2014 at 3:48 pm

      The tactile feeling of pen-and-paper is fantastic and I've noticed that my creative juices flow better when handwriting. My only problem with it is that there's no easy way to transfer handwritten pages to a word processor. Maybe there is and I've just never heard of it? That would be a great find.

  4. bvssunnydale56
    December 24, 2014 at 2:16 pm

    Anything that gets you writing, even if it turns out to be a dead-end long term, is a good thing. Thanks very much for the article & Happy Holidays!

    • Joel Lee
      December 24, 2014 at 6:31 pm

      I agree. Glad you enjoyed the piece. Happy holidays to you too! :)

    • RustyRiley
      December 27, 2014 at 8:00 am

      It's funny, when starting to write, I still prefer to use paper and pen -- that gets me "started" far more effectively than typing directly "on screen" -- but then again, writing "on screen" wasn't an option when I was learning to write n-squared years ago (where n is not a small number). Frankly, I think such an extension is totally useless for editing, and even the "extensions" for LibreOffice will do a much better job. So, I'm removing Draftback VERY soon after installing it -- for some, maybe, it was a worthwhile piece, just not for me.

  5. dragonmouth
    December 24, 2014 at 2:03 pm

    "Are you sick of writing 500 words per hour when you know you’re capable of so much more?"
    As you know, the creative process is about quality, not quantity. I'm sure you are familiar with the statement about monkeys banging away on typewriters eventually generating all the works of Shakespeare. The question is how much dross will they generate before all of the Bard's works are created.

    Nowhere in the article do you specify how Draftback will help other than to say that it "will analyze the revision history." Will it correct spelling, grammar and/or syntax? Will it suggest alternate wording or sentence structure? How will it help with writer's block? From experience, I know that sometimes it takes a long time to come up with the correct word to properly express a certain mood or idea.

    • Leah
      December 24, 2014 at 6:23 pm

      Quality is better than quantity, but in the beginning it's better to get the word on paper then you worry about quality.

    • Joel Lee
      December 24, 2014 at 6:30 pm

      @dragonmouth: You make some good points. Here's my take.

      Writing and editing are different phases. The first draft (or first few drafts) are like sketching: you get the words out without regard to quality. It's about finding the shape of a piece in a more deliberate way than outlining. Once the draft exists, you can go back and edit the roughness out of it.

      Draftback is helpful for the former IF you adopt the same kind of mentality. If writing is all about getting it on the page, then Draftback offers an "instant replay" that lets you see what slows you down. Do you spend a lot of time finding the right words? Do you delete/rewrite sentences a lot? It's not always easy to identify problems as you write live, but they stick out like a sore thumb when viewing in a playback.

      @Leah: Definitely! Another way to look at it: quantity is how you develop quality in the long run. A third way to look at it: editing is how you turn quantity into quality.

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