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The Drafts app ($4.99) is more than just an iOS text editor. You can use it as the first stop for everything you write, and use its extensibility to send it anywhere. It starts with a customizable keyboard, which allows you to add one button actions. Then there are an array of export actions once you finish creating.
If you’re looking for a truly powerful note-taking app, with serious extensibility, Drafts might be for you.
Using the Drafts App
Drafts works on every iOS device. You can collect your ideas on everything from the Apple Watch to the iPad Pro. On its own, the app resembles most Notes apps. You have a folder structure on the left that contains all your documents.
The main panel is a mostly unadorned text editor. You get your word and character account in the upper right. The keyboard has a row of special buttons, which we will get to a little later.
On the bottom left is a hamburger menu that allows you to view your document as blocks of text. You can then move and arrange your text visually, as long as you want to move the whole block.
On the bottom right you have an option to change your font. You have the option to use anything installed on the system, including any custom fonts you may have. There are three themes: light, sepia, and dark.
There is a gear on the bottom right to open the general settings. Here you can choose if the app defaults to creating a new note when you open the app, or after a few minutes. You can also change the app’s Markdown flavor and choose between Discount, Github, or Multimarkdown.
The customizable keyboard makes the Drafts app great for capturing text quickly and easily. Some simple changes can save you time, like a button to enter the current date. You can also have action buttons on the keyboard.
For example, you can add a button to solve an equation you have written in text. Highlight it and hit the button, and it replaces your equation with the answer. When using an external keyboard, these shortcuts are still at the bottom of the screen.
You can add dividers and labels to break up the keyboard shortcuts. There is an edit button at the far right that allows you to organize and edit them. You can tap on each item to see its code or give it a more space friendly label.
It is easier to approach these by sections based on function. Each is an example of how to package together shortcuts by function to speed up your work. If you add more than the screen has space for, you can scroll across to see them all. The edit button for the shortcuts is always the last on the right.
Section 1: Editing and Navigation
Trying to edit large pieces of text using the touchscreen can be a bit frustrating. Using these extensions, you can use buttons to select text. If you regularly write text using the onscreen keyboard, these might help you edit your documents more efficiently.
- Select Nearest Word
- Select Sentence
- Select Current Line
- Add Previous Line to Selection
- Move Cursor to End of Draft
Section 2: Markdown Shortcuts
When using an external keyboard, most of the Markdown keys are easily accessible. However, Apple’s onscreen keyboard buries many of the characters. Markdown links and images are even harder, as you have to select and insert characters and text. If you write everything in Markdown, these buttons are a necessity.
- Markdown Bold
- Markdown Emphasis
- Markdown Header
- Markdown Numbered List
- Markdown Unordered List
- Markdown Link with Clipboard Content
- Markdown Image
Section 3: Transform Your Text
Though some of the Markdown buttons change the way text looks, this is not all the Drafts app can do. The next few actions can help you create tweets or format titles in longer documents. Alternatively, another cleans up a document before sending it to another app.
- Encircle: Convert selected text to circled letters
- Lowercase: Convert selected text to lowercase
- Title Case: Convert selected text to title case
- Hashtag: Convert selected text to a hashtag
- No Blanks: Remove all blank lines from a draft
- Trim: Removes any blanks lines at beginning and end of a draft
Apps and Actions
Linking Drafts to other apps is key to unlocking its potential. Sometimes it is as simple as using the Drafts app to write and proofread a long text message before sending it. Alternatively, you might want to save a longer piece to Day One as a journal entry.
Like the keyboard shortcuts, these Actions are grouped by function. If we missed something that you use, browse the list of integrations here. Drafts has a surprising amount of apps available.
Messaging, Social, and Mail
Though you may dash off a Twitter post or email right from an app, that often doesn’t give you time to edit. You might get distracted or interrupted, and lose your text when the app closes in the background.
We already linked to an Action that supports sending text via Messages. You can also put together your Tweets and send them without opening the Twitter app. (You even get even see a character count for your message in Drafts instead of an ambiguous circle.) If you prefer the advanced apps, there are Actions for Tweetbot and Twitterific as well.
You cannot use the Facebook Action anymore, since it relied on the account integration removed from iOS 11. You can use the share sheet to send the text over, but it is a bit slower. The Buffer action is an alternative choice which lets you cross-post on Facebook and Twitter. This action would be helpful to someone who posts to social media all the time. There are options to schedule posts out in the future, giving you more control over when you post.
This Action can send an email via Mail.app using the first line of the draft as the subject, and the rest is the body. The Spark and Airmail actions render Markdown into rich text for your message. The Outlook action opens your text as a new email.
Managing Your To-Do Lists
If you like a simple text to-do list, Drafts might also do the trick. There is even support for the Markdown to-do list format. On the other hand, if you have a more complicated list, you can use Actions to send to more advanced apps.
If you are using Reminders, the first line of the draft is the reminder name, and then the rest of the text is the note. This Action would be a bit more powerful if it allowed you to set a priority and due date.
The OmniFocus action is for the productivity warriors. Tags allow you to completely flesh out a task in plain text before moving it over to the app. You can then use the Drafts app as the place where you plan and brainstorm your projects.
Between the two is the Todoist integration. It does not have as many options as OmniFocus. For this Action, you to create task lists and bulk import them into Todoist. This integration is beneficial if you want to flesh out your day and then get to work. It skips the more advanced parts of the GTD system.
Most of these Actions make Drafts seem better for quick documents, but it is no slouch for longform. Its block based editing means you can play around with the shape of a document before finalizing it.
The most obvious export method that the Drafts app offers is the system Open In Action. You can then send your text as is to another app for polishing and its final destination. This is essentially a menu item to open the iOS share sheet.
Other apps have custom actions. You have a couple of options as a Ulysses user. The Actions either send a draft to the Inbox or you choose which Group to assign it to. You can send notes over to Evernote, though only to the default notebook. OneNote support uses the email method, so the share sheet may be a better choice there. Apple’s Notes app does not have any support at all, so you are stuck with the Share sheet option.
If you would prefer to export your document in a chosen format, there is an Export As Action. In the dialog, you write the file name and extension then save. There are tons of actions for individual cloud providers. However, as long as you are using iOS 11 and the Files app, this is all you need to save your draft anywhere.
Workflow and Drafts
The keyboard buttons and actions make Drafts a compelling place to get work done on iOS. Combine it with Workflow, and you can take your text and extend it into anything Workflow touches. You get power in and outside of the app. Also, it means apps do not need to support Drafts directly. Apple owning Workflow makes it more likely apps will opt into its ecosystem.
You can run an action that recreates Find and Replace. You have to install this Workflow, and then this Action into Drafts. Once you have the Workflow installed, you can call it in any app. Installing the Drafts side allows you to call it from Drafts’ menu rather than the share sheet.
If you are looking for other apps to send your Drafts to, there is a workflow to create a new Calendar event in plain text. Install this Workflow, and then install this Action to Drafts. The Action page also details the format you need to use for your events to show up correctly.
- Summary : text
- Day : date
- Start (leave blank if all-day event) : hour
- End (leave blank if all-day event) : hour
- Location (leave blank if none) : text
Finally, you can use an action to convert Markdown to rich text rather than to HTML. Install this Workflow and this Action to Drafts. When you run this action, you now have your Markdown doc as rich text copied to the clipboard.
The Place to Start Working
The vast number of Actions available means that most app types have some integration. Drafts transforms the notes format into a vehicle for completing your ideas. This app can be the gateway drug to using your iOS productivity. Drafts can also help you dip your toe into automation.
Are you already a Drafts app user? Let us know what your favorite Actions are. If you have an Action you have created we want to know the link. Share it in the comments.