I AM A WRITER and I like technology. Interestingly, I get a pretty decent amount of flack for it. That fancy novel writing software? Please, a simple word processor works just fine. Oh, a computer? No, I absolutely must write by hand. Somewhere out there is a writer who insists on pounding The Great American Novel out with chisel and stone.
I still write by hand, and sometimes I use a word processor, too. But if there’s technology out there that will make my project easier – and dare I say, even better – then I’m going to give it a shot.
These apps aren’t all designed specifically for those working on books and writing/photography projects, but they definitely help make the task more manageable.
Use it for: Books (fiction or non)
I discovered this app years ago when it was called “My Writing Nook”. The web app runs on Google’s app cloud, so you’ve got access to your project from any computer with an Internet browser and connection.
The mobile app lets you access and edit your documents from your iPad, iPhone, or Android. So if you’re on the road when the fix to that one frustrating scene finally comes to you, you don’t have to wait until you can get to a computer – you can make the changes on your phone right there.
Both the web app and mobile apps feature autosave, a word count tool, a dictionary and thesaurus, and two back-up options in addition to Google’s cloud; downloading to your hard drive or emailing the documents to yourself.
The reason I keep going back to it is how clean the app is. There’s a sidebar with a list of your documents, save/download options, the word count, and other features. The rest of the screen is blank writing space. And if that’s still too much clutter, clicking the toggle button hides the sidebar completely.
Use it for: Photography books, travel journals
It’s apps like Snapseed that are making more and more photographers question whether spending the money on pricy photo editing software is worth it. The level of editing quality this app offers for photos is high, but the intuitiveness is what really sold me. Something about actually touching my photos on the screen – swiping to sharpen, pinching in to center the tilt-shift – just feels more artistic.
I’ve gone on long trips with lofty goals of creating a professional-level photo collection or stop motion video before. Every time, I come home with hundreds or even thousands of photos, but the mere idea of touching up each one with my clunky photo editing software is enough to put me off on the project. But editing with Snapseed is so precise, versatile, and quick that it makes creating a black-and-white road trip photo book or a family reunion slideshow with a vintage theme a super-fast project.
Use it for: All publishing projects
In my experience, writing a book involves procrastinating and making excuses. Publishing one requires actually meeting deadlines.
Wunderlist is a cloud-sync task manager that you can sync with a free web app and use to separate your tasks into lists – helpful if you’re working on multiple projects. If you’re collaborating with others, one of the most useful features of both the mobile and web app is that you can share entire lists with others via email.
You can also opt to get push notifications from Wunderlist when those deadlines are approaching, along with email reminders for any tasks.
Use it for: Notetaking for any publishing project
I’ve found this to be one of the most useful apps I’ve ever used when it comes to press trips, interviews, and other journalistic assignments. And even though the Premium version is a good deal at $5 a month, I’ve never upgraded – the free app is just incredibly comprehensive.
Evernote is like a media scrapbook that automatically organizes itself. The three main options you have for notes are text, audio, and photo. After creating a note, you can add tags and assign it to a specific notebook.
For me, it’s been especially helpful for taking notes on food; I can snap shots of dishes and wine labels, get a PDF of the menu, and grab an audio recording of the chef talking about his food – by the time the meal is over, the entire event is neatly organized into a notebook on my laptop.
And if you do choose to go Premium, you’ll be able to access those notebooks offline, as well as collaborate on big projects by allowing others access to edit and add to your notes.
Use it for: Photography books, travel memoirs
If you’re a regular Photobucket user, the benefits of this app are obvious: edit and add to your albums from your iPhone or iPad, browse others’ albums, and share images on your social networks.
Arguably the most important feature for those working on photography projects or travel journals is the geo-tagging. Once you swipe the option “on” in settings, each photo you take will be automatically tagged with your location. I’ve found this to be particularly helpful with food photography on those occasions when I forget exactly where I had a specific dish (and failed to take notes).
The thing I find interesting about Bento is that it has no “niche” – fans seem to use it for everything from event planning to genealogy projects.
The iPad and iPhone apps sync with Bento 4 for Mac, with extra templates for things like managing gigs, medical records, and yarn (seriously) available to upload. The iPad app also comes with 25 templates that are customizable, and allows you to view PDFs stored in media fields.
The Project Tracker tool may be the most useful for aspiring novelists and journalists; features include marking milestones, task lists, documents, photos, and time sheets.
Use it for: Books (fiction or non), memoirs, academic writing
I’ve written two novels using Scrivener and it’s difficult to explain just how helpful the program has been, even though I know I don’t use even half of its features. That’s kind of the beauty of it – there’s dozens of different tools that you can use or not use, depending on your writing method.
If you do prefer a little guidance, Scrivener includes project templates specifically for novels, scripts, and APA and MLA essays; another option is to design your own template. I typically outline a book before I write the first draft, so my favorite feature is the corkboard with index cards, which you can use to organize scenes.
It’s also easy to keep track of research with Scrivener; you can drag and drop pictures and other media from your browser or desktop directly into your notes. And I use the split-screen option frequently to compare drafts, or to reference my outline as I write.
Last December, developer Literature & Latte announced that Scrivener was in development for iOS; fans can expect to see Scrivener apps for iPhone and iPad sometime in 2012.
Use it for: Cookbooks and food memoirs
Writing a cookbook is one of those projects that sounds amazingly fun – until you actually start and realize just how much work it takes. My Recipe Book is a great tool for getting your recipes and photos organized.
You can enter details and pictures for your own recipes, including ingredients, instructions, serving numbers, and preparation time, then sort them by categories such as Indian or vegan. If you want to change the serving size of a specific recipe for your own cookbook, the app offers a Servings Adjuster feature so you don’t have to do the math yourself. There are also conversion tools for temperature, weights, and measures. And if you’re including a recipe you found online from sites like All Recipes, you can search, find, and upload it within the app.
9. Trip Journal / Viewer
Use it for: Travel memoirs and documentaries
No app can replace handwritten journal entries, SLR cameras, and real video equipment…but it never hurts to have a back-up. Trip Journal includes Google Earth integration so you can save and see your journey, pinpointing spots with notes, photos, and videos. It’s also a great reference to figure out stats like exact time and distance traveled.
Trip Journal is designed for the iPhone but also works on the iPod Touch and iPad; its companion app, Trip Viewer, is iPad-only and allows you to import your Trip Journal trips and view all of your media and trip statistics, as well as watch an animated slideshow of the journey.
Use it for: Printing for any publishing project
Print documents / emails / photos / web pages / anything remotely from your iPad, iPhone, or iPod Touch via 3G/4G directly to most existing wifi or shared printers, no additional software required. It’s a simple concept, but the phenomenal thing is it actually works.
I only use a fraction of the features this app offers. I should probably take advantage of the wifi hard drive that lets you mount your mobile device as a network disk on your laptop or home computer so you can access and print documents remotely. Or try out the option to convert documents and web pages to PDFs. But even without all that, this app is worth the price just for the ability to print anything on any printer.
****This post is brought to you in partnership between Matador and our friends at Intel, whose technology enables so much of the lifestyle in which we thrive. Join us in the conversation on Twitter with #IntelAlwaysOn