1. mashers

    mashers Contributor Contributor Community Volunteer

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    Can anyone recommend Mac + iOS apps?

    Discussion in 'Software' started by mashers, Jul 18, 2017.

    Hi all

    My current workflow looks like this.

    • I use Keynote to make a flow chart to plan my plot. Each node on the chart represents a chapter in my novel
    • I use Pages to write each chapter as a separate document. I number the chapters in tens so they stay in order, but can still insert chapters between if I need to
    • Pages and Keynote keep everything synced across my devices through iCloud

    This has been working well, but as I write more, I’m finding it cumbersome for two main reasons.
    • Renaming files to change the order of chapters is inconvenient
    • Calculating overall word count involves opening every document and adding up their individual word counts
    I have looked at some apps for Mac+iOS, but they’re quite complex. Essentially all I need is:
    • A word processor with simple formatting options
    • Chapters kept as individual documents within a story project, with the ability to drag and drop the chapters to change the order
    • Display of the word count of each chapter, and of the project as a whole
    • iCloud or Dropbox sync

    That’s all I need. Does anyone know if such a thing exists?
     
  2. Martin Beerbom

    Martin Beerbom Member

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    The first that springs to mind is Scrivener. Which does individual chapters within a project, counts words throughout your project, has an iOS version, and syncs via Dropbox. Of course it does a lot more, but, it's better to have functions and don't need them, then need them and don't have them... Just ignore that they're there.

    The second -- which, upon reflection, could suit you perfectly -- is Ulysses. It uses Markdown as native file format (plain text with enough formatting options for novels), keeps individual files within folders (you can drag and drop them around to change their order, and then export them all or just selected files as PDF, html, .doc...), has an iOS version and syncs via iCloud or Dropbox (iCloud is its default storage location. You can store elsewhere, but it's not quite elegant, as far as I am concerned, though it works). It does an individual word count for each file, and I think it can do it for multiple files, too. It's a rather simple app compared to Scrivener, but that's what you're looking for, right?

    ETA: It rather looks like Ulysses fits your requirements like a T. It has a simple, elegant, clutter-free UI and does exactly what you describe. You could even attach the Keynote workflow charts to each file... though you cannot make them within Ulysses. As they say, it's text, and text only. I checked, and yes, the word counter works for whatever group of files you select. The only drawback I see is file exchange with Pages or Keynote, since I don't really understand what's your workflow is with Keynote. If you just copy'n'paste chunks of text, and don't care much that the formatting is lost, that works, of course. With full formatting, the only option is via .docx between Pages and Ulysses, or via ePub without page formatting. /ETA

    Their both commercial solutions, though. Mac version for both ~$45, iOS ~$20 for Scrivener, ~$25 for Ulysses (hmm, Scrivener looks quite like the steal here considering the functionality it has. Not that you need it... yet... :) ). There are frequent rebate actions going on, and they have trial versions for the Mac version.
     
    Last edited: Jul 18, 2017
  3. mashers

    mashers Contributor Contributor Community Volunteer

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    Thanks @Martin Beerbom! I should have mentioned that I did look at Scrivener, but to be honest I found the interface a little busy and it does so much that I don't need at the moment. I like to keep things simple, though I do acknowledge what you said about those features possibly being useful in the future.

    Ulysses looks absolutely amazing, and in terms of the interface is exactly what I want. The only thing that puts me off is that although I am familiar with Markdown from using it on GitHub, I wouldn't want to be looking at it while writing fiction. I watched a video of Ulysses on YouTube just now, and it shows the text in its formatted form when exporting. Do you happen to know if it has the option to render the editor with the formatting? Or can you only edit in Markdown and then view it formatted when exporting?

    I'm an app developer and am actually considering writing my own novel writing app. The only problem is that implementing a rich text editor is an absolutely horrible experience in iOS.
     
  4. Wreybies

    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Given your above response, I fear my burstings are in vain, but I offer them regardless. :) I made this earlier this morning when I saw your thread, over breakfast and copious amounts of coffee, so please forgive the somewhat caffeinated exuberance. ;) Knowing now that you also design apps, please also forgive if I have employed a mode or register keyed more toward someone without that experience or knowledge.

     
  5. mashers

    mashers Contributor Contributor Community Volunteer

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    @Wreybies
    I'm speechless. That was so incredibly kind of you to make a video showing how I could use Scrivener in a way that works for me. You are absolutely right in what you said about the screenshots - everything I have seen of the app just looked so cluttered and busy, which doesn't work for me at all. They immediately put me off as they made it look amateurish, almost like an old piece of Windows 95 software. However, having downloaded the demo and opened it up, it looks as sleek as any modern Mac app, just as you said it would. I experimented with adding a couple of chapters, typing some stuff, checking the word count etc., and it's all fantastic. I also love the way I can change display settings without those changes persisting to the exported manuscript. The colour coding works for me too - I do this on my Keynote plan, with each character being represented by a different colour. I'm also writing in close third serial. Although I've done it a slightly different way on my plan (I've blended the colours to represent various character interactions) this will still work, as I notice that you can add labels and edit their colours. Perfect!

    I'm going to keep playing around with the demo and make sure I can get iCloud sync working before I consider copying and pasting my Pages documents into Scrivener. I'll also need to make use of the trial duration so I can wait to get paid before I can afford to buy, but you've convinced me - this is definitely what I need.

    Thanks so much again, I really appreciate the time you've taken to do this for me.

    P.S. It's funny to hear my username pronounced in an American accent. It's a nickname people call me in real life, so I've only ever heard it in a British accent. It sounded delightful :D
     
  6. Wreybies

    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Supporter Contributor

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    My pleasure. It was fun to ham it up. :-D

    Here's the other video I mentioned concerning getting the GUI down to a more streamlined look. ;)

     
  7. mashers

    mashers Contributor Contributor Community Volunteer

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    @Wreybies
    Thanks mate! That's really helpful :) Here's what I did with mine... not sure I can get it much more minimal ;)

    Screen Shot 2017-07-18 at 18.43.09.png
     
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  8. Martin Beerbom

    Martin Beerbom Member

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    Even if I'm beating the dead horse here -- as mashers seems to have fallen in love with Scrivener :) -- I just want to answer the question regarding Ulysses for interested readers of this thread: No, you cannot edit in a formatted way. You will always see the extra characters that Markdown uses for formatting. Ulysses does preview some things -- it boldens and italicize for the __ and ** emphasis, for instance. One can personalize it to an extent -- change the font, and the coloring on the Mac version -- but it will never look fully like the exported formatted. I won't make the headline font larger, for instance. I have made a screenshot with font Georgia and the simple theme that doesn't color code as much.
    Ulysses.png

    (To me, it looks more than good enough to work with, though I prefer Scrivener, too. But then, I come from a science background and did my first writing -- physics diploma and doctoral thesis -- in LaTeX, so I'm used to a code plain text look while writing :) ).
     
  9. mashers

    mashers Contributor Contributor Community Volunteer

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    @Martin Beerbom
    Thank you for following up! I do love Markdown, and the interface of Ulysses looks absolutely gorgeous (to use the preferred Apple adjective), but I think the Markdown characters would be too distracting.

    @Wreybies
    I've just been watching a YouTube video on Dropbox sync with Scrivener, and it looks great. Not quite as transparent as iCloud, but that's a small price to pay for the benefits of Scrivener :)
     
  10. Wreybies

    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Make sure whatever video you're watching is quite recent as regards the sync process. The advent of Scrivener for iOS was only a few months ago so the software took a major update to account for the iOS version.
     
  11. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor Community Volunteer

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    I've been using Scrivener syncing to Dropbox syncing to my iPhone for a few weeks, and I'm...enchanted. I had to tweak a setting or three, but it's working beautifully.

    Edited to add: And before that I was using bbEdit, which is just a text editor. So I'm not a lots-of-features person.
     
  12. mashers

    mashers Contributor Contributor Community Volunteer

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    Thanks, yeah the video was from the day of release of the iOS version. I actually had some credit on my iTunes account so I've bought the iOS version. I moved my project on my Mac into Dropbox/Apps/Scrivener, and it of course sync automatically whenever I save changes as I have the Dropbox client running already. Setting up Scrivener for iOS to link to my Dropbox was easy, and it works perfectly! I've just copied and pasted all of my Pages documents into a Scrivener project for my novel. It took ages as I wanted to keep the template formatting and indenting, so had to paste without formatting, but then had to make sure I redid any italics. It was a bit tedious, but once I'd done it I saved, quit Scrivener on my Mac, opened it up on my iPad, let it sync, and there was my novel :cool: This is going to be so much easier than having separate docs! :D It's my birthday on Friday, so hopefully I'll get an iTunes gift card so I can put that towards the Mac version.
     
  13. mashers

    mashers Contributor Contributor Community Volunteer

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    Just wondering, what options did you tweak? It's working pretty well, but if there's anything I should check in the settings it would be good to know.

    (Sorry for the double post by the way. For some reason I was getting an internal server error when I tried to reply to both of these posts in the same reply).
     
  14. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor Community Volunteer

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    On the phone it was mainly "Sync projects on close: Always" I've forgotten what I changed on the Mac, but I think that it was similarly about predictably triggering sync.
     
  15. mashers

    mashers Contributor Contributor Community Volunteer

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    Oh it actually asks you that when you enable Dropbox sync. I chose to do it so all I have to do is back out to the main menu and it kicks off a sync. It would be nice if it just kept doing it in the background like iCloud, but maybe Dropbox on iOS doesn't work like that.

    Thanks for your reply :)
     

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