Apps to help you write on the go

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Syd Bolton, Special to QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:08 AM ET

I am sitting at Cainsville Tire as I write this, having just "one of those days". Most days that start with a visit to the dentist can usually only get better as the day wears on, but in this case, it has gotten worse. On my way to another appointment I was told my rear tire was looking rather flat and indeed a small nail decided to find its way into my life. I don't need any new friends

I usually write this column from the comfort of a desk and chair, on a trusty keyboard that I've had for years. I use Microsoft Word which provides me confidence in pointing out any glaring grammatical or spelling errors I might have made, and my proficiency with a keyboard surprises even me sometimes. It's obvious the practice I've had over the years has paid off.

Sitting here with just my phone has left me time to contemplate the rest of my day as I hear the sounds of nuts and bolts zipping on and off the tire rims in the background, with the volume temporarily increasing as the shop door opens with the buzz of workers coming and going. A Toronto Sun sits invitingly on the table as I'm stretched out in a comfortable deck chair and I realize that my column deadline is looming and I've already had to rearrange a medical appointment. It would be great if I could take advantage of my waiting time by writing my column here but I only have my smart phone.

While I'm not nearly as quick with the touchscreen keyboard (and honestly other than direct mind link I'm not sure anything can compare to a physical keyboard for speed), I decide I'm going to attempt this column on the iPhone. My first thought was that I could use the built-in Notes app, but how would I send the result somewhere I could access it from my e-mail? I could copy and paste the result in an e-mail I suppose but that just seems archaic. There has to be something that interfaces directly with Dropbox, allowing me to save my document to the cloud so I can retrieve it later on a desktop computer.

Several weeks ago I wrote my column using an iPad and a physical Bluetooth keyboard. I used an app called Quick Drafts that worked perfectly and saved directly to Dropbox. When I looked at my iPhone, I didn't immediately see it available (turns out that it is) but that caused me to uncover a very simple app called Plain Text. I just want to write and save to Dropbox and if you are reading this right now, then it was successful.

Now Android users, I'm not forgetting about you either. You can do something very similar with an application called Draft. Although it costs a couple of bucks, it's great and has very good Dropbox integration. It has many other features over Plain Text and has a good overall rating in the marketplace.

I don't want to leave out BlackBerry users, you have choices too such as Tiny Text which at $0.99 is a good deal and will run on BlackBerry 10. Like the other apps I've talked about here, it also has Dropbox integration built in.

I truly believe that the best apps are ones that solve a particular problem and don't necessarily try to be everything to everyone. Plain Text is free, is catching my typos, and is (hopefully) saving my document to the cloud. That's all I could ask for when writing on the go.

Ironically, when I was at Clarence Street Dental in the morning I mentioned to Naomi, my hygienist, how the sounds of her polishing my teeth sounded just like the sounds of a pit crew changing a tire. I would have never guessed I would be hearing those sounds so soon or writing my column on the go. I'm just glad the technology in my pocket came to the rescue just when I needed it the most.

Syd Bolton is the curator of the Personal Computer Museum and the manager of Information Technology at ACIC/Methapharm. You can reach him via-email at sbolton@bfree.on.ca or by snail mail care of The Brantford Expositor.


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