my ipad (and iphone) to scrivener workflow

April 28, 2010

(UPDATE: You might be interested in my more recent post on iPad writing apps. Some can sync with Scrivener 2.0.)

Despite my initial concerns that the iPad seemed geared for consuming rather than creating, I’m finding it can be a great tool for capturing, and even developing, some ideas. As I hoped in that same post, developers are coming along and making some great tools. (One note: everything I describe here can also work on an iPhone, and I’m using it that way too.)

While it looks like Scrivener isn’t going to be an iPad app anytime soon, the way the iPad fits in my workflow, I’m not sure I will need the full feature set of Scrivener on it anyway. What I need is a workflow that allows me to capture ideas, research, and some initial drafts that can be easily transported to Scrivener for further work.

This week, I’ve shaped the workflow, and I think it’s going to work out great. Here are the pieces:

  1. Words are captured in SimpleNote. (The iPad version of this was approved late Monday, and I experienced glee when I saw it.) When it is a note that I want to indicate as something current, I append 3-5 Q’s at the end of the title, depending on how current or important it is. Since there aren’t any words in English that have more than one Q in a row, this makes it easy to find these notes later, and the Q key is always easy to get to up there in the corner of even an iPhone keypad. (I learned this trick from Merlin Mann in this MacPowerUsers episode. Brilliant.) Note that in SimpleNote, the first line of text becomes the title.
  2. All my SimpleNote notes sync with Notational Velocity on my Mac. David Sparks had a great post on SimpleNote and Notational Velocity yesterday…read it.
  3. Notational Velocity saves all my notes as text files. This is critical and can be set in the preferences. It also means that all your notes can be searched via spotlight, so it’s a handy setting.

  4. I set up a smart folder to show my all my “qqq” and up notes. This is easy to do via the Finder menu. For now, I have a link to this folder residing in sidebar of my Finder, but I might drag it to the dock too.
  5. When I’m ready to work in Scrivener, I open the smart folder and drag the relevant files into the research or drafts folder. And my words have arrived through the ether with minimal thought or effort on my part. It is, dare I say, magical. The files are there and waiting for me when I need them.

There are two things that make me giddy about this workflow. First, sync happens. My thoughts move between devices, waiting right where I need them. I don’t have to plug in via USB and move docs around in a buried window in iTunes.

Second, SimpleNote functions as my primary notes reference and text capture app, which means less switching. The only thing it really lacks is a word count, but that’s not usually that important to me at the drafting stage anyway.

Enjoy, and if you figure out a way to make this workflow even better, let us all know in the comments.

Latest Posts