Why Should I Use Drafts?04 Aug 2018
Drafts is an iOS app that’s been around for quite some time. In it’s fifth iteration it has become a veritable power house of an app with advanced automation features and a pro subscription option to match; though there’s also now a free tier too. For many, Drafts is a bit of a conundrum. Not fitting neatly into categorisation as a text editor, an automation tool, or anything else. It is quite distinct, yet overlaps many traditional app areas. But today I thought I’d give you some reasons as to why you should use Drafts.
Drafts is developed by a single indie developer, Greg Pierce, under the nom de plume of Agile Tortoise; also the company name. It was developed as a way to capture text and then send it on to a destination afterwards. The oft quoted example is that you start a text message and realise that it is better as an e-mail. Traditionally you would have to cut and paste between apps. With Drafts, the idea was that you capture the content and then decide on the appropriate destination at the end. The foundation idea is to eliminate the cognitive load and thought from the initial creation and figure out what to do with what you have only when you know what you have.
Over the years, Drafts extended beyond the simplistic destinations, embracing things such as the share sheet, Markdown, and scripting. With the latest release, Greg supercharged Drafts and took it to a whole new level which continues to be iterated on. There are even plans in motion to deliver a Mac version of the app.
But it is Just a Text Editor, Right?
I’d actually like Drafts to offer me more text editor capabilities, but I’d have to say that it isn’t a text editor as the focus isn’t really on creating and editing text. In much the same way that an application like Microsoft Word is a word processor, I’d describe Drafts as a text processor. It has a huge amount of power and focus on transforming the text it has into other formats and passing it on to other locations.
Where Drafts always falls down for me as a text editor is that it focuses on creation and not on retrieval; or rather its storage is built around a proprietary database, which is fine, but it means round tripping a file from local and cloud storage locations is far more complex than open, edit, save. That isn’t what it’s designed to do, and so there is friction there.
Who Needs Drafts if you have Shortcuts and the Share Sheet?
If you are using Shortcuts (née Workflow) and the iOS share sheet, then the answer to that question is probably you. Shortcuts is hugely powerful, but with Shortcuts integration, native integration with numerous web API and the facility to roll your own, and scripting functionality built in, it gives you a much richer experience. You have a much larger area in which to work with text, a customised in app actions that you can use to build the content and then push it out to a final destination. Rather than simply being equivalent, it opens up new options and improves efficiency.
My Top Reasons to Use Drafts
For me, my fondness for Drafts currently comes down to the following:
- Drafts provides an efficient way to capture content be it by typing or dictation, on your Apple devices (Mac pending) that you can then easily manipulate in whatever way you decide at that point in time.
- When you decide where to send your content, you can transform and send it easily. Not just to one destination though. It can be multiple different destinations of differing types. Afterwards you can even have the draft automatically tagged, flagged, archived, trashed, or a combination of these.
- Drafts has versions. You can skip back to an earlier version of a Draft to undo or review something that you did several editing sessions ago. Not something I need a lot, but always happy to have it there when I need it.
editorobjects allow access to the text in a draft and through that the manipulations of the actual text as a whole or some sub-section (e.g. current selection). This is hugely powerful in terms of text manipulation and provides an interactive level of automation.
- Drafts’ has an area of functionality called Workspaces. Workspaces allow you to filter your Drafts using search criteria, which in turn allows you to align to your current area of focus for ongoing work. With custom action lists and keyboard rows this allows me an extra level of efficiency when working with my drafts.
- Web API interfacing is built into Drafts and Greg has developed actions, objects and methods for several common API that mean Drafts can quickly and seamlessly interact with services utilising an ingenious inbuilt credentials manager. This shifts away from previous reliance on URL scheme calls, and share sheet use with installed apps; thus making the turn around quicker by not requiring any app switching.
- Drafts has a vibrant community where users can seek advice, offer help, and the developer is highly active.