My Writing Nook Teaches iPad Some Smart Word-Processing Chops
It's one thing to jot out some notes or memos on an iPad, but with longer-format work, the virtual keyboard and limited screen space can become a drag. That alone won't keep writers from trying, though, and with My Writing Nook, they'll get a clean, simple word-processing interface as well as a smartly implemented dual-platform approach that lets them wirelessly sync their masterworks beteen iPad and desktop.
07/06/10 5:00 AM PT
The iPad isn't designed for heavy word-processing. In portrait mode, its virtual keyboard is too small for comfortable touch typing. In landscape mode, the keyboard occupies so much real estate that the most text that fits on the screen is a paragraph or two. Those inadequacies may be tolerated for notes or short email messages, but they overwhelm the tablet's abilities when scribbling longer compositions.
Apple practically concedes those deficiencies with its Pages application, which focuses its functions more on document design than composition. Still, for many iPad jocks, taking a crack at essays, articles or even a novel on the tablet will be endeavors too tempting to resist. For those daring souls, My Writing Nook (US$4.99) is an attractive application.
The software, which also has versions for the iPhone/iPod touch and Android phones, has both an online and an iPad component. Documents can be synchronized between components. That means changes made in a copy of a composition on one platform will be reflected on the other. So you can start working on a document online, adjourn your session and pick up where you left off on your iPad. When you finish your session on the tablet, you can return to the online version and all your iPad changes and edits will be there.
The dual-platform approach greatly enhances the capabilities of the iPad as a word processor. While still suffering from the real estate problems inherent to its form, having the ability to effortlessly work on a composition on a larger screen during the creative process makes composing on the tablet less confining.
Active Word Count
Moreover, the online piece of the system runs on the Google App Engine infrastructure . That should be reassuring to users concerned with the security and reliability of documents they store on the online service. In addition, documents can be downloaded to a local hard drive or sent to an email account for added peace of mind.
The iPad interface is nice and simple. In portrait mode, there's a long column of text with a tool bar at the top of the screen and status bar at the bottom of it. In landscape mode, the tool and status bars are supplemented with a document column added to the left side of the display.
Beside each title in the document column is a button. You can customize the colors of the buttons. That can help you organize your documents. Related documents, for instance, can have the same colored buttons.
The number of words in each document is listed below its title, as well as on the status bar. The word count is active. As words are added or subtracted from a document, those changes are immediately reflected in the word count. Well, almost. There was some latency in the program between the time document changes were made and the time the word counter changed. Nevertheless, a little latency is better than no active word counter at all, which is the case in too many word processors these days, including Apple's Pages.
'Dark and Stormy Night'
Above the document column is an edit button for deleting files. Below it is a sync button. Touching it synchronizes content between the iPad and the online version of My Writing Nook.
There are four tools on the right side of the toolbar at the top of the screen.
The settings tool lets you adjust the program's account, editor and password options. In the account settings, you need to type in a password and user name for a Google account. If you don't have one, you can create one from within the program. From the editor settings, you can chose a font and font size for your document and toggle its automatic spell check and active word count features. There's also a "dark and stormy night" option that reverses the display to white letters on a black background.
The email tool allows you to email a document to anyone. There's also a dictionary tool for looking up words in a dictionary or thesaurus and a tool for creating new documents.
My Writing Nook is a simple but elegant writing system for the iPad. It's a system that excels for scribes whose focus is writing rather than creating documents.