What is Drafts for?

This morning, I tweeted about the half-off sale of Drafts 4, which is part of the App Santa promotion.

If someone you care about is still using Apple’s Notes app, buy them Drafts 4 before the half-off sale is over.

Dr. Drang (@drdrang) Dec 17 2014 9:10 AM

Although this was generally well received, I did get a little pushback from people who like Notes or use another iOS text editor.

The argument in favor of Notes was about what I expected: syncing across devices (including Macs) is seamless and automatic. Jason Snell said essentially the same thing on the most recent episode of Upgrade when he admitted to occasionally using Notes to a shocked and disappointed Myke Hurley. It’s not a bad reason for using Notes, but to accept it I have to suspend my disbelief that iCloud syncing really is seamless and automatic. I’d much rather use Notesy or Editorial, which sync via the more reliable Dropbox and let me access my notes using my editor of choice on the Mac.

So if I have Notesy or Editorial, why bother with Drafts? It comes down to something David Sparks (or was it Merlin Mann?) said: “Drafts is the best place for text to start on your iOS device.” There are two reasons for that:

  1. It launches quickly and puts you right into a blank draft with the keyboard up and the cursor blinking. There’s no messing around with filenames or sorting through what you’ve written before; Drafts is optimized to capture your thought right now.
  2. Once you’ve captured it, Drafts can send it pretty much anywhere: Dropbox, Evernote, Google Drive, iCloud Drive, Facebook, Twitter, Mail, Messages, Reminders, Fantastical. It can create new documents or append to old ones. If your note was written in Markdown, it can format it for you. If the name weren’t already being used by an email client, Drafts could just as easily be called Dispatch.

In other words, Drafts isn’t so much a home for text as it is an incubator, a place for creating and processing text to be used elsewhere. In earlier versions, the processing was done primarily through URL schemes that handed the text off to other apps. With Drafts 4, the processing actions have been expanded, and you can now manipulate the text in a draft in either useful or silly ways with JavaScript. If you don’t feel comfortable building your own actions, there’s a directory of actions built by others that you can install with just a tap or two.

There’s no question but that using Drafts effectively takes more effort than using Notes. But it frees your text from the Notes silo and allows it to go almost anywhere. Well worth $5.