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MinnSpec -- Minnesota Speculative Fiction Writers Message Board MinnSpec -- Minnesota Speculative Fiction Writers Discussion Forum › Future of writing tools and mobile/tablet devices?

Future of writing tools and mobile/tablet devices?

Cjad E.
Minneapolis, MN
Post #: 257
All - A lot of us like to speculate the future so I have a question to pose to everyone...
With tablets like iPads, Windows and Android gunning to replace the desktop (and laptops) in the not too distant future, what are your thoughts about them replacing computers? Also, what do you think the future of writing software such as Scrivener, MS Word, Google Docs, and cloud note programs such as Evernote and Catch Notes?
Will RTF be the format to reign in the new world, or will HTML documents? From researching, it looks like a lot of cloud apps use HTML for formatting as well as synchronizing with the cloud.
The reason I am asking is that I have been putting out feelers regarding Scrivener for Android and I keep hearing, 'not this year, some time in the future we might.' They haven't started a project yet and are just starting design for iPad/iPhone. It took them about a year and a half to get the Windows version of Scrivener out of beta and that's after a year or so of them starting the development. Don't get me wrong, I really like Scrivener, I just want to use my tablet for writing but want more robust software than Evernote or Catch Notes. I don't want to wait 2-3 years
With the migration to mobile/tablets approaching, do you think this type of app would find a good market and/or be well received by writers? Ok, I know there are writers out there that still use typewriters to write instead of computers so there will be hold outs. Though with a good writing tool, maybe it would help?
Any thoughts or comments would be greatly appreciated - even if just to join in the fun of speculation part.
Thanks in advance,
Eli E.
Minneapolis, MN
Post #: 144
Cjad, I don't have much to add to the discussion yet--but I probably will.

My netbook recently decided it doesn't want to be a computer anymore. Because my wife is a technophile and I'm tech-apathetic, I'm inheriting her iPad 1 while she gets a The New iPad. Part of the handover process has been trying to figure out what apps are available for writing with the tablet. I'm especially keen to find something useful for playwriting. When the iPad is mine for realz and I've spent some time getting to know it, I'm sure I'll have more to say.
Dan G.
Minneapolis, MN
Post #: 524
What I want for writing: Full sized keyboard, laptop-sized screen, folds up small enough to fit in a shirt pocket. Not yet available, alas.

Preferences in available software: A nice, simple text editor not heavily-optimized for coding. My current favorite is Leafpad (Linux program.)

A word processor to check spelling, and put material into submissible form. Current favorite: LibreOffice; multi-platform freeware.

What I do not want: autocorrect, unless it can be turned off. Spell checking as I type, unless it can be turned off.
Andre G.
Minneapolis, MN
Post #: 405
A usable keyboard tends to be pretty bulky, alas. I've considered getting one of those little projector keyboards that uses a laser to draw the keyboard on any flat surface and uses a camera to tell when you press a key. But of course, it's impossible to touch type at all with such a device.
Margaret T.
user 12895497
Minneapolis, MN
Post #: 51
And if we're writers, it seems to me that a good keyboard is a must. That's a sticking point for these tablets.
Fairfield, CA
Post #: 3
Nope sorry, I won't be getting a tablet of any kind in the near future, keyboard and screen are just too small. Those ittybitty screens and keyboards are okay for 15 year-old eyes, but as you age they become rediculous.

Also I think that both desktop PCs and laptops will be around for many years yet. I work as a PC/laptop support tech in corporate America and I've seen NO indications that big corp is going to spend the money to replace their desktops and laptops, (most even limit the number of laptops and perfer desktops). Why you ask, simple; desktops are cheaper, much cheaper than even laptops, and the notebooks can't handle the work load that most corporate environments require.

So I think we'll all be able to have our nice big keyboards and full size screens for a while to come. As far as software is concerned, I'll stick with MS office products for a bit yet. I started with Ashton-Tate's Framework, and loved it, but it lost to Microsoft and I've been using Word ever since. I know how to make Word do what I want it to, and again, until the corporate world abandons it, it'll be around for a while.
Sam H.
user 11824033
Saint Paul Park, MN
Post #: 27
Part of the problem with developing a large-scale project for a tablet is that tablets could very well be disappearing in a few years. The small-device market is set up to get us to buy new things every 2-3 years. This means that the companies producing these things are continually looking for the next new thing. What if the next new thing is a wrist-mounted computer with HUD glasses? (a possibility. A couple of companies are working on "augmented reality" via HUD glasses) This will change the face of computing devices, again, making many of the applications obsolete.

Here's where we run into the problem.
As a whole, writers are not at the front of the technology curve. Many of us still write with a pen in a book made of (gasp) paper. We resist change. We get comfortable with something, and want to continue using it. We don't want to have to learn how to run a new program every couple of years. Thus, a program aimed at writers is going to need staying power. Scrivener is not a program that will make up its development costs with a few hundred sales (not with a cost of $45.) They're counting on word of mouth to help in building a large number of sales over the years.

Therefore, it's a huge gamble for Literature and Latte to determine whether or not to sink development time and funds into an Android version. They can be reasonably certain that Apple is going to continue producing some form of tablet, because Apple is a little more stable with regards to ending product lines, so starting with iPad is a smart start. After that, if there is still a viable market, they can port the programs to Android. It may be inconvenient to those with Android devices, but it's a sound, careful business decision.
Eli E.
Minneapolis, MN
Post #: 147
A usable keyboard tends to be pretty bulky, alas. I've considered getting one of those little projector keyboards that uses a laser to draw the keyboard on any flat surface and uses a camera to tell when you press a key. But of course, it's impossible to touch type at all with such a device.
Andre, do you think that, in a couple more generations, tablets will have projector keyboard capacity built in? The external projectors I've seen for this are fairly large and klunky.

I did a fair bit of research on external keyboards when I decided to inherit Leora's iPad. There are foldable keyboards, but I fear that, in my hands, they would suffer the same fate as a flip phone: tiny hinges+klutzy hands=disaster. There were also keyboard cases, but all the ones that are compatible with the iPad 1 suffer from poorly considered design. Those for iPad 2 and 3 seem to have worked out a lot of the kinks. Let's the time this one conks out on me in 2-3 years, they'll be up to, what, gen 5 or 6? Or we'll have moved on to something else entirely!
Cjad E.
Minneapolis, MN
Post #: 258
Wow! Great comments everyone.
Dan - Yes, customizability is a must. I too dislike auto-correct in most cases.
Andre - I've been researching the 'feedback' conundrum you speak and for mobiles they are finding that users do not necessarily need the vibrate feedback if they have a visual cue like the key flashing or some other visual cue.
Eli - Brookstone has a nice solid feeling keyboard with case for the iPad. There are several Bluetooth keyboards out there that get very high ratings such as a Logitech, a Targus, and a Motorola that get very high reviews. Though honestly, I was looking more for an Android tablet. I see there is an Apple Wireless keyboard that works with the iPad for ~$60-70. I also saw a projector for the iPod/iPhone at Brookstone as well. It was pretty awesome, though over $200 and is bulky in comparison to the device.
Nightcloud - I agree, there will always be a need for a large screen and efficient peripheral devices like keyboards. I did hear a rumor that BestBuy corporate was looking at doing some work that would allow their employees to work off tablets or anything that can run the software they need to do their jobs. There are other companies I have heard looking in to this sort of thing as well.
Sam - As a developer type that uses a computer all day, I often use pen and paper to write first drafts because there's just a different connection in my brain that allows my creative juices to flow better than clacking keys. My first edits are typically when I type up the story. You also bring up some good points. If I wrote an app like this, it would have to be more of a labor of love because I know I'm not going to make a living from it.
Thanks again!
Conrad Z.
Minneapolis, MN
Post #: 188
I tried a windows tablet (Dell Latitude ST) for work and ended up returning it. Tablets and smartphones are great for consuming media of all sorts: videos, e-books, webpages etc... But I found that input was a problem. Tapping on the screen is fine for apps and angry birds, but for text entry, it simply can't come close to a keyboard. The writing recognition was decent, but not nearly as fast at typing. Once you learn to type on a keyboard without looking or thinking, anything that isn't as fast will slow you down and get in the way.

In the end, I kept taking the damned tablet back to my desk and docking it to use the keyboard, and that was just for simple e-mails and database entry. I didn't even try to do any real writing on it. Returned it and got a laptop that has a solid state hard drive (Dell Latitude E6220) and I wouldn't trade it for ten tablets. Meanwhile, my smartphone (Verizon Droid Charge) fills in the gap of "small media consumption device" nicely. But I don't write anything on it aside from the occasional text or terse e-mail.

While bluetooth keyboards sound like a good idea, now you have to bring 2 devices with you. Actually you need 3: keyboard, tablet and some kind of stand to hold the tablet up on the tabletop. Now, what you have is an underpowered, overpriced laptop in three pieces, and two sets of batteries to keep charged up. Ick.

Perhaps voice recognition is the key. Whatever it is, it will need to at least come close to whatever Words Per Minute I can push into the device through a keyboard before I'd consider it for writing.

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