iPad Apple Pages and other apps for novel writing?

Discussion in 'iOS Apps' started by OldCorpse, Apr 21, 2019.

  1. OldCorpse macrumors 65816

    OldCorpse

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    #1
    I'm new to iPad, and I'm fixing to buy the Air 3. I have several use scenarios for it, and one of them is for writing long form - a novel (using Apple Smart Keyboard, unless there's a better alternative?).

    So now comes the issue of apps. The first, most obvious one - why not just use Apple Pages, since it's free and fully supported? Can you write a novel in Pages, or is it not optimal?

    If there are better app options for longform writing on the ipad, I'm interested - as long as it's not a subscription model (which is a hard "NO" for me, so definitely not f.ex. Ulysses). I've looked over several - including Scrivener for iOS (and sorry, but I'm just not a fan of Scrivener, and can't get over it - too complicated for me). Of the options, I've seen, I'm kind of interested in iA Writer which is quite cheap. But of course, I have no experience with any of these apps, hence my question.

    So what's your recommendation? Hardware: Smart Keyboard? Apps: Pages? iA Writer? X?

    TIA!
     
  2. BasicGreatGuy Contributor

    BasicGreatGuy

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    #2
    You could do writing in Apple Pages. However, if you ever decide to export elsewhere, you may end up with a lot of formatting problems. Apple Pages is not geared for serious novel type writing (possibly to ePUB). I would look to use something else that provides industry standard settings that will export to ePUB or similar use. iA Writer will work. It is very plain and straightforward, so as to not impede or distract from writing. Given that you don't want to get involved with Ulysses for subscription purposes, I would suggest you go with iA Writer.
     
  3. OldCorpse thread starter macrumors 65816

    OldCorpse

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    #3
    Hey, thanks - so basically, from what you're saying, Pages is out as far as trying to write a novel on an iPad. I guess iA Writer is a good choice. Any other apps to check out? TIA!
     
  4. BasicGreatGuy Contributor

    BasicGreatGuy

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    #4
    Not that I am aware of. I would start with iA Writer. And down the line if your writing gets serious enough where money gets involved with publishing, I would seriously look to Ulysses (even if temporarily) to help facilitate your writing in a more proficient, professional manner.
     
  5. sracer macrumors G3

    sracer

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    #5
    It really depends upon how you work. I've written three books that were subsequently published using Pages. I use the Notes app to store and organize fragments of thoughts and ideas that will eventually make it into the book I'm working on.

    Apple has done a stellar job in maintaining functional parity between iOS/macOS/web versions. If you properly use character styles and paragraph styles then exporting to Word format if needed will go smoothly. I like the ability to quickly and easily export to epub for drafts to get a feel for how it will look and feel in electronic form.

    I never know when and where inspiration will strike, so I like the flexibility of being able to bring up Pages and Notes on any device that I happen to have handy.

    The experience has been so effective that should I find the need to publish a revision to a previous book (created by other methods) I will convert it to Pages.
     
  6. Spacetime Anomaly macrumors member

    Spacetime Anomaly

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    #6
    I'll echo the above comment, both iPads & Macs come with everything you need to begin writing (Pages, Notes). Although, I personally enjoy Scrivener, which is only as complicated as you want it to be (just open up a new document and start writing). All my notes are in Apple Notes.

    The truth is, anything that renders text can be used to write. When I catch myself looking around for something new it's a sure fire sign that I'm procrastinating and should get back to work.

    Good luck.
     
  7. OldCorpse thread starter macrumors 65816

    OldCorpse

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    #7
    Thank you, Space Anomaly and sracer - truer words were never spoken - I'm procrastinating and should get back to work guilty as charged (endless search for best apps and best setups). But I'm trying to be responsible, I promise, once I have a half way decent app, I'm going all in. At the moment Pages seems to be the winner, not just because it's free - I mean, I'd pay for ONE TIME (subscription for word editor - NEVER) for something like f.ex. Scrivener, but I'm put off that I have to pay once for iOS and then again for desktop (and it's a lot for the desktop) - same with iA Writer. Not cool (I mean, I understand developers need to eat, but I can't spend an arm and a leg). The other thing is some of these apps tend to collapse once you have documents that reach novel lengths, so I want to avoid all that. Pages seems stable, plus you don't fear that the app will be abandoned. Hmm, I guess it's Pages?
     
  8. Spacetime Anomaly, May 3, 2019
    Last edited: May 3, 2019

    Spacetime Anomaly macrumors member

    Spacetime Anomaly

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    #8
    Scrivener is designed specifically to handle large, novel length work without slowing down. This is because it can view individual scenes, chapters, or the whole novel while only loading into memory what’s needed.

    Pages will be fine, however. I’d start with that. You shouldn’t run into any problems with Pages and you can always try something else later on if you want. It would be a simple matter of copy and paste.

    One trick I have found useful in Pages recently: If you apply header styles to your chapter titles, then make a table of contents, you can quickly jump between them while writing or editing. Handy stuff.

    Have fun writing.
     
  9. nouveau_redneck macrumors 6502

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    #9
    As a user of Scrivener on macOS, I find your use of Pages and Notes interesting in that it must be somewhat liberating in its lightweight and portable nature. Do you use one long Pages doc for the entire novel, or break it out in a hierarchical manner into multiple documents, perhaps versioning and classifying in some way, while in draft?

    Things that attracted me to Scrivener were its ability to present all my research, ideas, outlining and such in hierarchical manner within a single interface, saving to a single archive file. Also it's powerful means of tagging and classifying along with its various metadata abilities to organize. That said, I don't really use but a fraction of its features though do appreciate the ones I use. A drawback for me is that it is not as portable as you described with your method. Although there is an iOS version I don't use it, so ultimately I end up using Notes or voice memos on iOS when I need to save something before it vanishes, and merge it into Scrivener later on.
     
  10. sracer macrumors G3

    sracer

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    #10
    Yes! It IS liberating to have a lightweight and portable workflow. Added to that mix is an Alphasmart Neo2. These devices sell for $30 in like-new condition, have great keyboards, insane battery life, and are the ultimate (IMO) in distraction-free writing. I highly recommend it to anyone who needs to bang out a lot of text.

    As for how I use Pages and Notes in combination, it depends upon the project. For sermons and short seminars, I use one long Pages doc that starts out as an outline (sometimes I'll use a mindmap tool, SimpleMind is my favorite, to visually construct the outline). This outline gets filled in as I work through the material. The outlines for these are usually pretty basic and won't change (much, if at all) as I complete the work.

    For long seminars and books, I start out using Notes. I use the folders and note entries to create my outline. These documents are more complex in nature and so I often find the need to rearrange the elements of the outline to improve the flow. By using Notes this way, rearranging elements is as simple as drag-n-drop. Sometimes I need to add entries to the outline. Notes makes it easy to do.

    Once the first draft is complete, I recreate the Notes folder/note "outline" in a single Pages document (this gets the table of contents and chapters to set up correctly). I then gather the notes and place them into their respective places in the Pages doc.

    That's it in a nutshell. Obviously there's a lot more to it, but hopefully it gives you an idea of the general flow.

    Yeah, Scrivener is great in those respects. I've been experimenting with adding Google Keep to the mix. It is cross-platform. The thing I like about it is that it isn't hierarchical. Any relationship between the notes are created by the use of labels (tags). THAT has been helpful. Complex interconnects are easily possible using Google Keep. The downside to Keep is the lack of any text formatting. I sometimes like to bold something in a note to draw my eye's attention. That is not possible in Keep.
     
  11. OldCorpse thread starter macrumors 65816

    OldCorpse

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    #11
    What about Google Doc? Yes, it's online, but it's my understanding that you can work offline just a well, and it's a natural for cross-device capability. That said, I haven't sunk in any time investigating it, as figured you guys who have tried everything probably gave it a spin.
     
  12. sracer macrumors G3

    sracer

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    #12
    Google Docs is great for simple douments, but is entirely inadequate for anything of any complexity. Google Docs doesnt support custom fonts nor custom styles. I tried replacing my use of Pages with Docs, and it was pretty unsuccessful.
     
  13. OldCorpse thread starter macrumors 65816

    OldCorpse

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    #13
    Gotcha. Looks more and more like Pages it is...
     
  14. mtngoatjoe macrumors regular

    mtngoatjoe

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    #14
    Pages can export to Apple Books, so I would think some people are using it for long format writing.

    One thing I like about all of Apple's office apps... You can move from one device to another and pick up right where you left off. Even on a PC (you just access iCloud via a browser).
     
  15. OldCorpse thread starter macrumors 65816

    OldCorpse

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    #15
    I finally have all my hardware together - Apple Smart Keyboard, Apple Pencil, and even a couple of extra things just to try out - an adjustable stand for the iPad + bluetooth keyboard. Now I have no further excuse for procrastination. I'm going to bear down on the writing, testing out the best setup Apple Smart Keyboard, or stand+bluetooth keyboard. I've settled on Pages for now, and we'll see how that goes. Onward!

    Thank you everybody who contributed to this thread, and by all means, if you feel inspired you are welcome to post any further recommendations which I'll be happy to test out down the road. Thank you again!
     
  16. nightlong macrumors 6502a

    nightlong

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    #16
    A few words about your keyboard choice ... I don’t like the Apple Smart Keyboard for several reasons, no backlighting, no shortcuts, but worst of all it positions me too close to the screen and for long periods of writing always looking down, with your neck bent down can cause horrible neck problems. I use a bluetooth keyboard, positioned where I want it, with the iPad positioned up at eye level.

    If you can’t afford to have a Bluetooth keyboard to alternate with the ASK, just remember to stop and do some neck stretches every couple of hours.

    Of course, I’m presuming that like me you will do long stretches of many hours writing a novel, maybe you won’t be doing that, just a couple of hours here and there isn’t a problem.

    I love IA Writer, so simple, I also use Notes and Notability for handwritten notes, sometimes Pages, and finally Scrivener when I want to organise it all, on my MacBook. But IA Writer on IOS is great, really simple, saves to Dropbox, easy to get to the Mac.
     
  17. sracer macrumors G3

    sracer

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    #17
    I have found the ASK to be extremely comfortable for extended typing sessions. It has become one my favorite keyboards (though I no longer have an iPad that supports it).

    I'm not sure what you are referring to with regard to "shortcuts" but the ASK supports keyboard shortcuts. (simply hold down the Ctrl, Opt, or Cmd keys to see what shortcuts are available within the app)

    But you do bring up a very valid point with regard to screen position. The ASK doesn't allow for the iPad to be elevated on a stand and the screen can only be as far away as your arms allow it. :)

    Even though I enjoyed the ASK, I agree with you on the BT keyboard choice. I have a 1st gen Apple BT keyboard with an Origami case and it really is a terrific choice for use with an iPad.
     
  18. nightlong macrumors 6502a

    nightlong

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    #18
    Sorry, I meant function keys along the top row not shortcuts as you described
     
  19. OldCorpse thread starter macrumors 65816

    OldCorpse

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    #19
    OK, guys, I guess I should post some links. So, as I said, in addition to ASK, I bought a stand and a bluetooth keyboard.

    Here is the stand:

    https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B074J159V5/

    The advantages - it folds down, though not super thin; there are thinner ones, but they have issues (more about this in a second). In any case, it folds down compact enough to fit into my small shoulder-messenger bag. The smaller stands have issues such as not enough rigidity wherein the platform sags under the weight of the iPad, and also topples over when extended, especially if you try to touch the screen. The Kabcon stand I bought can still topple over if extended to its greatest extent, but it doesn't sag. All in all, I'm quite happy with it.

    For the keyboard, I bought something super cheap, but so far works quite well:

    https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00X5P8BJO/

    I've tested it out, and so far I'm quite satisfied. I bought a small hardcover case for it:

    https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07JZ179VJ/

    And again, it's small enough to throw into my modest-sized messenger bag. I considered the Logitech Keys-To-Go, but the reviews weren't quite as good:

    https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00R0I71S4/

    A big consideration for me was small size, so that's why I settled on choosing between these two.

    In any case, with the stand, I can put the iPad in portrait orientation, and type with the bluetooth keyboard and so far it's quite comfortable, and a bit higher than if the iPad were merely sitting on the table propped up a la ASK. That said, I quite like the feel of the ASK keyboard, but maybe I'm just a weirdo.

    The proof is of course in the pudding - we'll see how this setup works when I'm typing for any length of time.

    And finally, I confess I just couldn't leave well enough alone - although I'm still committed to Pages, I did sneak in a trial of Storyist on the iPad:

    https://www.storyist.com/

    I haven't had a chance to use it much, but that's something that I'll test drive too down the road. It's a journey :)
     
  20. Tajhad macrumors member

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    #20
    I would have to support the Pages choice. I use both Pages and Scrivener.
    But Pages has it for simplicity and ” just keep writing”. As stated it is free across all devices ( including PC’s vi cloud). The recent update for Table of Contents make it easy to pick up where you left off. I have a 90,000 word doc ( plus photographs) which flow smoothly and well.
    I tried a number of programs but kept coming back to Pages. It also has the advantage in the aspect of - if you want to include any media ( photos, graphs, etc ) it is easy to include and format.
    I use Scrivener as well - but for what I call my ”serious writing”. By that I mean text with no graphics ( it will do it - but is not as straight forward).
    Pages will also export as epub, pdf and word if needed. My formatting is fairly straight forward so I haven't had an issue the word conversion ( although others may have had a different experience).
    I think Pages is a little gem, often overlooked.
     
  21. OldCorpse thread starter macrumors 65816

    OldCorpse

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    #21
    Yes, I know Pages is good for multimedia, although for right now, I was simply looking for something that can handle a long text document - in fact, a novel. Basically, I was looking for an app that would be best suited for novel-writing on an iPad (as I am new to the iPad - I just bought my first a week ago, an Air 3).

    In any case, if Pages can handle a very long text file, then I'm all set.
     
  22. Tajhad macrumors member

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    #22
    --- Post Merged, May 12, 2019 ---
    It will do it no worries. Also has the advantage of - each time you save it ( not just the auto save) you will have a version of your document that you can go back to if there is an issue.
     

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