Tuesday, May 10, 2016

App Review for Writing on Your Phone

This post review different apps for writing on the iPhone. Apps discussed are Notes, Microsoft Word, Apple Pages, and Google Docs.

Recently I came across an e-book written by Andrew Mayne, a television personality and author.  In How to Write a Novella in 24 Hours, Mayne offers general writing advice on a several different topics. In one of the chapters, Mayne discussed how he uses his smart phone to write.

Writing Tools

Prior to the advent of computers there were really three ways to produce words that would eventually result in a book. If you had a generous budget you could dictate your writing and pay someone to transcribe it. If you were lucky enough to have a typewriter, you could type your pages. Finally, if you didn't have a budget or a typewriter, you could simply write words on paper. Computers have largely eliminated these problems, but still have one characteristic in common: you still need to carry a tool with you.

This is often my situation. Sometimes I write using my laptop and sometimes using my iPad with Bluetooth keyboard. However, after reading Mayne's article, I decided to experiment with typing on my phone.

The advantage of using phone to create content is that it is immediately available all the time. Who is without a phone for too long? You can now write a few sentences when waiting in line. You can write between other activities. With a dictation feature, you can even dictate a few sentences into the writing app of your choice.


For my Writing 365 project, where I am writing 1,000 words per day during 2016, I have been using Microsoft Word for Mac and Apple Pages for iPad and Mac. At the same time, I have used Google Docs to create outlines for various documents.

Since I already have the apps for Word, Pages, and Docs on my iPhone, I decided to determine which would be best. I decided to use the classic speech, The Gettysburg Address, by Abraham Lincoln.

Microsoft Word for iOS

I first opened Word for iPhone, pasted the text of the speech and viewed the result. The default when both creating documents and opening existing documents is to display the text as a full page, and you have to scroll to view full paragraphs. There is a button to toggle between page view and text view, but because the default is the page view, this requires an extra step. The Word app also requires a Microsoft account to edit documents.

Apple Pages for iOS

Apple Pages provides the same basic app across platforms. While there is considerable additional functionality on the Mac, the iOS versions are still fairly powerful. Pages works well on the iPad, but has the same problem as Word on the iPhone. Unlike Word, I could not find a toggle button to switch between text and page views.

Google Docs

Google Docs defaults to the text view, with a toggle button to switch to page view. This is perfect for the iPhone. Since all three apps provide for basic formatting, including paragraph styles, Google Docs provides the best scenario: text view which is perfect for iPhone and basic formatting capabilities.


Notes provides basic text entry, but only offers limited style or formatting options (apparently with no way to modify the styles).


  1. I don't have an iPhone, but I do use my iPad to write quite a bit. My favorite app for writing on that device is called Daedalus, since it really helps limit the distractions and helps me focus on doing nothing but writing. I believe you can use it on the iPhone as well, so you may want to check it out: http://daedalusapp.com

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