Friday, May 27, 2011

App Happy

by Niki Turner

Can you imagine writing an entire novel by hand? Even using a manual typewriter seems ponderous and painful these days. As computers literally shrink to fit in our hands, and new software applications (aka apps) spring onto the market faster than category romances, we rely on those handy-dandy apps for more and more activities. Sesame Street even made a song about it. (Yes, that Muppet in the bike helmet appears to have a goatee.)

I have an app for calorie counting and an app for making to-do lists on my iPhone. My husband keeps track of his construction jobs, supplies and hours to sync with his accounting software.

My son-in-law uses an app to calculate the Ph balance and needed additives for the pool where he works. My daughter has an app on her smart phone to keep track of the quantity and quality of dirty diapers my grandson makes.

Yep, there's even an app for poop.

Diapers aside (thank goodness) apps can be incredibly helpful in our high-speed society. Even if you don't have a smart phone, there are apps for your computer desktop, too. Here are a handful of suggested apps for writers and other creative types. Most of these are for Apple products, but similar apps are likely to be available for other platforms. Hopefully, this will give you an idea of the range of possibilities out there!

Dragon Dictation

Who hasn't had a fabulous snippet of dialogue, or a plot idea, or a great name for a new character, appear in your head while you are driving down the highway? The free Dragon app records your speech using voice recognition software and then texts or emails it to you.


From the folks at How Not To Write, this little app with it's old-fashioned typewriter icon offers writing accountability on your phone. Very helpful for Nanowrimo participants.

For the iPhone and for the web, My Writing Nook offers a convenient way to jot down a few quick paragraphs while you're waiting for a kid to get out of soccer practice, or standing in line at the grocery store. I'm not sure how much writing I could get done on my tiny iPhone screen, but I'd use this in places I didn't want to be heard talking to my Dragon!


Unlike the previous apps, Evernote is available across a number of platforms. This organizational software app has been praised by publishing guru Michael Hyatt, as well as many others. Think of Evernote as your traditional writer's notebook on steroids. Record text, photos, even voice memos, that you can access from your phone, your computer, or the web. Terrific potential for those research trips! If you want more details about using Evernote as a writer, check out Michael Hyatt's post on the subject.

Story Tracker

When the day arrives (or if it has already) that you are sending multiple submissions and queries and proposals to different publishers and agents and critique partners, don't clog up your gray matter with all those pesky details like who and when and where and whether you've heard back or not. Keep track of it all with this handy app.  The "lite" version is free.

Focus Writer

Social networking is both boon and bane to the lonely writer staring at a computer screen. Sure, just a few minutes to check your Facebook status, and you'll get right back to that difficult scene that's giving you fits, right? Focus Writer offers a distraction-free writing environment. (No, it won't make your kids, dog, or husband disappear.) My favorite feature? The typewriter sounds.

Today's question: If you could have an app for anything (one that doesn't already exist) what would it be?

 Niki Turner writes romantic fiction, Christian non-fiction, blog posts, articles in the local newspaper, lengthy grocery lists, and Facebook status updates. Her first completed manuscript won second place in the 2009 Touched By Love contest for contemporary category romance. Colorado natives, Niki and her husband of 20+ years have four children  (three at home) and are new grandparents to a baby boy. In 1998 they planted a church in rural northwestern Colorado. Currently, they share their home with three teenage boys, two black Lab mutts, and Niki’s absurdly spoiled Westie, Archie. Niki can be found at In Truer Ink, her personal blog and website, here at Inkwell Inspirations, and at The Pastor’s Wife Speaks


  1. Good morning, Niki. Very informative post. I downloaded the free version of StoryTracker over a year ago, but it's limited to 5 stories, 5 markets and 5 submissions. Several months ago when it wouldn't let me input more, I dished out the $6.99 for the full version. I haven't regretted it yet. Since then it has been updated so it also lets you keep track of more writing submissions (shhh - like contests). It helps keep track of those agents who say, 'if you don't hear from me in 7 wks it means I've passed' and things like that because at a glance you can see how many days the submission has been out.

    I also use Evernote, but not as much as Michael Hyatt. Probably because there's an app I downloaded first and like better. And that's Take a Note. It allows you to input info by text, audio, photo or a drawing. Because of the drawing capability, I think it's better than Evernote.

    ScriptWrite is a writing app for screenwriters on the go. It uses symbols to denote stage direction, dialogue, action, etc to turn your words into an actual script format. I have yearnings to write a script so for now, I'm fiddling with this app and learning how the process works.

    Now, I'm off to find out why Take a Note didn't show up as an available app... yowza!

    Great post to start the weekend, Niki.

    Anita Mae.

  2. Niki, because of your post, I discovered that my Take a Note app is no longer available - and neither is the backup!

    So, I've just finished transferring all my notes. Phew!

    Thank you so much. :D

    Anita Mae.

  3. Hmmm... I'm quite curious how the, ahem, Diaper app works.

    If I could have an app that would do anything, it would be a Rosie the Robot app. She would, of course, cook and clean for me so I'd never again have to wash dishes or figure out what (or how) to cook for dinner.

    Fun post, Niki.

  4. Wow! Excellent post. Kristen Hannah writes all her books by long hand and then has someone type them up for her. I can barely read my own handwriting! Can't imagine having to do that--or wanting to. :) Thanks for this great information.

  5. Hahahaaaa! That video is awesome!

    I got my iphone only 2 weeks ago. How did I ever live without it?

    Evernote is one of my favorites. So is my calorie/fitness tracker. And of course my bible app.

    We are planning a (surprise) trip to Disney World this summer and I downloaded two free apps that tell you the wait time for attractions and have maps.

    This is such a fun topic and I love the way you applied it to writing!

  6. Hi all! I'm sorry I'm late replying, but I was up past midnight downloading apps... yeah. The good news is I started working on my WIP first thing this morning and got a good 1700 words done. Cool!

    Thanks Anita! I'm sorry your Take A Note is obsolete, but I'm glad you found out about it and were able to transfer your stuff.
    I think I'll be able to stick with the freebie version of Story Tracker for a while, at the rate I'm going.

  7. Suzie, I have NO idea how the diaper app works and I don't think I want to find out! I felt bad after I laughed at her for using it... found myself caught in that horrible generation-gap moment of, "YOU survived and WE didn't have a diaper tracking app!"

    Love the Rosie the Robot idea. And I bet you'll like my app idea. The Ruby Slippers app. You click three times, say where you want to go, and it transports you there. No planes, trains, or automobiles. Cool, huh?

  8. Hi Jessica! Glad you stopped by!
    I agree, the idea of writing a book in long hand is horrifying. Makes my fingers ache just to think about it!

  9. Hi Bex! Glad you liked the video. Too funny. Sesame Street has always been pretty "cutting edge" but that surprised me!

    I was anti-iPhone for a long time after my husband (gadget nut) got his. And then we went to Las Vegas for our anniversary and I fell in love with his phone! He bought me one for my birthday and I love it!

    Wow, apps for Disneyworld! That's cool. How do they come up with this stuff? It's amazing!

  10. I'd like the app where you stop the world and get off or at least get a lot of stuff done while everyone else is in freeze frame.

    Mostly I'd like to know how to read a pdf on my Itouch. I think Anita explained it to me but I'm , ah, not very techno unless someone can actually physically show me how to do it and I take notes as I go along...

    My granddaughter has a page full of apps that are learning games. Sadly I have many less apps. (she's not yet three--I'm not saying she's a prodigy but she is very focused...)

    Will take Ruby Slippers, Niki. Can we meet for coffee next week?

  11. Although I love technology, I haven't succumbed yet to the siren call of the IPad or similar devices. I love my laptop and all that I can do with it. I use Scrivner for writing.

    My general science class watched a DVD this week about futuristic science happening now. One of those things is robots that look human. It "thinks" and reacts to hold a conversation. We all agreed it was a bit creepy. All I could think about was "I, Robot." So I don't think I'm ready for Rosie the Robot despite how much easier it would make life.

    I would, however, LOVE an app that could transport like the Star Trek transporters. Wouldn't that save a lot of time and fuel?

  12. Definitely, Deb! Your place or mine?

    I agree, a time warp app would be lovely.

    Don't worry, I haven't figured out how to get my documents on my iPhone yet, at least not so that I can read them. I'm beginning to understand why my mother just shook her head "no" and walked away when I offered to show her how to set the clock on the VCR.

  13. I wonder if they have that Ruby Slippers app for the Blackberry. It sounds so awesome. And I agree, a Star Trek transporter app would be cool, too!

    So, since Jessica brought it up and Niki is horrified by it, I must confess that in spite of my deep love for gadgets (hubby calls me Mrs. Gadget), I write all of my books by hand. I can barely read my own writing, though, so unlike Kristin Hannah (one of my fav authors, btw) I would never be able to pay someone to type it for me.

  14. Christine, I've heard about Scrivner. What makes it preferable to the average WP program? I'm curious.

    I think there's a general consensus here that transporter app would be ideal. Could that have something to do with most of us writers being homebodies? LOL.

  15. Suzie, I don't know whether to bow in deep admiration or cringe! Do you use spiral notebooks? Pen or pencil? All I can think is that you must be able to write REALLY fast, because my fingers have trouble keeping up with my brain on a keyboard, much less on paper!
    Ha ha. Mrs. Gadget, I like that. What sort of gadgets?

  16. You can probably cringe. Especially since I can't read my own writing after I've written a paragraph or two. Luckily I have a pretty good (not photographic, but close) memory. Yes, I use a spiral notebook, but it's the steno pad type, with the spiral at the top. And I use a pen. For optimal results, I must use the right pen and the right steno pad. Otherwise it hinders my creativity. I can, of course, write on anything with anything, but to get the most productivity, I must have that blue pen that fits my hand just perfectly and I must have the right tablet - no purple, yellow, or pink paper, and no white paper. I like the pale green paper. LOL. Is this OCD, or what?

    I did lose an entire manuscript one time after I'd entered it into the computer. The file became corrupted, and for some reason, so did the back-up file. So, because I remember most everything I write down, I was able to recreate the entire 400 page manuscript. Of course, that was 12 years ago. I didn't have the job I have now and wasn't going to school. So I'm not totally sure I could do that again. Now I have multiple back-up files.

    Re the gadgets. Well as technologically incompetent as I am about some things, I simply love anything that does something. Especially if it can be used for writing, email, or listening to music. So picture this: when I went on my trip last week, I had to go through airport security. Some airports (I don't know maybe they all do?) make you fill these little bins with all of your electronics. So I had three bins full. I had one bin with my laptop, one bin with my alpha smart, and the last bin had two nooks (color and non-color), my blackberry, and my camera. Luckily I did not have to put all the power cords or memory cards in that bin because I was a little embarrassed. There was only one guy behind me and he wouldn't go ahead of me because he said he was slow.

    I, um, also use my old HTC Touch phone to listen to music. Only because it has great sound and my blackberry keeps trying to "format" my memory card with the music on it. But, I did not take this with me on the trip, so I spared myself any further embarrassment.

    I love my DVR, I used to love my hand-held computer before I had my blackberry and the two nooks. I did not love my netbook, so I gave it to my son. I wish I had a robotic vacuum cleaner, and I saw a really cool pen that you use on this special writing pad. When you insert it into the computer, it types everything you wrote into a word document. I really NEED that pen!

    There you have it, Niki. My addiction. Are you sorry you asked? I guess it could be worse, right? It's not harming anyone and not harming my health. Well...maybe just my mental health. LOL.

  17. Suzie, you DEFINITELY need that pen!!!
    When we get a DVR I'll be asking for help, I'm sure!
    Ha ha. THe last time I went through airport security I got stopped for my weighted Tae Bo Billy Bands. : )

  18. Niki--I'm a day late reading this, but thanks for sharing these. I live with my laptop on my lap, but I've been considering a smart phone of some kind. I think I'm going to have to make the plunge soon!

  19. Barb, once you do you won't know how you functioned without one!


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