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Tossing out the legal pad and sticky notes with Drafts for iOS

Added on by Scott Cline.

Things come at me from many different directions. It might be the phone call from the boss, a direct, a student or a parent. It might be while I am in my office, in a meeting or walking down the hall. It might also be an idea that I have while walking the dog in the evening, eating lunch or even at 2 AM.

Many people have written about the idea of "universal capture" devices. Many people use an always handy notebook and a compact pen where ever they go in order to write these ideas, thoughts and to-dos down. They then sort these ideas into the appropriate directions.

I have used a few different "universal capture" from a yellow legal pad to Field Notes Notebooks and a Fisher Space Pen to a sticky notes next to the phone. But thanks to some suggestions from much smarter people then me, I have been using for a while the iOS app Drafts.

Drafts in its basic form is a simple text app for both the iPhone and the iPad. Every time you open the app, it opens to a blank text field with the curser ready to go. Since my iPhone is nearly always with me and the app opens ready to take text, the barrier to entry is the same or less then a pen and pad.

The best part of Drafts is what it can do with the text after you have captured it. Drafts allow you to program certain actions to do with the text. Some of the basics is it can email the text, add the text to a file in either Dropbox or Evernote, or send it to another iOS app. Here is my action menu items.

Many of the things I capture end up being to-do items and I use OmniFocus to capture, track and do those items. Since I use OmniFocus on the Mac, iPhone and iPad and I sync all of these through the OmniGroup sync service, I also have a dedicated email address. When that email address receives the email, it adds it to my OmniFocus inbox. Next time I launch the application, the item is in the inbox and ready to go. This is what the setup looks like for me to email text directly to OmniFocus.

I also use Drafts for meeting notes. We have a standing 30 minute staff meeting each week and want to keep the notes from the meeting for later reference. I created one large (markdown) text file saved in Dropbox and I created an action in Drafts to pre-pend my latest meeting notes after I am done with the meeting to the (markdown) text file. Here is Drafts on the iPad with my meeting templete and action items.

If you are/were like me, I used to hand write notes from meetings and tasks that need to be completed. The problem was some of those meeting notes would never make it out of my yellow legal pad and sometimes those tasks would be lost for ever. Now, by using Drafts, I am able to quickly get this information in and sent in the correct direct for later action or reference. The most useful aspect of Drafts is that it allows me to get information out of my head and I no longer have to worry about remembering it.

Finally, here are some other great resources and reference:

Federic Vatechie on Mac Stories

David Sparks on MacSparky