Technology serves many purposes. It can really help make one’s work less time consuming and more efficient. In yesterday’s #ConnectChat, we discussed how technology can benefit writers with our guest Julio Ojeda-Zapata. He is an author and technology writer at St. Paul Pioneer Press (MN), and he explained which tech devices and applications writers should be using. Ojeda-Zapata also went into detail about writers using on-screen keyboards vs. add-on keyboards.
Read the below recap of yesterday's chat to get information on these topics and more:
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
I am a business reporter focused on technology at the Pioneer Press in St. Paul, Minn. I've been doing this for a while. I've dabbled a bit in tech-book writing. My latest is "The Mobile Writer" on mobile-gizmo productivity. I'm a boricua (Puerto Rican) and a nerd.
How did you get involved in technology writing?
It happened naturally. I've always wanted to be a journalist, and I've always loved tech. The two converged in the late 1990s. Combining journalism and technology makes for a dream job. I love what I do, and never get bummed out when the weekend ends.
Do you think technology devices are useful to writers and why?
Print reporters like me increasingly do social media, photo editing, and video editing. All Pioneer Press writers have iPhones. Mobile tech is increasingly journalist-friendly. Instead of lugging heavy laptops, they can use iPads, Chromebooks, and more. I think the iPad with a keyboard case is an ideal all-in-one device for journalists, because you can write, post, shoot and edit photos/videos. I carry an iPad with Logitech's FabricSkin Keyboard Folio in a little messenger bag everywhere I go (along with my smartphone).
Can you please explain why the iPhone is a helpful tech device for writers?
It's a computer in your pocket. You can write on it, blog on it, shoot and edit pictures and video on it, record audio/ideas, and more. True story: Wired journalists at this year's Consumer Electronics Show are not allowed to use anything but their smartphones. Phones have become powerful enough, and apps sophisticated enough, for phone to be full-featured laptop substitute in a pinch. If you don't have a device with a larger screen, you can do your entire journo job on a phone (with a wireless keyboard). I've done so.
Does the version of the technology device matter?
Not necessarily. Apple iOS and Google Android devices are comparable in terms of app availability. The Windows Phone is coming along. I would stay away from BlackBerry. I feel bad for the company, which is in trouble, but it looks like dead end for most users. If you can, get the latest/greatest, but even iPhone 5c with older tech does a good job vs. hot iPhone 5s. Ditto for the latest Android phones.
What are some of the top free applications every writer should download on their device?
Tons and tons of options. There are lots of writing apps (my book gets into those in detail). My favorite by far is Google Drive/Docs. For blogging on the iPad, Blogsy is a fantastic option. It's not available for iPhone, but the official WordPress app is great. Evernote (available for all desktop, mobile platforms) may be ultimate since it organizes information and can also be used to write. For video editing, iMovie on the iPhone and the iPad is nothing short of amazing. It's a video-editing studio in your pocket/bag. 1Password and Dropbox are also excellent apps. All the apps I've mentioned (except Blogsy) are free. Also, both Google Apps/Docs and Apple's entire iWork suite of Mac/mobile apps are free.
LibreOffice is a great free option for your desktop.
What is the big draw of Dropbox over similar services for you?
Dropbox for file storage is fab and popular, but other options are good, too. Box is business-y, Google Drive and SkyDrive are mainstream.
What are some of the top applications that you have to pay for, and how are they helpful to writers?
The amazing thing is that you don't have to deviate from the free-app realm for the most part to get what you need. If you want to get fancy, there are tons of slick iOS apps for writing. I hate to keep pimping my book but that covers in detail.
What about cloud service, is it important for writers to use a cloud service?
It's important for all. If you have your information stored online, or "in the cloud," you are immune to hardware malfunctions. If someone took a sledgehammer to my Mac right now, I'd be bummed about the Mac but would lose no information. It's all online. When I am on my computer, I am increasingly working in the browser, writing in Google Docs, etc. "Web apps" getting powerful. Chromebooks, an inexpensive new kind of laptop, are almost entirely browser-based. You use nothing but Web apps. It is amazing.
I love Google on desktop but used to avoid on iPad (awful). Different story now. Google Drive app is *great.*
Do you think it’s easier/better for writers to use an onscreen keyboard vs. add-on keyboard?
It's a personal preference. A pal tapped out an entire book on his iPad on-screen keyboard. I think he's insane. He says everyone can get the hang of it. Here is a video about it: tinyurl.com/qjkn5e9. If you can adapt to the virtual keyboard, as my friend has, you don't have to deal with the extra weight of physical keyboard.
I prefer a physical keyboard. Such keyboard cases and covers for the iPad have improved dramatically, so I suggest getting one. The one I am using now, as I mentioned earlier, is the Logitech Fabricskin Keyboard Folio. Ultrathin Keyboard Folio is similar. Some folks prefer to use a standalone physical keyboard, such the Apple Wireless Keyboard, with their iPads. To each their own.
Do you have any suggestions for writers looking to transition from using a desktop/laptop to an iPad?
To be clear, I am *not* urging a mass migration from laptops to iPads and such. Try different devices, find what works for you. Mobile gizmos such as iPads have lower cost and weight going for them. Even Apple 11-inch MacBook Air is costlier and weightier.
You wrote the book titled, “The Mobile Writer.” Can you tell us a little bit about it?
"The Mobile Writer" walks you through all hardware and software options if you want to get busy (to write) on a mobile device. It is a reference book for those picking mobile hardware and software for productivity.
Where can we purchase the book?
My book is available on Amazon right now and will be an Apple iBook and softcover in the coming weeks.
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