Co-published with the North Shoreian Magazine, February 2010.
By Judah Mahay
The popular craze of technology these days has driven forward a demand for products never dreamed of a couple of years ago. With the advent of the iPhone and its newly birthed competitors, namely Android based phones, artists have been blessed with an array of previously unimaginable tools. This article will begin the series “Best iPhone Apps for Artists” exploring this topic. Furthermore, “The Writer’s Spotlight” will focus on the iPhone apps for masters fiction. Writers have seen applications dedicated to them pop into existence on what seems like a daily basis. Let’s take a look at what is available at the moment.
Story Tracker | Submission Tracking Tool
I always like to start with my favorites. The submission process can be overwhelming, especially if you are dealing with simultaneous submissions and sending out multiple stories at the same time. You’re asking yourself if you should contact a magazine, but can’t remember when you sent the story. You finally get a story published and have to make phone calls to the other markets, but can’t find the piece of paper you wrote the list of magazines on. This nifty application helps you deal with just that and it does an excellent job at it. The tool lets you input stories and markets, at which point it lets you link them up with probable response dates. Beyond the basics it allows for a depth of information for each market and it tracks statistics such as work published, rejected, earnings, trunked stories, and more. A great tool and well worth the $9.99. Frankly, I would buy it even if it cost $20.
NoteMaster | Google Docs Sync
There are numerous note taking applications available, but none provide full Google Docs syncing. This might seem like an inconsequential feature, but I write all my stories on Google Docs. The biggest reason is it allows for an online backup-source of documents, multiple user editing (great for critique groups), and revision history. Google Docs is a dream for writers and being able to access it on your iTouch or iPhone
simply is priceless. NoteMaster is the first application to provide this feature and work (a few other apps say they do, but either crash all the time or only do one-way syncing).
IdeaOrganizer | Text & Audio Notes
Now this might sound strange adding another note application, but it serves a different purpose. In fact, I don’t even use NoteMaster to take notes. It is solely a Google Docs application which allows offline access, editing, and full syncing. As for IdeaOrganizer, we have a completely different tool. The interface is superb and it allows text, audio, and visual notes. The audio notes and the design were the big sellers for me. The leading competitor for note taking is Evernote, but IdeaOrganizer has cleaner navigation and it recognizes what your iTouch or iPhone can do. For instance, when I plug in the mic/headset to my iTouch the application will show the option to make audio notes, while Evernote always has audio notes. When I can’t make audio notes, it doesn’t display the option. Plus, I love the light-bulb icon for IdeaOrganizer.
SimpleMind xXpress | Mind Mapping Tool
This is a great tool for developing your ideas. Start with a single cloud and begin the branching. Cut, Copy, paste, and drag ideas to different branches, letting your ideas grow on the fly. Once you are finished, send your map via email for archiving and later review. You can use this to develop the central conflict of a story or add layers to your characters. The fact that the application is free makes it that much better.
NameShake | Random Name Generator
This is a simple tool which lets you lock in certain categories shake your phone and get a random name within your criteria. The categories include gender, language, and a letter. Your story might have a German man walk into an Irish pub, carrying a dying woman in his arms. This scene would potentially call for a bunch of Irish names. For the price of a latte you have a crowd of drunken Irish men.
NaNoMojo | National Novel Writing Month
If you are crazy enough to write a novel in one month like all the other insane people out there (myself included), you would love this application. It shows the current word counts for all your friends and has some useful links to the NaNoWriMo website. The only change I would like to see is the ability to update your personal word count. Again, worth the price of a latte. Make coffee at home for a day and buy this app.
Writer’s Block Buster | Idea Generator
Now I’m not big on these idea generators, but I give the developers of Writer’s Block Buster credit for making a good tool. The application deals with several categories including character development, plot development, setting choice, writing mechanics, dialogue, and much more. If anything it is a wealth of knowledge sure to distract you as much as whatever is creating your writer’s block.
Questia | Academic Research Database
If you have heard of JSTOR you basically have it in an iPhone app. If you haven’t heard of JSTORlet me explain to those of you not screaming with researcher glee. It is a HUGE database of scholastic research about everything you can image. Usually, you have to either be browsing college computers or have few million dollars in order to access this information. Now you can get it for about the quarter of the price of a latte. Nothing to be excited about, it only has about 24,000 books and about 2.2 million journal, newspaper, and magazine articles. No big deal. Go buy yourself a York Peppermint Paddy instead (then again Yorks might be over a buck these days).
Price: $0.99 (They now charge a monthly fee for featured content)
Wikipanion | Wikipedia Search
If you don’t know what Wikipedia is and you have an iPhone we need to have a talk. This is the best (and coincidentally free) tool to access Wikipedia. There is also a paid version of Wikipanion which has gotten rave reviews, but the additional features don’t seem necessary. By the way, if you don’t know what Wikipedia is, I might as well tell you. It is a massive user created online encyclopedia which has every fact you could ever imagine. Of course the authenticity of the information is questionable, but you can ascertain the articles merit with a click glance at its bibliography.
Dictionary.com | Dictionary & Thesaurus
A few large companies created their own iPhone dictionaries such as Oxford and Merriam-Webster, but they simply don’t hold up to Dictionary.com. The interface is cleaner, it is both a thesaurus and dictionary, it can be used offline, and it is free! The other dictionaries cost anywhere from $20-$40. The answer is easy.
That sums up the iPhone applications for writers. Next month we will look at what tech savvy musicians are using.