My trip to and from work takes a good long time, generally about an hour and a half. I don't mind the commute so much, because it's about twice what it was with a car, and I get a lot of reading time in this way. I can also do some writing, and work on my novel that I have had planned for the past couple of years. The long commute is perfect because I have the time, the room, and the energy to get some real writing in: except I can't write on paper and typing on a laptop gets a little scary for the laptop when bouncing on the roads.
So, I started to think about what I could do for mobile writing. One solution is to get a mobile device with a keyboard, much like a Palm Pre or a Blackberry. Both of these devices have a keyboard that is physical, allowing for quick typing with your thumbs as you go. And there are some concerns: the software I use to write needs to either sync with the computer for storage or ideally sync with Google Docs, and I would need to shell out money for another expensive device similar to my iPod Touch.
Well, I decided to check the iTunes App Store to see what apps are there for document editing, and found several, all of which were not there 6 months ago when I first checked. One in particular that I found to be interesting: Document 2.
Document 2 can read just about any format of document from standard text files to Office 2007 Word documents. When you compose a file, it's a text file, and can be uploaded to your Google Docs account. You can also access and edit (yes!) Google Docs files from your iPod Touch. And not only Documents! You can create and edit spreadsheets and presentations as well. It was $3.99 for the app (there is a lite one for free, but it was crippled), so I thought I would take the plunge.
The interface is well designed, making it easy to locate and manage your documents. I didn't have any trouble writing a 1018 word document (the first half of my first chapter of the 3rd revision of my novel), and uploading it to Google Docs for more editing on the desktop. Typing is easy, and I am becoming quite proficient with my iPod Touch's virtual keyboard, more so than I have been in the past with tiny physical keyboards. Of course it's all because of practice, and has nothing to do with the actual type of keyboard.
The first problem I noticed was typing speed. While I may be getting better at using the keyboard on the iPod Touch, I can type a lot faster using a keyboard for a desktop. But it turns out this problem is actually a blessing: I think more about what I am going to type instead of just filling words in as they pop into my head. It means the scenes are better in the chapters, the grammar more correct, and the Fleischmann reading index is higher (not sure if that is a pro or a con). Details are more vivid in the story, because I take the time to think about what I really want to say, how I actually see the scene, and what is going through the minds of each character.
Another problem is it's lack of a spell-check. It relies on the built-in iPod spell-checker, which is very limited. I find myself misspelling more words than I care to admit while using it. It also has some trouble using quotes and punctuation, and grammar is not even a consideration. But then, what can I really expect with something built for a tiny computer? Finally, memory. When I first used it, I ran out of memory after 1018 words, and had to save and start a new document. I think it has more to do with some residual items, because the issue was cleared up once I had rebooted my iPod Touch.
So to date I have written my entire first chapter, a total of 3,000 words, all Document 2 on the iPod. I am now working on chapter two, and my commute is far more productive towards my writing goals than I had previously hoped. I can even use the spreadsheet tool to crunch numbers if I need to, and all at the touch of a button. No more stabbing the device with a stylus when I hit a bump, a problem I always had with my Pocket PC.