iPhone/iPod Touch

Care to take the market by surprise? Develop an “app” for the iPhone that syncs up with Scrivener, and a portable keyboard to go along with it. I personally would be willing to pay a small chunk of change for this. I don’t carry a laptop around with me anymore, there really is very little need to, and what need there is would easily be met with the above combination. Here’s some starting thoughts:

  • Do not strive to make the keyboard wireless. I do not understand why the little bit of conversation on this subject that is going around is always in the context of a blu-tooth keyboard. Why would any end-user want that? It’s another wireless technology that, while very cool and sometimes useful, nonetheless eats up battery time.
  • Make a keyboard that is dockable and compatible with all generations of iPhones and iPod Touches.
  • Make an app that easily syncs up with the desktop application on a project by project basis.
  • Allow the app to create new documents, even they can only be rudimentary.
  • Perhaps an existing iPhone app could be partnered with to accomplish syncing… Maybe “Shovebox”? For document portability Shovebox just works.

I can’t tell you the number of times I go out and about on a weekly basis and get great article starts and story ideas in my mind and have to plod through the iPhone keyboard in order to get the gist of the idea down so I can develop it later. How often I wish I could just sit down right then and there and whip out a first draft.

Hey, why do I hear my voice echoing back at me… Am I the only one in this room, this big, empty, cold, concrete room? No one else on the planet wants portable document creation on their iPhones and iPod Touches? Hard to believe.

Maybe this isn’t as simple as you think it is.

Let me be clear. It is not simple. If it was it would have been done several times already.

FWIW, this is why I still use paper for many writing tasks.


Have you given Shapewriter a try on the Iphone/Ipod touch? It’s a surprisingly fast keyboard replacement/notetaker that allows you to type without actually taking your finger off the keyboard, you just “draw” from letter to letter on the virtual kb and the app’s dictionary does an excellent job interpreting the resulting “shapes” as words. It actually makes writing on the Iphone possible and should be the default input mechanism for portables. Well worth the $4.
btw I’m not affiliated to shapewriter in any way, just a genuinely impressed fan.

Oh yes, I’d buy one as well. Sadly, it doesn’t look like Apple are going to allow the use of a bluetooth keyboard any time soon. I’ve pretty much caved in and bought myself a 9" netbook that is as light as a feather (okay, a big feather) and fits into my handbag (my beloved MacBook was killing my back) and I’m using yWriter. Once I got passed the negative “I hate windows…this isn’t like Scrivener…now I remember why I got a mac…I hate windows…I wonder if I could get MacOS to run on this…” thoughts, I’m finding it…not so bad.

One thing I’m sure of though - the iPhone is a very, very pale imitation of the palm pilot

Not alone in this big, cold, concrete room. I would love an external keyboard to go with my iPhone. For many years I had a near full-size infra-red keyboard that I used with my Palm. Loved it. I took notes in lectures on it, wrote stories with it, typed on planes, took minutes in meetings and notes at conferences (with it balancing on my lap). If it wasn’t that synchronising with my Palm was becoming increasingly erratic and unreliable I’d probably still be using it.

I don’t care if wireless or wired, I’d just love a large keyboard. It is the only thing stopping me from using my iPhone for document creation and text editing. Maybe, just maybe, the long-rumoured Mac tablet will breach the gap. I’m not going to hold my breath.

BTW, I have used Shapewriter on and off since it was free. It’s “OK”, but that’s hardly a ringing endorsement. :unamused: Although it is kind of fun to use every now and again, I don’t think it is dramatically superior to the built-in keyboard.

Clearly the mileage varies and my enthusiasm for Shapewriter might just be a reflection of my allthumbsiness with the built in keyboard. That said, I would probably fork down cash for a usable external keyboard that wasn’t too bulky and also worked with my future first generation, bought on the first day, slightly buggy MacTablet.

It’s not the same thing as having a Bluetooth keyboard linked to an iPhone/touch, but if you’re interested in doing either of these:

  1. Getting some pre-existing or lengthy new text into a note application on an iPhone/touch without typing it on that tiny screen.

  2. Cleaning up or rearranging the text in an existing iPhone/touch document for further editing there but by using the full keyboard and mouse of a Mac.

Then you might want to look into WriteRoom for the iPhone. It can synch what’s on an iPhone/touch with a simple personalized website that the WriteRoom developer provides. Synch from your iPhone/touch and what you’ve done is available from any web browser, Mac or PC. You can edit it using your browser and type any additional material, including new documents, on a real keyboard. Once you save the changes, what you’d added or changed will be transferred down to your iPhone/touch at your next synch on it.

This is the most important thing: WriteRoom for the iPhone and Scrivener know how to work together. The next (1.54) version of Scrivener (out soon) will support importing directly from that web page, even keeping the basic document structure intact. Roughly draft your next great novel on your iPhone/touch, synch it to that website in a few seconds, and you can import it into Scrivener as documents and text.

That’s what I’ve been doing for several weeks and I love it. I discuss the how-to in more detail here:


–Michael W. Perry, Inkling Books, Seattle

Surely the only reason this isn’t simple is because Apple have chosen to make it that way? Something they easily ‘un-choose’ should they so desire?

We need a Mac Netbook impervious (good word) to drink, crumbs and stray kebabs,
We need Keith to design complex programs on our whim.

We need…More.

Just bought a low end Macbook. Its OK you but can tell the difference between an old Powerbook G4 and this machine. I will go back to high end Mac’s unless they offer a £30 Netbook.


That is an easy assumption to make and there are some facts to back it up. Apple chose to use a feature disabled bluetooth chipset. Apple chose to provide more iPod style external controls via their dock connector than system interface controls. Apple chose to disable the iPhone/iPod OS HID interfaces other than the on screen controls.

It might be that apple made these choices because they had folks like my wife in mind. Folks who want to “play” with games when they are waiting for tennis lessons to wrap up, folks who only type short emails like “She just beat the #1 seed 7-5,7-6. All you cheerleaders be here at 12:15 tomorrow”, folks who want to listen to music more than type words.

If that was the case (which it clearly was) then the choices made were necessary to ensure that sufficient systems resources are available to please this demographic. A demographic that demands smooth, easy operations, and a look polished high end look.

If I need to take extensive notes on something I grab the little pulse flip note pad, the silly pen, turn the pen to record and jot a little mark on the page and talk away.

Which my may slightly irritating way of saying that the iPhone is a toy/low feature PDA, not a computer. Let’s not expect to much from it.

Jail broken?

No, hacked via the headphone port – though the difference is probably academic.

Yes. Well outside intended use. Hence my “not easy”. I have been told that you can accomplish this on a jail break too.

Happy days… yes, I remember the Palm keyboards too, great memories. I bought two of them; a rigid one which had its own leather case, and then a couple of years later a cute foldable one. (Must be more than a decade ago now. I sold them both on eBay when I finished with them.)

There were several excellent Palm word processing apps which were fun to use too, and they were very Mac-like – they got completely out of the way so you could focus on the writing. I wrote complete magazine articles on those keyboards, and chapters of books.

I’m hoping that when Apple finally get their tablet out the door some clever manufacturer will come up with a portable keyboard.

I hate the dinky iPhone keyboard with a passion. I can’t write more than a sentence on it without wanting to throw it across the room.

Fingers crossed for a Mac tablet AND keyboard. :slight_smile:

Bad girl! tch!tch! :open_mouth:

In case you haven’t read about it, the bluetooth “hack” for the iPhone/iPod touch has recently emerged as a stable solution, so if you don’t mind the consequences of jailbreaking your device then this is for you.


Calm down everyone. No doubt Apple could retrofit existing iPhones/touches to work with an external Bluetooth keyboard. All that’s needed are the hardware drivers. That’s why we have these workarounds appearing. And the more competitors there are for the smartphone market, the more pressure Apple will feel to fill in these deficiencies. I suspect this is a Steve Jobs thing like the single button mouse was. It has that same flavor of over simplicity.

The iPhone/touch does need to work with a Bluetooth keyboard. I agree about that. But the issue isn’t as urgent as it appears.

  1. Numerous apps synch with Macs, so any longish text can be typed on a Mac, synched to an iPhone app and then cut-and-pasted where needed. I’ve already done that with some material. WriteRoom and SimpleNote let you synch through WiFi and a webpage. The built-in Notes app syncs through USB and the Mail application.

  2. The real advantage of the iPhone/touch is that you don’t have to go through all the many steps it takes to do something minor with a notebook. I can take a note with my touch in less than 30 seconds from when I pull it out of my pocket until I put it back in. Doing the same thing with my MacBook would take several minutes. It is true that a Bluetooth keyboard plus iPhone/touch wouldn’t take as long to setup as a MacBook, but it couldn’t be done that quickly. Part of that time would be finding a place to sit down and a place to put the keyboard. For taking down a quick idea or to-do, a touch screen is much, much faster than setting up a keyboard. Besides, I can type far faster on a touch that I can standing up holding a MacBook in one hand (totally unworkable) or even than using it sitting down someplace cramped like riding on a bus.

Most important of all, the real plus of the iPhone/touch is that it’s so compact that there’s no reason for me not to keep it with me everywhere but the shower. Carrying a keyboard with me, even one like the clever folding Palm ones, isn’t something I’d do very often.

  1. There’s the ‘get away with it’ benefit. At least in the U.S., it’s acceptable on the job and other places to check a little pocketable gadget for text and phone messages. That makes it OK to also take down quick notes for a book you’re working on while on the job. I’ve got various part-time jobs that put me in public situations where no employer would let me pull out a laptop, sit down, and begin to take down book ideas. But doing so on my touch is perfectly fine. I can’t really be doing much that interferes with my work, they think, with a gadget that tiny. Little do they know.

  2. Finally, it makes no more sense to compare an iPhone/touch to a laptop than it makes to compare a screwdriver with a wrench. They’re different tools for different purposes. I discuss that in detail elsewhere on this forum. Here is a summary:

An iPhone/touch is for the pre-Scrivener, note-taking, idea-churning phase of writing not the drafting and refining. The real competitor to an iPhone/touch is a small notebook or a stack of 3x5 cards. For some of you either of those will work perfectly at far less cost. In my case, I tried a small notebook for taking down notes, but it never worked. My handwriting is so bad, even I can’t read it. In contrast, my touch works perfectly for note taking. Since I got it, I’ve rarely failed to take down a book idea while it was still fresh in my mind. Even those brilliant-seeming flashes of inspiration that come in the wee hours of the night are faithfully recorded.

–Michael W. Perry, Seattle

Now we have seen the iPad, at least remotely, and learned that it will run all iPhone apps. And—it will support blutooth keyboards as well as have its own optional docking keyboard. In my view that will open up new opportunities of not only note-taking, but also actual writing on the move.

I am among those who bought a subnotebook Acer Aspire to fill this need, and I also bought the PageFour Windows application for organising my writings-on-the-move. Unfortunately I never actually had any success in importing exported texts from Scrivener to PageFour on the Acer. It worked well for the same software Windows Vista running under VMware Fusion on my iMac. To make a long story short: I am sick of the annoying Windows machine and saving up to get an iPad ASAP.

So, with a keyboard and a bigger screen, typing with a 1.5 lb./700g tablet will expand my writing opportunities, as well as not linking me as often to my desk (I hate my desk too often). I have used my iPhone much more often to jot down notes than my subnotebooks, and carried my 17" inch MBP much more often than I like (I have installed Scrivener on it). I would still use my iPhone for those short notes when ideas occur, but as I am writing non-fiction, it would suit me very well just being able to sit down anywhere and type for a half hour or a half day when on the move.

And then I haven’t even mentioned the opportinity of carrying all those reference books and articles with me without adding a single ounce to my burden.

So, am I alone thinking like this? If not, where does that leave us? What do we need to create a simple and workable workflow with Scrivener, an iPad and possibly an iPhone? I know that Keith is not into iPhone development (and I am much more interested in a sound development of Scrivener itself). But I for one would certainly love a transparent way of just grabbing my travel bag with an iPad in it, open it at the airport or on the train (I travel more than 100 days a year) and instantly being able to continue writing—preferrably directly into my Scrivener project structure.

One possible and simple solution that comes to my mind is a way of using the iDisk or another WebDav solution to sync the Scrivener data. It would serve as a backup solution and at the same time open up for accessing the structured document remotely as long as there is a web connection available. Of course that means we would need an app that could read and write into a Scrivener document, but it doesn’t have to be a full or even a light version of Scrivener itself. In case of sync errors I presume some kind of transparent versioning would be needed.

Would anyone else like to take part in a brain storming around these needs? With current apps or ideas for new functionality from current or non-existing apps?

If so, please discuss this topic in this thread that I made with the same opening as this message.