Some thoughts on using Android as a writing platform

I recently spent more money than I intended on replacing my elderly and much loved Lenovo A7600F 10 inch Android tablet, and the matching (literally) Bluetooth keyboard, both of which showed signs of a seriously deteriorating battery

After a couple of false starts and RMA requests, I have settled on the Samsung Tab A 10.1 (2019) tablet, the “Designed For Samsung” by ITFIT matching BlueTooth keyboard, and to complete my super portable writing platform, I added a VicTsing BT mouse from Amazon. I’ve got about $350 US tied up in this new Android writing platform. I’m certain I could have done it for less, but I’m old enough and well-off enough that I can afford to spend a little extra to get a cool and ‘snazzy’ looking set-up. Old people like to impress their friends too, there’s just more of them dead (and thereby unimpressable) than with young people, that’s all.

This makes for an excellent, extremely portable writing platform, but aside from conventional word processors like Google Docs, and Microsoft Word, there isn’t much software out there for authors. I find it odd. Android is really quite good for writing. And, a budding author doesn’t have to spend as much as I did for a fairly decent setup. A quick trip through Amazon shows clearly that one can set up a fairly sophisticated and relatively reliable writing platform for less (and occasionally MUCH less) than $150 US. I’m talking tablet, keyboard, and mouse, all three.

The Android hardware is more than competent to act as a writing platform for an author. What is holding it back is the abysmal software that is available for it. No Scrivener, no Ulysses, no SmartEdit Writer (the re-named Atomic Scribbler). None of the good stuff. I’m not going to talk about the really awful stuff even though I’ve used most of it. I’m talking about the stuff with some inherent merit, regardless of whether or not I like or dislike that app personally.

[*]yWriter - this $5 US title can read and write yWriter 6 files, and that is unique (UNIQUE) to Android. It shouldn’t be unique, but it is. It is clearly designed to enhance the workflow of an existing yWriter user, not replace the workflow onto a new platform. As a result, it’s a bit pared down to the most basic of tools. I’d say it’s well worth the modest $5 price to an existing yWriter user, significantly less so to the Scrivener or SmartEdit Writer user.

[*]Wavemaker Novel Writing Software - This is actually a free Progressive Web App which really means it looks like a stand-alone app but it uses the Chrome browser as the main part of its infrastructure. It stores everything in Google Drive or locally, but it prefers an online storage service. It’s a card-based app in that the basic unit of information is a ‘card’ of information, I’ve found it difficult to make that mental transition to that card mindset. The card-centric design shouldn’t matter, but it does, at least to me. But for those who can make that transition, it offers a LOT. Mind mapping, novel templates, timelines. Worth a look, I think just for the cross-platform capabilities, the other stuff is a happy extra.

[*]Novelist - This tries to compete with Scrivener/Smart Edit Writer in a fairly ‘traditional’ manner, but it is pretty complicated. And there is almost no useful information on how to use it. At first, I thought I liked it, but in the end, it beat me, bad. It is possible that the sort of “soup to nuts” planning, writing, management model just doesn’t thrive in Android?

What I’ve Settled On:

At this point, I’ve given up on trying to organize and manage my writing from an Android tablet. Maybe yWriter has the right Idea Android doesn’t need to replace ALL the functionality of writing project tools like Scrivener or yWriter. Maybe all it needs is to open project files, do some writing, maybe store a few notes, and then save the data in the same format as the PC or Mac desktop/laptop software of choice.

I will continue to do the lion’s share of planning and project management work from my PC. So, any sort of standard word processor will be my main writing tool on Android. As a Windows guy, I would think MS Office Word would be a logical choice, and it is, sorta. But Google Docs is still a bit better and more convenient to use in the Android infrastructure, so I find myself using it more and more. Especially so since there is no sort of REAL ability to use the online storage services in the ‘mainstream’ writer’s apps.

Most of the Writing project software can read or import Docs and Word, so maybe we need to select our desktop software based on how well it integrates with our Android writing software of choice. Maybe the tail really IS wagging the dog!

The problem for me is that I STILL want enough computing and organizational power to be able to follow my ideas wherever it takes me even if I’m away from my PC. I have discovered two software titles that I’ve actually paid for and I’ve found useful.

The first is Halna Outliner, a tree-based note-taking app similar to CherryTree or Zim. Lots of card-based note-taking apps like Google Keep but very little for those of us that like the hierarchy of a tree-based outliner/note-taking app {cough, cough} {Scrivener users} {cough, cough}. There’s a free version but the “paid for” version has more ‘stuff’ and only costs 3 or 4 dollars (US).

The other is Halna Mind, a mind mapping tool that integrates tightly with Halna Outliner. Most Android based mind mapping programs aren’t very good, and this one is really only fairly usable. But it’s tight integration with Halna Outliner really improves its usefulness. I only wish Scapple could integrate with Scrivener the way Halna Mind integrates with Halna Outliner. Smooth, REAL Smooth!

These two titles can really help with the ‘thinky’ part of writing, but they suffer from the lack of any sort of ability to get their stuff into a mainstream PC/Mac environment. This is the 21st century, cut and paste should not be the only way to get shi . . er, stuff in and out of our PC based apps.

At this point, I think my Samsung tablet and associated hardware and software makes a great subsidiary writing platform for me. But it is nowhere close to being the ONLY writing platform I need. I could live with that if there was a better way to get stuff in and out of Scrivener or one of the other ‘mainstream’ writers tools for PCs.

Android is currently a dog’s breakfast when it comes to professional creation apps so suspect you’ll be stretched to find a solution to equal Scrivener on that platform just yet.

L&L have indicated an intent to develop an Android version of Scrivener, though you may be waiting some time.

Meanwhile any number of Android note taking apps can be used in conjunction with Scrivener for Mac or Win.

There are a number of threads on this. Search Scrivener Android and Synch with External Folder.

I’m curious, did you actually READ my post? My entire point was that I think we need to rethink what professional creation apps are, or should be, for Android. That we might be dreaming/wishing for the wrong thing! My experience with the yWriter app tells me that some sort of symbiosis between the desktop and the tablet for writers might be more useful than a full-on replacement.

I’m not sure our failure in communication is my fault, or yours, but clearly, we aren’t communicating on the same wavelength.

Maybe, all Scrivener needs for Android, at least, is a working relationship between L&L and a stable existing Android developer willing to work on an interface between Scrivener and the developer’s own existing tools. Now that my creative juices are fully flowing, there might be some value-added for L&L and this hypothetical developer in revenue sharing for a cross marketing effort. Money with little to no effort involved seems like a good deal to me!

BTW, I assume the term “dogs breakfast” is a bad thing by your thinking. But I’m not sure since my dogs seem happy with their feed!

Did you explore Scrivener’s ”Sync -> With external folder”, as suggested?
Or is that not available on Win Scrivener?

  1. A ‘dogs breakfast’ is the ultimate in bad. An unholy mess would be another way of putting it.
  2. I did read and understood your post.
  3. If Scrivener for Android is like the iOS version it will not be a full-on replacement but will have a symbiosis with the desktop version. Seems that is exactly what you are looking for, so no need for L&L to go revenue sharing with some 2nd rate solution when the one they will deliver will do the job perfectly. Keith & co have made it abundantly clear what his/their vision is.
  4. Searching back through Android and pre iOS release shows a number of similar requests for ‘light’ options which L&L confirmed were not in their plans.
  5. Meanwhile, read the Sync to External threads they give you ample options that work well. I only have Win V3 beta installed not 1.9. The Sync to External is in V3 beta though can’t confirm it on the earlier version.