Blind Bargains

5 things that aren't writing apps that are still useful for productivity

I've talked a lot about the best writing apps for iOS. Whether you're writing a blog, a novel, or just some notes for class, iOS offers a wide range of apps that can make writing--and organizing-- your work a lot easier.

But writing is more than just finding the right app. Its also finding a routine that works for you, tools that you enjoy using, and, possibly, doing a lot more self reflection than you ever expected. Today's article is all about those little things that help you write, before, and after, you start putting words on the page.

1. Day One Journal (free with optional in-app yearly and monthly subscriptions)

From once-in-a-lifetime events to everyday moments, Day One s elegant interface makes journaling about your life a simple pleasure.

Award Winning: Apple App of the Year and Apple Design Award

Over 10 million downloads

1 rated app for journaling

It feels almost sacred: A completely private digital space. The New York Times

Day One makes keeping a journal delightfully easy. Wired

Keeping a journal is an act of love. It makes you aware of your surroundings, cognizant of your actions, and open to adapting to all the changes around you.

Day One is the journal that redefines journaling. Discover how Day One lets you to capture life as you live it.

What you ll love about Day One:

Focus on your writing with a layout that has everything you need and nothing you don t.

Use On This Day to take a trip back in time. No time machine needed.

Add photos, videos, drawings, or audio recordings to bring your journal entries to life.

Protect your journal with biometric security, end-to-end encryption, and automatic backups with the ability to export your data anytime.

Download for free on iPhone, iPad, Mac, and Apple Watch.

Follow us on Instagram for tips, prompts, and beautiful photography to help you get the most from your journal.

Download now for FREE, or learn more at:

Day One is FREE to use with unlimited entries. Additional features are available with a Day One Premium membership.

Privacy Policy:
Terms of Use:
For technical assistance or other inquiries, email:

Why I recommend it

This app is useful in two primary ways. First, it has an incredibly robust tagging system, making it easy to find and organize entries. If you pay for multiple journals, you can further organize entries by journal, a personal journal and writing journal, for example. It includes several useful templates for daily reflection and planning. If you're skeptical, I understand. But I do believe that the greater insight you have into your own thought process and emotions, the better able you'll be to write, both because you will be more used to reflection, and because, I often find, once you clear your own mental clutter, more space exists for creative work.

Furthermore, the app also supports the ability to create custom templates. In addition to the included personal reflection templates, you could create templates for capturing and refining your creative ideas, tracking a daily word count, things that keep you from writing, or even daily reflections to set an intention while writing and then reflect on that day's work.

The only feature that this app does not have is a web version, though I understand that feature previously existed and is under development to return.

2. Habitica: Gamified Taskmanager (free with optional in-app subscriptions)

The NEW app from HabitRPG! Rewritten from the ground up for a smoother experience and more features.

Treat your life like a game to stay motivated and organized! Habitica makes it simple to have fun while accomplishing goals.

Input your Habits, your Daily goals, and your To-Do list, and then create a custom avatar. Check off tasks to level up your avatar and unlock features such as armor, pets, skills, and even quests! Fight monsters with friends to keep each other accountable, and use your gold on in-game rewards, like equipment, or custom rewards, like watching an episode of your favorite TV show. Flexible, social, and fun, Habitica is the perfect way to motivate yourself to accomplish anything.

Habitica can be fully enjoyed for free, but if you would like to help support us, we also offer optional in-app purchases and subscriptions. If you choose to purchase a subscription, payment will be charged to your iTunes account only when you confirm your purchase. The longer the length of your subscription, the more gems you can purchase for gold!

There are four types of optional Habitica subscriptions: $4.99 every month; $14.99 every three months; $29.99 every six months; and $47.99 every year, which is a 28% discount! (Prices may vary by location.) Subscriptions renew automatically unless cancelled at least 24 hours prior to the end of the current period. Auto-renewal may be turned off in your Account Settings in iTunes after purchase. You can also manage your subscriptions in Account Settings after purchase. Thanks for choosing Habitica!

Terms of use:

Why I recommend it

Habitica is an app that lets you gamify your life. Set a recurring or single task and then receive in-game experience and rewards for completing it.

Writing is often solitary, with few immediate rewards. Habitica can help to provide a sense of progress and momentum on a large project. More than simply allowing you to track goals and daily progress, the app also allows you to be accountable for persistent habits. By setting habits as either positive or negative, you can either gain or lose health points. If you know that poor sleep is consistently a deterrent to writing, you can set a habit for going to bed at a specific time. If you know that you want to write a certain number of words each day, or consistently on a given interval, you can do so. You can also get notified daily at a set time to mark your tasks complete, as well as setting reminders for specific tasks. Set tags to your habits, daylies or to-do's, and filter by a particular tag. There is supposed to be a way to see how many days in a row you have completed a particular daily, but as yet, this feature does not seem to be accessible.

In addition, the app also has several social options to provide accountability and interaction. Parties are small-scale groups with a maximum of 30 people. The party leader can assign quests which you jointly complete by individually completing your tasks. At the end, you receive larger experience bonuses or equipment.

Guilds, by contrast, are much larger groups organized around chatting and optional contests. By joining challenges, the challenge tasks, usually organized around a particular theme, are added to your tasks. There are a number of writing guilds and it can be a great way to meet and socialize with other writers, get and provide support, and earn in-game currency while completing your goals.

Full disclosure, I have to admit I stopped using this app as often for two reasons. The app punishes you for not completing your tasks, and because I'm not someone who writes daily, I found this demotivating. It also isn't fully accessible cross-platform, though the iOS app works very well, and for the right kind of person, or someone willing to mess with the settings more than I was, it could be incredibly helpful. The team has been very responsive to accessibility feedback both on their twitter and by email.

3. Microsoft To Do (free)

Stay organized and manage your day-to-day with Microsoft To Do. Make shopping lists or task lists, take notes, record collections, set reminders and more to improve your productivity and focus on what matters.

Microsoft To Do is the task management app that makes it easy to stay organized and manage your life. Accomplish what s important to you each day with My Day and Suggestions, personalized day planner tools. Intelligent suggestions recommend tasks from across your lists that may be relevant each day.

Quickly capture and retrieve your lists and tasks across devices by syncing reminders and tasks with Microsoft 365 to access them anywhere. For lists in personal accounts, you can collaborate with anyone with updated notifications for any changes to your to-do lists.

Capture tasks from different Microsoft apps and services and sync them with Microsoft To Do, from flagging emails as tasks in Outlook to lists from Cortana. Your tasks and lists are hosted securely on the Microsoft 365 service.

Make your lists unique with customizable features like emoji, colorful themes, dark mode and more. Stay connected and collaborate with friends and family by sharing lists that stay synced as changes are made.

Microsoft To Do Features:

Daily planner
Stay focused with My Day, a personalized daily planner with suggested tasks
Get your lists anywhere, on any device
Share your list with anyone and work together
Add notes to any task

Task manager
Share lists and tasks with your friends, family, colleagues, and classmates
Get notified when others create, complete or remove tasks in shared lists
Personalize your lists by choosing theme colors or backgrounds
Set one-time or recurring due dates and reminders
Break your tasks into manageable steps
Attach up to 25MB of files to any task

To-do lists for any purpose
Bill planner
Shopping lists
Set reminders
Task management
Business calendar
Note taking
And more

Microsoft 365 Integration
Sync your tasks between Outlook and To Do
Host lists and tasks with the reliability and security of Microsoft 365
Compile tasks from across your Microsoft 365 apps and services

Whether it's for work, school, or home, To Do helps you organize and simplify your plans. To Do is free and available on all your devices.

Learn more:
Follow us on Twitter: @MicrosoftToDo
Have an idea or feature suggestion?
Need support?

By installing Microsoft To Do, you agree to the Microsoft Terms of Use:

Why I recommend it

Microsoft ToDo is similar to Habitica, with a few different features. First, its cross-platform with windows, iOS, android, and Mac versions. It also provides the ability to create different lists to organize your tasks. You can add people to particular lists and assign them tasks as well, so it could also be useful in team or work groups.

You can attach files to or write notes for tasks, as well as breaking a task down into steps. Set due dates and reminders. Filter tasks by all tasks or those completed, so you can see both what you've done and what you have to do

Additionally, you don't get docked points for uncompleted tasks, though the app does play a pretty, happy sound when tasks are marked complete. I find this reinforcement more motivating over all than the duel rewards/punishment approach offered by Habitica. iSum

You could also use Habitica in conjunction with ToDo, using one for daily tasks and one for general tasks with no specific time frame.

4. The right keyboard

Sounds obvious, doesn't it? But the effect of the right tool really can't be overstated. Finding a keyboard that feels comfortable for your hands will help you write faster. Consider the size of your hands, as well as your workflow. Do you routinely switch between devices? Multi-device support might be important. Consider the battery life of any prospective keyboard, as well as how often you honestly think you'll remember to keep it charged. The key travel is really subjective, but can make a big difference to how comfortable you find typing on any keyboard. Same with key spacing and portability. These are just a few of the factors you may want to consider before buying. While you can certainly get work done on any keyboard available, finding one that is a comfortable and natural fit for you will make your typing more comfortable and may even become something you look forward to using.

As I said, good keyboards are really subjective. However, I'll give a few links to those that have worked well for me in my limited testing. I have relatively small hands and prefer quieter keyboards, with moderate key spacing. I rarely if ever use a number pad, so did not specifically look for keyboards that include one.

The Plugable Folding Bluetooth Keyboard from A. T. Guys is a wonderful keyboard for those with small hands. Its incredibly portable and travels well. The hard case that comes with it is secure and compact. The battery is chargeable and I have never had complaints of it. I have actually given this keyboard as a gift on several occasions.

However, if you tap while holding the keyboard on your lap, you may find that it folds more than you might want. I ultimately also ended up getting this somewhat sturdier Logitech k380 bluetooth keyboard It is slightly larger than the Plugable, and is still very portable. The key spacing is a bit wider than the plugable, so those with larger hands might find it an easier fit. The keyboard is not chargeable, but the batteries are user-replaceable. It is slightly different in design than other keyboards, however. Rather than being a grid of square tile-shaped keys, this one features round cap-like keys that are indented slightly, save for the bottom row of control keys, the arrow keys, and the top row of function keys, which are slightly outdented. I find this a comfortable fit for my fingers, but of course, you may find otherwise.

5. Voice control

Another feature new to iOS 13, Voice Control enables you to use your phone hands-free, with a voice-based interface alone. It is still fairly new, but is surprisingly stable for all that. It does work in conjunction with voiceOver, though the spoken commands are slightly different, "double tap item", rather than "tap item," for example.

There is some research that dictating a book can be surprisingly fast, and give you a better sense for dialogue. Check out Christopher DOWNING'S Fool Proof Dictation: A No-Nonsense System for Effective & Rewarding Dictation for a useful guide to getting into this habit if you're new to it.

To use voice control for this purpose, first, turn on Voice Control in the accessibility section of your settings, then open a document, either with Voice Control or by the touch screen. Then, instruct Voice Control to enable "dictation mode". From then, everything spoken will be typed, and you will also have access to the editing commands built into the dictation mode. Going over the full use of Voice Control and its various modes is beyond the scope of this article, though may perhaps be the subject of a future one.

Do you have other apps you find instrumental either to writing, preparing to write, or reflecting on writing? Other recommendations of keyboards you prefer? Comment below with your suggestions and recommendations.

Category: News
Displaying 1 comment.
johngallagher Wednesday, 12-Feb-2020 2:05 PM ET:

I am using ulysses with my bi14 braille display and it's terific. jonathan mosen swears by it. take a look it only works on ios though.

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Tangela Mahaffey is a barely reformed English Major currently residing in Colorado. She reads entirely too many fantasy books and takes almost nothing seriously, including herself. She loves technology, music, writing, puns, and cats. She can be reached on twitter @tmmahaff

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