Writing, editing, and the frustrations of being a writer with a smartphone

I had purchased an iPhone back in December 2011 to replace the Samsung Galaxy S that was giving me all sorts of problems — irreconcilable differences, so to speak. It was a 32 Gig 4s. I figured I’d be able to do all sorts of writing and editing and stuff like that there on it.

Well, over a year later and I still haven’t found a decent word processing app that is compatible with Libreoffice (or the defunct OpenOffice) .odt files, which is what I use on my laptop.

I’ve tried several programs. Dropbox is just for storage. It doesn’t recognize the .odt format when I try to open it. An app called Documents will download the file from Dropbox but it doesn’t open it. So basically, Documents turned out to be worthless.

I’ve tried to use Google Docs (now Google Drive) with Google’s Chrome browser. I can access the documents and do rudimentary editing, but its extremely slow and difficult to navigate around the document with just your finger. Sometimes it just has a mind of it’s own and goes back to the beginning and if its a long document, scrolling back to the place you were editing using tiny finger flicks on the tiny doc screen that shows above the keyboard is very frustrating and time consuming.

Then Google introduced a Google Drive app. Less twitchy than using Chrome to access my documents, but the screen won’t rotate so you’re stuck editing in a vertical position on a narrow 1-7/8ths inch keyboard. It is annoying as hell and this is also my biggest gripe about the Facebook app. FIX THE ROTATION, DICKHEADS! (That sudden outburst applies to Google Drive and Facebook, by the way.)

I just downloaded a pay app called Open Word that sounded promising, because it can do .odt files and it can also access Google Doc files, but it’s just as twitchy when working with G-Docs as Chrome is and actually appears to be the exact same interface.

As far as opening .odt docs through Dropbox, when I do it offers a few navigational tools that I didn’t get from Chrome or Google Drive, such as arrows to move the cursor up, down, left or right within the text in addition to the standard finger swipe. The main problem with this app is SEEING your text. There is a standard menu bar on top, like you’d get if you were using a Windows or iOS program, complete with “File,” “Edit,” “View,” “Insert,” “Format,” “Table,” and “Tools.” (I haven’t fully explored these yet.) The issue comes in when you click on the Keyboard icon and the keyboard appears for editing — you can’t SEE the text any more! It’s hidden because of the File Menu on top and the keyboard on the bottom, leaving only about three lines of text visible. WTF? Who can do any serious editing that way?

So, as far as being a valuable tool in my writing repertoire, the iPhone fails big time. At least in regards to the apps I’ve so far found and tried.

The main issue here is the size of the screen, which I don’t think any app, no matter how marvelous, can ever overcome. The iPhone’s screen is just too small for serious writing and editing. Sure, the iPhone 5 is slightly taller, but I doubt that will help any. My problems with the screen are two-fold. One, my eyes start burning from the strain of staring at the little itty-bitty screen and two, typing is a frustrating bitch — a complete aggravating pain in the ass. My thumbs are just too big and I’m constantly touching the wrong keys, most notably when I try to space and I end up with periods or Ns or what have you. And if you’re trying to type in the Open Word app I spoke of, and the text is hidden by the keyboard, you have no idea of the mess you’ve just caused.

That’s one point for my old Galaxy S. My typing mistakes are extreme on the iPhone 4S. And since I’m a writer, typing is very important to me. So for that reason alone I’m thinking of switching phones, however, now I hear Apple talking about releasing new iPhones, maybe even several different models for the first time ever — each with different qualities, such as a larger screen. I haven’t looked into this so don’t quote me, I only caught a blurb on the news. But if that’s the case, it could be just the thing Apple needs in light of all the big screen smartphones out there.

The things I like about the iPhone? It’s the very things many people hate about Apple — their propensity toward making everything proprietary — the fact that they control nearly every aspect of their product from the hardware to the software. Why do I like that? Because if you buy an Apple product you know it’ll work all the time. When you download apps that they vigorously tested, you know it’ll work all the time. When you buy an Apple accessory, when you hook it up, you know it’ll work all the time.

With my Samsung, I ran into so many problems with apps not functioning properly. And if I took it in, the Verizon people would say there was nothing they could do except refresh it back to factory standards. They had no way of knowing which app it was that was causing the problems so I’d have to blow everything away, then load each app, one at a time, to make sure each worked properly until I loaded the next. Except this didn’t guarantee anything because as soon as an app upgraded, the upgrade could cause problems and again — there was no way of knowing which one it was!

I can’t tell you how many times I had to refresh that stupid Galaxy S and start from scratch. I have NEVER had to do that with my iPhone.

And my iPhone is a much better PHONE than the Samsung ever was. Reception was fair with the Samsung, but it just didn’t get loud enough for me. When I was talking to someone, I couldn’t turn it up enough to hear them in crowded situations. The iPhone gets plenty loud and even better than that, I can turn it up with physical mechanical buttons that work! The Samsung didn’t have mechanical buttons, it used software, which always seemed glitchy. I’d have to hold the phone just right at this angle where it was perpendicular to the ground, while waiting for the phone’s touchpad to appear, and then, if the moon was in the seventh house and Jupiter aligned with Mars, I’d be able to raise the volume.

But still not enough to hear anything!

But those are all design flaws that maybe, just maybe, Samsung has addressed.

Because, as I said, I need a bigger screen. and I’m liking the looks of the larger Samsungs and that giant LG, although I heard that one performs like crap. I want something I can write on. I don’t take my laptop with me anywhere. And if I got a tablet, it would only have WiFi, not 3G or 4G or whatever G is there when I get around to buying one and I need connectivity to do my writing and I’m not always in a WiFi spot. Nor would I always have my table with me.

I always have my phone with me.

So now the research begins, to see who gets my business: Apple, Android, Windows 8, or … Blackberry. OK, you’re right. I couldn’t keep a straight face when I said that, but if I had said Palm, you’d have known for sure I was kidding. Blackberry at least still almost sounds reasonable.

Here’s hoping I find something I’ll be happy with longer than one year, which is how long I had the Galaxy S before getting so frustrated I got the iPhone and how long I’ve had the iPhone.

Anyone have any ideas of a good writer’s phone?



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