From Tot to Drafts 5

Over the years I've used a variety of different note taking apps on Mac and iOS. On the Mac side NVAlt was probably the first application that I really got on board with. The simplicity and ease of search made it a great environment for collecting my thoughts, gathering information and URLs, and writing down solutions to various tasks that required a few steps on the command line that I could never fully remember.

For notes capture on the iOS side I've mainly used Drafts 4 since it came out and it has served me well. When Drafts 5 came out it looked promising, but I wasn't terribly excited about another iOS software subscription and Drafts 4 continued to work fine for me. I've used 4's text action features at times over the years, but not enough that I needed additional power and functionality.

There was also a real disconnect between my Mac note taking tools and my iOS tools. On the Mac side everything I tried over the years worked via plain text or markdown files (which is great). But that made syncing between macs and iOS challenging and usually involved Dropbox, or a similar third party service. That also increased the chance of file modification conflicts if I was working in my notes app on a couple different macs at the same time. And there was no direct connection between Drafts and my notes archive folder on Dropbox.

Last week John Gruber plugged a very simple and elegant mac text capture app from the Icon Factory called Tot. It's free on the Mac so I downloaded it and gave it a try at work on my work iMac and PowerBook Pro. It synced seamlessly between the two machines and worked well enough that I actively considered whether I would be willing to spend the $20 for the iOS app to finally have a nice integrated solution between platforms.

Thinking about Tot's $20 one time price tag reminded me that Drafts 5 has the same price for a year's worth of Pro functionality. If I was going to spend that amount of money for an app that was kind of similar to Drafts, but with a lot less functionality, maybe I should finally take a look at the latest version. I had never actually tried Drafts 5 on the Mac or iOS so I started investigating and discovered a couple very promising facts:

  1. Basic functionality and syncing is free thanks to iCloud sync!
  2. The Drafts Mac application only requires High Sierra.

So there was really no reason not to try Drafts 5 out this week, and furthermore, that last fact offered a ray of hope for my primary home desktop, a 2009 MacPro desktop which had been running El Capitan until yesterday. Having full notes app integration between all the Apple devices I work on would be a big leap forward.