What are some of the best actions/tips for getting a new Drafts user to start regularly relying on the app?


#1

I am a new user, struggling with figuring out how to get Drafts to work best for me. Some of the tips here are very helpful, others, I still don’t seem to “see the point”, I guess?

For example: composing messages in Drafts. I get it if you are going to need to say something to a co-worker or colleague and don’t know if you should email or text or what have you. But if you’re just going to text your significant other or a close friend, I don’t see why I’d draft that in Drafts first rather than just opening Messages and texting them, reading their response and responding from that app? Just seems tedious to me.

I’ve been trying Drafts more, since the beginning of the year (as one of my resolutions is to streamline and simplify my workflow and productivity), but still haven’t gotten it to “work” quite right for me yet.

Can anyone share with me what actions got them to incorporate Drafts into their daily workflow? What stuff made it an absolutely must have app, over others? What made you use Drafts more often, and subsequently get rid of your previous routines?

If anyone has suggestions, I’d love to hear them!

Also, as a side note: I’m looking for a new Task manager to start using in conjunction with Drafts. Preferably a free app, or an optional subscription model one.

Excited to be part of this community! Just a little more about me that might help with offering suggestions: I’m a law student, currently in my final year, and I love to cook, read, run, and play video games. I love whiskey and The Office, and enjoy all things iOS. Always trying to “spice things up” with how I use my devices and I’m hoping Drafts can become a new “spice” for me this year!

Thanks for having me!


#2

One of my favorite uses for Drafts is sending emails. I am now using a combination of Siri Shortcuts and Drafts for this. I could technically just start in Drafts but I like some of the dialogue boxes in my workflows that I use. Here is a recent example of a workflow that I use to send an email that could easily be modified.

Additionally, since the advent of the Drafts Mac app I’ve been using Drafts as a quick note storage. Before I really needed something cross-platform on iOS and Mac. While some would use something like NValt I never got it to stick. Now I can have all my notes in Drafts.

For work, related to the notes, I will write up quick proposals or notes and use this action with some modified CSS to fit my context, to send to others.


#3

A few things to consider here.

Some people get easily distract…!!SQUIRREL!!.. ed. Keeping them out of some apps makes them more productive because they can’t be distracted by something else.

Sometimes you might find what starts as a text message ends up being more suitable as an email.

They’re just a couple of reasons why people elect to start everything in Drafts.


#4

I’m new to Drafts too, but after just a few weeks’ use it’s made itself at home in my dock. I’m using it mainly to keep notes as I work, and one thing that really helps with this is that Drafts opens with a blank page. I can make a note then tap an action to append it to a running log, without the distraction of seeing the previous entries. I’m also using it to send tasks to OmniFocus, Reminders, save URLs, and just generally as a bucket to dump stuff in which I’ll clean up later.

All my Actions include adding at least one tag, even if the action is set to trash the Draft. I’m a big fan of tags and use them liberally. I’m also a fan of Drafts Workspaces and have set up about a dozen, some for specific jobs, some for specific reference topics, some broader ones, e.g. lists. I can see it becoming more of a database, and I’ve already started transferring stuff to Drafts from other note apps.

As for things like Messages, I might start a message in Drafts because that’s where I am, but I don’t feel I have to force myself to use it for that; and I’m unlikely to use Drafts much for email because most often I’m replying.

Drafts is hugely versatile and I’m already finding it indispensable and I’m only getting started! I’m sure that you will find it invaluable as a law student, there must be a mass of stuff you have to store and reference, and I can see it being just about the perfect tool for that, once you’ve built a few custom actions.

As an aside, I listened recently to this podcast which you might find interesting Drafts 5 with Greg Pierce of Agile Tortoise – iPad Pros (it’s worth subscribing).

I’m writing this in Drafts… obvs!


#5

Good to hear from a new user who found a way to make Drafts work for them. What are some other actions you use? I’d also be interested in adding that Save URL action, the add tag action, and the append to previous Draft action, it you don’t mind sharing them. I can’t find them, and don’t know if I’m just not searching for the right things


#6

Okay, so the save-URL thing is actually a Shortcut which saves from Safari into Drafts, and I just adapted this Shortcut from Jay Miller.

For the other stuff, I encourage you to dive in and play with setting up some actions and see how they work. My suggestion would be to make a new empty action group and copy some actions into it, bash them around a bit and explore.


#7

For me, I am doing this in steps. I took messages, apple notes and mail on the second page of my home screen. I have also put drafts in my dock. So initially I am just using it to capture. For example, someone gave me a url as I was leaving a meeting. I opened my phone, opened drafts and entered the url and the perspn’s name. That was 6 hours ago and that note still sits in drafts with a couple of tags for context. When I need that url I will put it somewhere.

Everyone talks about using all this automation with drafts, which I do not have time to figure out right now. So right now it is just a capture device. It uses tags like bear and not folders like Ulysses and apple notes so I have to get in the habit of liberally using tags so I can search for things.


#8

For me, I’d say getting to see the value of (Multi)Markdown and Taskpaper file formats has been key.

Plus a few demo actions that go beyond what most editors can do would help.

But, from the previous two paragraphs, I’m a bit of a geek. So my take is probably not typical. :slight_smile:


#9

I was a computer programmer before my current gig and I can be a nerdy as the next one. I just don’t have time to spend


#10

Hi,

The append & prepend of a new note to an existing one, is fantastic, when I’m doing “web research”, for example.

Markdown email is another one.

Sync IOS/MacOS is great.

There are many others.


#11

My adoption had two phases:

Phase 1:

I started (and continue) to use Drafts as my digital scratch pad. Need to jot down somebody’s number or email address? That to-do that your boss just asked you to do? That book recomendation from a friend? The name of your potential client’s kids that he mentioned at lunch?

Quick: Put it in Drafts. Get it down and out of your head now. Worry about where to put it later.

Drafts has all sorts of actions for processing things later when you have a chance to reflect on it.

Phase 2:

Once I had the habit of 1, I wanted to create a bit more structure for myself and to build myself some tools to make common tasks easier. One of the first things I did, was create a button that inserts the current time, rounding to the nearest tenth of an hour. That’s all it does. Saves me a ton of very minor mental load. I have a similar button for the current date.

I started using these buttons to track my time (something I used to do on a scratch pad and/or in a dedicated app). That has mushroomed into a complex script and series of actions that make time tracking fantastically easy and exactly how I want it to work.

I’ve built other actions to send notes of phone calls or conversations to the notes field of a specified contact (sort of a light-weight CRM), or to send more official notes to my log of communications in Ulysses.

I have not found myself composing emails or text messages in Drafts, even though I know that’s a popular usage. So if that use-case doesn’t appeal for you, don’t use it. And recognize that you can love drafts even if you don’t want to use it for sending texts and emails.


#12

Where is the append/prepend action? I can’t seem to find this anywhere but it seems like it would be really useful for what I would use Drafts for.


#13

Thank you for responding and outlining your adoption process! I need to start using Drafts more as my initial “go to” for quick notes and stuff. I think I got overwhelmed with all the actions and stuff (mainly cause I have no idea how to go about creating my own, but I realize I don’t need to even worry about that right now as I’m just starting out). Hopefully I get the hang of it soon.


#14

Append and prepend are options when you are sharing content to Drafts using the share sheet.


#15

I think my primary use for Drafts is as an alternative to typing in Web forms. If a note on a Web forum is longer than a couple of lines, I’ll open a draft, type in there and then cut-and-paste it into the web.

Also, I use Drafts to update my personal blog. I use that blog primarily for microblogging — short posts of a couple of sentences. I write in Drafts, and then use a very simple Action to email to wordpress. I do this because the alternatives on blogging for Wordpress from iOS are either horrible or broken.

Additionally, on the Mac I use Drafts as scratch paper. If I want to type a quick note, just a few words, I type it in using the quick entry keyboard shortcut on Drafts. Part of my job involves tweeting to promote my company’s activity, and those tweets can each include a couple of account names, a hashtag or two and a URL. It’s easier for me to compose them in Drafts and then cut-and-paste them into Twitter.


#16

Here’s why I find Drafts useful/productive: you don’t need to think about how you are going to process the info you capture before you actually jot it down.

In other words, capture the idea, then send it where it needs to go.

To send an email to a regular recipient, I need to:

  • launch the Mail app
  • tap the “compose message” button
  • choose or start typing the recipient’s name
  • start typing my message

With Drafts:

  • launch Drafts
  • start typing

For me, being able to immediately capture my thoughts and worry about addressing and sending later on is the real key value here.

For regular text/email recipients, I have automation set up so I don’t even need to add them, Drafts does this for me.

And set up properly, Drafts can use the first line of the draft as the email Subject, and the remaining lines as the email Body. Again, this makes things super fast to capture a thought and send it on.

Regarding the append/prepend actions, I use these in conjunction with text files on Dropbox. There is at least one default action in Drafts 5 (I believe) that you can use for experimenting with this. You’ll need to pay the subscription to be able to do any sort of customization to the append/prepend action (or add more append/prepend actions, or to make your own).

How I use this is to keep running text file lists on Dropbox, such as an inbox.txt, todo.txt, groceries.txt, ideas.txt and so on.

When a eureka moment occurs, I launch Drafts, capture the idea, then using the relevant action I send it off to be appended or prepended to the associated text file on Dropbox.

Without Drafts, I would need to launch the Dropbox app, find the folder, find the document, tap it, tap to insert the cursor, then start typing. By then my genius idea has evaporated :slight_smile:

And as others have hinted at above, there are “tokens” you can use when building your actions to do things like insert the current date, or time, or both, formatted as you prefer. Great for capturing journal/task entries with a timestamp without having to laboriously type the date/time by hand.

These can be added to your Action workflows so that they just happen when you invoke the action. You only need to set it up once beforehand.

For example, just type out a todo list item, hit the custom “todo” action you’ve built, and it can be set up to append the text from the current draft to a new line on a text file of your choice on Dropbox (or iCloud Drive, etc), with the current date and time automagically prepended to the entry.

In other words, your draft text is:

clean the gutters

and your action workflow adds it to the end of the todo.txt file on Dropbox, with the capture date prepended:

[2019-01-10] organize garage
[2019-01-08] vacuum bedrooms
[2019-01-14] clean the gutters

So essentially, Drafts reduces/removes process “friction” for capturing and processing text.

I think if you just started implementing Drafts in those sorts of situations and workflows, the concept will click for you in short order. From there, you’ll start envisioning plenty of other ways to adapt these and other actions/workflows to your own needs.

There may be ways to append/prepend to Drafts stored within the Drafts app itself, but I do not work with Drafts that way. But it’s flexible enough as of version 5 and the new Mac that you can work that way too I would assume.

But my setup is to use Drafts only to capture the text and send it off elsewhere. Mostly to text files on Dropbox. In particular, a folder of txt files which I use in conjunction with nvALT for editing/organizing on the Mac, but that’s a bit off-topic for the present discussion.


#17

@georgec Thank you for the detailed description of how you implement Drafts! I’ve been trying to use it more and more and have been getting the hang of it.

I really like your Dropbox + Drafts idea. I’d love to incorporate that into my workflow, would you mind explaining it more to me (maybe in a PM)? Stuff like how you set it up, which actions youve used, etc? I just enjoy learning how stuff like this all works and the processes, others may or may not.

I still don’t understand how the append/prepend stuff works…I’ve tried to do that with Safari links and stuff using the share extension on iPhone but it seems I might need to purchase the subscription in order to get it to work properly.

Thanks for your suggestions, and patience!


#18

I should note that I am still using Drafts 4. In Drafts 5, you need to pay the subscription to be able to edit the Actions (or create custom actions). Which I think is less than ideal, since it prohibits new/casual users from experimenting with the full functionality of the Actions.

As you’ve noted, a brief trial for the Pro features is barely enough to wrap your head around the basic functionality and power of the app, let alone experiment with advanced options like editing or creating custom Actions.

At any rate, the “Append to Dropbox journal” built-in Action is likely the best template to start experimenting from as a starting point. If you subscribe, you’ll be able to edit the built-in Actions and see how they were built. It all makes much more sense with that access.

I think the free version of Drafts needs to have at least one, and ideally 3-5 editable actions, so people can start playing with them once they get the hang of the app.

I suppose one could pay for a subscription to have time to test it all. Maybe that’s the point. I dunno, I think an Action or three to play with would be a good marketing idea in the free version. Whet the appetite. I don’t think the free Actions are compelling enough to fork over for the subscription.

And few are likely to hold off on starting the Pro trial — everybody wants to jump in and see what the big deal is. But then it takes a few weeks to get even the basic gist of the app and it’s workflow — let alone customizing actions — and by then the subscription has expired.

Since you can’t edit Actions at all (in the post-trial free version), there is zero way to even get a feel for how one could customize Actions, or what sort of capability they might have.

So yeah, I see your confusion about how you’d get anything of real value out of this app based on the very limited free version features.

There isn’t even an “ad” to let you know there are additional features available with the subscription. There should at least be a way to access the Action edit button, and then a prompt to get you to subscribe. So no way of even knowing you’re missing out on something.

So yeah I see your confusion here.

I guess you’ll need to pay for the subscription to test these things out.

Or pick up the non-subscription version, Draft 4, if it’s still available.


#19

@SwaddleN64 there’s a monthly subscription for $2. A month should be long enough to test the additional pro features.