I'm annoyed at my options for version control.
When I share a Google Doc, collaborators overwrite my master copy. It's insanely difficult to accept individual changes they've made.
However, when you share your document using Draft, any changes your collaborator makes are on their own copy of the document, and you get to accept or ignore each individual change they make. Here's what that looks like:
Uber for copy-editing
Sometimes I don't have anyone to assist in editing my document, but I could really use some help.
Draft has a magic "Ask a Professional" button. One click, and you can send whatever you're working on (Christmas letter, cold email to a potential customer, blog post, etc.) to a staff of reviewers to get suggested edits.
Draft makes it easy to ignore or merge in their changes. Do what you want with them.
Find your old work
iCloud and Google Docs make it very difficult to find previous versions of your work. They end up saving a lot of arbitrary junk. How can I find an old draft that has a certain paragraph I ended up deleting and now want back?
With Draft, as you go along, you can mark major versions of your work:
When you want to compare your old drafts, you have a powerful view to see how your document changed over time:
Improve popular cloud services
I have a ton of fragments of writing in cloud tools, like Evernote, but it's not an ideal place to do long form writing. You can solve that with Draft.
Import your documents from cloud services like Dropbox, Evernote, Box, Google Drive.
Using Draft, edit these documents, share with your friends, and manage your friends' suggestions. Anything you do to the document is automatically synced back to your cloud account where you imported the document from.
For example, start a blog post on the bus with Evernote, then sit down at home, use Draft to complete your blog post and get feedback. You'll always have that complete copy back in your Evernote account.
Draft documents can easily be published to Wordpress, Tumblr, Ghost, Svbtle, Blogger, Twitter, LinkedIn, Basecamp and even Mailchimp from inside Draft. Go to Settings -> Places to Publish. You'll then get a Publish button next to your documents.
But I couldn't stop there.
Bookmarklets and browser extensions like Instapaper, Evernote's Clearly, and Readability make reading anything on the web simple, focused, and gorgeous. Why can't writing be that way?
Any webpage that you can write on, you can now use Draft with. Your blog, Gmail, Twitter, Facebook, even comment boxes on websites like Reddit and Hacker News.
Just place your cursor in the box you want to write in, click the Chrome Draft extension, and Draft will open up in a new Chrome Tab. Choose an already written document or something new to write in Draft (any text from the original text box will carry over).
When you're done, there's a menu button to paste your work back into the text box you came from.
All of a sudden, everything you write everywhere is focused, versioned, and able to be shared with friends for help before you publish. I hope you like it. This might be the handiest and neatest thing I've ever made. :)
To further extend Draft to publish anywhere, you can setup WebHooks. WebHooks integrate themselves into a Publish button on your documents. When you publish to your WebHook, Draft will send your application a JSON payload of your document.
Here's more documentation on WebHooks.
Email your docs into Draft
Email is still the most used and convenient app on my mobile phone. So I've created a way to create a new document in Draft simply by emailing a secret address on your account.
Look up your secret address in Settings → Your Info. Emails to that address from you (the address you send from must match the address on your account) will turn into new documents using the text of the email as the content. Images attached also get included. So take a photo of something that interests you while riding the bus, write a few words, then flesh it out into an entire blog post later with Draft.
AUDIO/VIDEO TRANSCRIPTION TOOLS
I can't believe how much of a pain it is to transcribe even a short amount of audio. In order to write better, I've wanted to start including more transcriptions of podcasts, video presentations, and interviews in my writing, but the tools are in bad shape. I found myself using iTunes for the keyboard shortcuts, but I'd have to flip back and forth to edit the text I was transcribing.
There had to be a better way.
Now Draft can assist you with your transcription. The "New Document" button has a dropdown arrow next to it to start a "New Transcription".
You can transcribe Youtube and Vimeo videos. Or file types like .mp4/.flv or .mp3/.m4a/.aac. You can have it hosted somewhere else and use a URL, or upload it to Draft.
Your Draft edit mode will then look like this:
The green buttons allow you to skip back and forward. The loop fields allow you to create repeating loops in your audio/video media (for example, 0:00 To 0:05). Once you get that loop transcribed, the skip buttons will increment the entire loop.
Everything is tied to keyboard shortcuts, so you can quickly write, move the loop, write, move the loop. Click the ? in the media window for more help.
It's been insanely handy. I used it to quickly transcribe a Vimeo video for a blog post. And people have been using it to transcribe interviews for their books and articles.
There are so many software systems for Task/Todo lists. But it's funny how unportable those Todos are from system to system, unless someone spends time with their APIs.
They created a style of Markdown that can be easily understood as a Task/Todo list in plaintext, but also easily parsed by software. So in the spirit of spreading this, Draft now supports Github style Markdown Todos.
Just create a Markdown list looking like this:
- [ ] Write the documentation - [ ] Get tickets
And when you're viewing your document it will look like this:
And if you check one of those boxes or the labels:
the Markdown will automatically be updated with an 'x'. Like this:
- [x] Write the documentation - [ ] Get tickets
I keep multiple Draft tabs open now, with one of them being a Draft Todo list.
There's also a shortcut in the action menu:
Which will create a new Todo for you.
I needed to create a presentation the other day, but found it was strange I was reaching for heavy feature-laden apps like Keynote or Powerpoint to simply display some big text on the screen. Why do I have to click so much to create new slides, when really I just have 12 bullet points I'd like to outline and be done with the presentation? Not to mention - it's extremely difficult to version control and collaborate on a presentation.
So I added a way in Draft to create a super simple presentation.
Separate each slide in your Draft document with at least three hyphens (or asterisks).
When you view your document, it's now a presentation. Use CMD or CTRL (on Windows) + R to toggle back and forth from edit to presentation mode
You can share your document to get edits, or choose Read Only mode to share the document just as a presentation.
You can use
*italics* if you need a little decoration in your slides. Links and code formatting work well too.
It's just a simple presentation tool, inspired and powered by Tom MacWright's Big.
If you'd like to see it in action, here's a demo
Comment out your writing
Draft's origin came from pain I had trying to version control my own writing. Today, here's a neat addition.
And credit where credit is due - this feature was inspired from conversations with Jason Fried, the CEO of Basecamp, on what's missing from version control for writing...
Often I'll be working on a paragraph (or even a Tweet), and I'll want to see what a new version of the paragraph looks like. So I'll duplicate the paragraph inside my document to keep the old one around for reference.
But having duplicate sentences or blocks of text in my document makes reviewing the actual writing harder.
If you are a software developer you are very familiar with the idea of "commenting out" code. You might comment out some HTML to see what your user interface looks like without it. You might comment out some backend Python to refactor it. You comment out these things because storing, deleting, then finding them again even in "version control" is too much friction.
So today, you can now comment out your writing like you comment out code.
To do so, select a block of text you want to comment out, and use the keyboard shortcut: Shift+Alt+/.
The text will be removed from your document and shuttled to the right side of the screen, like so:
Use the '<<' link to auto-insert the text back into your document. Draft saves details of the original location of the commented out text to try and insert it back to an appropriate place.
These behave a lot like other comments. Use the Escape key to hide them. Use the comment bubble at the bottom right of the edit screen to show them again.
One of our biggest problems as writers is that we write too much. How can I say the same thing with fewer words?
Often I go to my wife. She's awesome at helping me write more concisely, but she's busy. So I created a way for Draft to help simplify my writing automatically.
In the edit menu, there's now a "Simplify" button:
Clicking it will send it to a friendly Draft robot who will become a collaborator on your document and will attempt to detect and delete sentences that might be your least important. The robot will then send you an email linking to the changes it made, which of course you can accept and reject.
You aren't going to agree with deleting some of these sentences. But even the sentences you don't delete, might be good places to manually simplify.
It's not perfect, but it's already proven useful to me, and there's other neat things I'm planning for it :)
Write Better with Analytics
Draft isn't just an online editor. My goal is to make us better writers by investigating the tasks we have as writers and making those tasks simpler and easier.
One mistake I keep seeing people make, when they publish their writing, is that they don't pay enough attention to attributes that might affect how much traction that writing will get.
They'll publish 2000 word posts, when their audience would prefer 500. Or they publish on Friday night, when no one might be paying attention and Monday morning might be a better idea.
I wanted to make this type of analysis a lot easier to understand, and help people, including myself, learn what makes our writing get more attention than other writing.
There's a Reports button on your home page.
If you click that button you can add any publicly accessible RSS/Atom feed to get a report like this.
What the report tells you is how many Tweets on average your published writing is getting, broken up by various data points: when you published, what day, post length, and reading level. And you can see what attribute is outperforming others.
Draft is using the Flesch reading level. The higher the number the lower the reading level. From Wikipedia, "90.0–100.0 is easily understood by an average 11-year-old student. 0.0–30.0 is best understood by university graduates."
This way you can see if the audience that likes to follow your writing might prefer days when your writing is more or less sophisticated.
You might see some trends in your writing. Maybe you shouldn't publish on the weekends? Maybe publish in the mornings? Maybe you should make your writing a little easier to understand? Maybe it's too short? Or too long?
There's a lot of neat possibilities to explore with this report.
Context aware comments
Click the comment bubble in the lower right corner.
You can also add comments with the new action menu at the top right.
Comments are context aware. If you quote text from your document you'll see it underlined in your comment. Hover over that quote, and you'll see where that text is in your document.
Also, if a collaborator quotes text in their document while writing a comment, you'll see those comments in your compare view.
Share an entire folder with collaborators. Just look for the share buttons next to your folders:
Share a folder with a list of email addresses or grab a link to send to whomever you want.
What's great about these Team Folders is that you don't have to send around Share links anymore to the documents inside. Your collaborators sharing a folder will automatically get updates of your documents or any new documents you create. You'll get their new documents as well. Any edits they make to your documents will automatically be setup so you can approve or reject their changes. They also can't delete your copies; your collaborators are working, editing, deleting their own versions.
Team Folders have all sorts of additional helpful things. For example, you can create discussion threads with the entire team of people sharing the folder.
Everyone in the group will be alerted via email. Any replies to those emails end up back in the discussion thread of that team. Also, if you want to silence a particular discussion thread you can do that too:
When you are working on a document in a Team Folder, you now have access to message anyone on your team about that document. Pop open the notes view in edit mode of your document, and you can pick anyone in the team to make sure they're emailed the note on the document:
I've been making websites for over 15 years, and there's still too much friction creating a simple site and keeping it updated. That's a reason I haven't kept Draft's Features page updated. And for the Job Board, I didn't want to create a full-blown application yet, until I figured out what people needed from it.
So I created Draft Sites. With Draft Sites, you can host a Draft folder as its very own website. Just hit publish in one of your folders:
Pick your own subdomain and Draft will host your folder as its own site. Name a file "Index" (or move it to the top of your documents in that folder) and that's the document people will see going to your subdomain. The other documents in that folder each get their own permalink you can use.
You can add your own CSS if you want to get fancier. To override styles I've defined, add your styles to a document named "override.css" in that folder. If you want to start your styles from scratch and have full control, name the file "main.css" instead.
This is a great way to use Draft as a super simple CMS and get a site up quickly.
You can now easily add images to your documents. Just use the menu again at the top right, or Shift+Ctrl+I. Pick an image from every cloud service or your local computer.
Draft will host your image for you and properly format the image to embed it nicely within your text.
Click on the word count at the bottom right of the page to flip it into a character count.
What's really neat about the count is that the setting will carry over to collaborators. So if you are working on a 500 character email in character mode, your collaborator will also get put into character mode.
The best advice about creativity I've ever received is: "Write drunk; edit sober" - often attributed to Ernest Hemingway. I don't take the advice literally. But it points to the fact that writing and editing are two very different functions. One shouldn't pollute the other. It's difficult to write if you're in a editing mindset and removing more words than you're putting on the page.
So I've added Hemingway Mode to help.
To turn it on, when writing a document, use the keyboard shortcut SHIFT+CTRL+ALT+RightArrow.
Draft will turn off your ability to delete anything in your document. You can only write at the end of what you've already written. You can't go back; only forward. To return to normal mode, use the same shortcut to turn Hemingway Mode off.
It's helpful in creating that rough first draft.
Draft has a REST API to add it to your own tools and workflow.
Draft is improving at a quick pace. The best place to keep up-to-date with Draft is at my blog, Ninjas and Robots. Here are some very important announcements about new things in Draft:
- Comment out writing, auto-simplification, email documents to Draft
- Presentations; publishing to Basecamp, Svbtle and Ghost; and Minor revisions
- Team Folders, Import/Export updates, and NaNoWriMo support...
- Job Board, Draft Sites, Editor Flow...
- Hemingway Mode, Word/Google Docs Support, Kindle Export...
- Draft Announcements: Webcast, Merge Changes View, Snippets/Templates, Footnotes...
- Folders, Daily Word Count Report, Reject Changes, Wordpress Drafts...
- Audio/video transcription tools, comments alongside changes, improved social analytics reports...
That's just a little of what you can accomplish with Draft. There's a lot more in store. Give it a try.