The computer & mobile platform flame wars entertain me. Apple vs. Google vs. Microsoft vs. Research in Motion (aka RIM aka Blackberry): each ecosystem has its positives and negatives. I still own a PC, though I use it more as a secondary system these days. I also own Apple products (Leopard and iOS alike), I’m a former Blackberry user (still love that keyboard), I’ve used Linux distros, and I’m using an Android phone. I’ll do a “top writer apps”Â segment for each one—except Linux, probably. Let’s start with my current love interest, Google’s Android.
As I mentioned in a previous column, I don’t use my Motorola Droid for writing. With the lack of a multitouch keyboard, it makes typing a bit clunky and slow—and let’s not get into my phone’s alleged physical keyboard. But sometimes, a writer needs to do things besides write—tasks in support of the classic short story, poem or novel in progress. Or maybe you need to update the blog that’s collecting dust (a self-referential comment, to be sure). Whatever it may be, the Android platform is full-featured and intuitive enough to help the writer get something done, whether its organization or social networking (gotta build up that brand).
I’ve broken the apps down to six main categories: Reference, Blogging, Social Network, Organization, Research, and Wild Card (the latter is basically my favorite app that doesn’t fit into the other categories). Each of these apps can be found in the Android Market on your phone.
Dictionary.com for Android – Look, I’ll be upfront—this app might end up on every “top”Â list I do, independent of the platform. Are you a writer? If so, there’s no excuse to not download Dictionary.com, which brings the site’s full dictionary and thesaurus to your fingertips. It’ll install direct to your phone, meaning you can look up any word, at any time, whether you have a 3G/Wi-Fi connection or not. A no-brainer, must-have–at least I think so.
WordPress for Android – I used to maintain two or three blogs on Blogger. My friend shamed me into switching to WordPress and I haven’t looked back. The app allows you to create, edit and publish blog posts, as well as moderate and respond to comments. You won’t get the full WordPress Dashboard experience, but the app will also upload pictures from your phone’s internal or removable memory, so it balances out. Note: this app works for self-hosted WordPress blogs only (sorry to those blogs hosted on WordPress.com).*
Seesmic for Android – I know many writers who swear by Facebook for social networking and branding. Unfortunately, Android’s Facebook app is lame, so let’s talk Twitter instead. Seemic’s app (which now supports Google Buzz) allows you to manage multiple Twitter accounts (a killer function, in my opinion). The app’s UI isn’t the prettiest, but you get full Twitter functionality, including location, favorites and list support.
GTasks – If you’re using an Android phone, I’m assuming you use Gmail—which means you have access to Google Tasks (whether you know it or not). Need a reminder to visit the post office to mail off your manuscript? GTasks is a simple way to add and schedule tasks, sync those tasks to your Google Calendar and, even better, it automatically inserts the task into your phone’s on-board calendar. You can even add a GTasks widget to your phone screen; this may seem redundant if you’re already using a good calendar widget (Psst–Android Agenda).
NewsRob (Free or Pro versions) – Research can come from many places. While the word implies “seek and ye shall find,”Â this is 2010—why seek when I can use an RSS aggregator? NewsRob syncs with Google Reader, pulls down the latest feeds and opens them either in the app’s browser or the phone’s browser (tip: use the phone’s browser). Between the tech blogs and writing blogs, both personal “diary”Â types or more formal “newsy”Â sites, NewsRob helps me stay up to date. The Pro version is ad-free and provides additional features (but it’ll cost you $7).
Kindle for Android – I personally don’t know of anyone who reads e-books on their phones. With my crappy eyesight, I’d prefer a larger screen. But I give Amazon’s Kindle app the nod for one reason. Apple’s iBooks might look better, but Kindle’s iPad app offers a more robust e-book offering, making it my e-reading app of choice on the “magical”Â tablet. The killer feature, however, is Amazon’s WhisperSync; all of the books purchased and downloaded to my iPad are now on my Android phone. So when I needed a book during my recent trip to the DMV, I opened Kindle on my Droid, synced my account and the app took me to the last book I read on the iPad—on the page I last bookmarked (that’s dope).
If you’re an Android user, or if you’re considering a switch to the platform, the apps above are just a sample of what the system has to offer. And since I’m always on the hunt for a good app, post some suggestions of your own in the comments section. Next up–Apple’s mobile platform, iOS.