Capture is arguably the most important part of a system. It gets a thought of an idea or task or project out of your head and into a safe trusted space so that your mind can be free to think about what is important at the moment and, with a powerful computer in your pocket at all times, capturing has never been easier than it is today. However, capturing alone does no good if you don’t process that information regularly, sorting tasks and projects that need doing so that proper action can be taken. This is my struggle.
I can capture quickly and easily thanks to Siri and share extensions, as well as apps like Workflow. The biggest boon to quick capture though is easily Drafts. Drafts had the tagline where text starts on iOS, and there couldn’t be a more fitting description of it for me. From my phone or my watch, I can easily capture thoughts as they come, and know that they’re safely stored until I can get around to processing them. Unfortunately, I’ve long struggled with committing to doing so regularly, and I often find myself having way more notes in my Drafts inbox than I need. With some of the new features launched in Drafts 5 recently, I am trying to change that.
What makes Drafts so brilliant is not only how easy and fast it is to add some text, but how quick and flexible it is at getting that text from your inbox to whatever app or service you need to get it to. Much of this is done through URL schemes, but even if you aren’t familiar with that concept, there are plenty of actions in the Action Directory, with more being added by users all the time. Creating tasks in Things or OmniFocus, or journal entries in Day One, or sending text to DEVONthink, Dropbox, or a number of other apps, these can all be done without writing your own actions, because other users have already done so.
With version 5, these core functionalities have been improved, but several new features have also been introduced, which I believe will help me improve my system and get better at processing and acting on what I capture. The first such feature is tagging. Notes in Drafts can now be tagged with multiple tags, and so I am testing a system of using a specific tag called
process to denote what items need to be processed. This will help me get through the abundance of existing data I have in there already. Most of the stuff that I put into Drafts will need processing in some form, but those which are truly important — including those important enough for me to dictate capture from my watch — I will tag to be processed. I have other tags for less important ideas and notes that aren’t necessarily urgent.
I’ve also added the Drafts complication to my Apple Watch face, which will open directly to an active dictation when tapped. In the Watch app on iPhone, you can designate a specific tag for notes captured on your watch. This means you could have all watch-captured notes be tagged with a
process tag. If I’m capturing it on my watch, it’s probably important.
Next up in version 5 is the addition of Workspaces. Workspaces are essentially saved searches, which can filter drafts by a combination of text content and/or tags. I have a few setup for those less urgent tags I mentioned before, such as notes on app betas I’m participating in, and I have also set up a workspace for my
process tag, which allows me to easily view just those drafts which need immediate processing, so I can run through the list and get them where they need to go. This is a handy feature if you find yourself using tags for anything in Drafts 5. My use case here shows that workspaces can be useful even if you only use Drafts as a starting point and don’t keep much in the app long term. For those who use it for more in-depth purposes such as a text editor, I imagine it will be even more helpful. There’s also a new command in the Drafts URL scheme to launch the app to a specific workspace view. I’m utilizing this in a repeating OmniFocus task to launch Drafts directly to my To Process workspace:
I know some people have strong feelings about using badge notifications, but I am now giving it a try in Drafts. Why? Tags. The new badge notification settings for Drafts allow you to filter by tags. I have it setup to only count those drafts which are tagged as
process, rather than counting the entire inbox. This lets me know at a glance how many need immediate attention.
While I’ve only scratched the surface here of what’s new in Drafts 5, these are the features I believe will help me as I work to improve my system. Tim Nahumck wrote an excellent review on MacStories that goes in depth on all the new features and design. Drafts has been in my dock since I discovered it in 2013, and the latest version further solidifies its place there. The design is beautiful and the new features make it even more powerful than before.
Drafts is available as a free download on the App Store, with monthly or annual subscription options available. Give it a try and decide if the features are right for you. For me, it’s absolutely worth an annual subscription.