Wednesday, May 14, 2014

The Mobile Author, Part Two: Getting Organized

The Mobile Author, Part One: The Portable Office

Today, I'm going to cover some mobile apps you can use to manage your mobile workspace.

Organizing Your Workspace

A phone, tablet, or computer quickly becomes a disorganized pile of apps and files. You'll want to make it easier to find your things. It's the difference between having an organized workbench in your garage with all your tools sorted and safely stowed away and having your hammers and screwdrivers scattered throughout your house, stuffed into kitchen junk drawers, or hiding with the dust bunnies under the bed. I know that last "organization" method all too well.

When setting up your mobile writing space, the goal should be to have everything--writing programs, manuscripts, notes, schedules, files, and contacts--as readily available as they would be if you were sitting at your desk. Because you're packing everything into a smaller space, you might even discover that you can be more efficient with a tablet than you can be with all your stuff stacked in piles in and around your desk.

If your device provides multiple pages, take advantage of them. Keep all the icons for your most frequently used writing apps on one page so you don't have to search for them. If your device supports folders, use them to further organize your stuff. If folder support isn't built-in, there's an app for that.

Create shortcuts to your favorite websites (like, ahem, this blog) and keep them handy. Use an app like Pocket to store info you find on the Web so it's handy, even when you are not connected.

Apps that you want to access quickly, like your camera and your note-taking app, should never be more than a tap or two away. If you have to search for anything you need in your mobile office, you could probably organize your workspace better.

Your organization scheme should be a natural extension of the way you work, and will differ from person to person, but the key to a successful mobile office is keeping everything you need within easy reach. You should never have to look for anything.  It's just there.

Your Filing Cabinet

Of course, you'll want to have your files wherever you go. You can carry a flash drive or external hard disk (with an OTG cable, if you use a tablet) with you, but the cloud is perfect for storing essential files. If you use Google Drive, Dropbox, or a similar service, your files are available anywhere without requiring you to carry more stuff with you. 

If you have a file on one device but not the others, you can use a Bluetooth program, such as the aptly named Bluetooth File Transfer app, to copy the file between devices.

An app like Android's AirDroid is essential if you want to manage your mobile devices from your computer, including moving files around, without even plugging in a cable from the device to the computer. I don't know if there's a similar app on iOS devices, but if you use Android, this one is a must.

Manage your mobile device wirelessly with AirDroid

And, if you really want to get fancy, you can use a remote access app, such as PocketCloud (Android or iOS), to actually access your Windows or Mac computer from your mobile device. With one of these apps, your tablet or phone becomes a sort of remote control for your "real" computer. You can run programs on your computer and edit that file you forgot about, then transfer it to your Dropbox so it's available wherever you are.  You could even remotely access your computer, find the file you need, and use AirDroid to transfer the file directly to your tablet. These kinds of programs tend to run slower than using the computer itself, and feel a little glitchy, but they're great when needed--as long as your computer is turned on, even if you're not home. If you're computer is off or asleep, you can't access it.

The recently released Google Remote Desktop also lets you access your computer from your mobile devices (Android and iOS). It's similar to PocketCloud, but feels a little less laggy. There are some things I can do on PocketCloud that I haven't figured out yet on Remote Desktop, like keyboard combinations, and the way you move the cursor around is odd for a touch screen app, but it looks promising. Unlike PocketCloud, with Remote Desktop you can use your tablet and your computer at the same time, if you ever need to. Whatever you do on your remote desktop also shows up on your computer's screen.

Next Step

Now that your portable office is ready and organized, you'll want to organize your work. Come back next week to find out how to use your mobile device to track your time and your tasks, and to keep your project notes handy.

The Mobile Author, Part Three: Managing Your Project
The Mobile Author, Part Four: Planning Your Story
The Mobile Author, Part Five: Writing
The Mobile Author, Part Six: Submissions
The Mobile Author, Part Seven: Managing Your Writing Life


Anonymous said...

Interesting and helpful--I'm keeping a copy with each segment melded into one document. Thanks for all the work and your wonderful ideas!

Scott said...

You're welcome. If you have any questions about any of this, please ask in the comments. I didn't go as deep as might have been helpful, because these posts are already long.

Bruce Luck said...

You described my garage perfectly. Fortunately, my writing space is a little less cluttered. I especially like the tip on Pocket. Great post. Thanks.