I'm a nonfiction article writer, but unlike other writers I work on a mobile phone instead of a powerful computer with a feature-packed word processor. And I’ve found the perfect app for the job.

In fiction terms I'd be the Short Story guy.

Articles have unique requirements. If I'm doing an OpEd, I have to be fast off the blocks, because most outlets want OpEd submissions to hit while a news story is still fresh. A computer isn't always available or practical.

If I'm writing an essay or other opinion piece I need to do research, and perhaps more important I need to be able to provide links to my research sources so that fact checking doesn't become a scavenger hunt for an editor.

Here's my dilemma: I don't have internet service at my house (it's a matter of money, not availability), and I need that to do research, let alone submit anything.

So I turned to my smartphone, and searched Google Play for a decent Android app. Most fell short for one reason: I need a Word Count feature. Article submissions hinge on word count requirements, and manually counting 800 words on a phone screen is a good strategy for getting a headache.

Articles wanted

I tried Writer, but it didn't feel quite right. I downloaded Microsoft’s Word app, and besides the deal-breaking Office 365 purchase to get full functionality, the app froze my phone and caused other stability issues.

Many programs have advanced compatibility and features for an additional price, and I refuse to lay cash out on a gamble that the app will be exactly what I want.

I finally downloaded JotterPad, and it was nice. It had an uncluttered workspace with a few nice touches such as a Night Mode which turned my typing from black text on a bright white background to white text on a discreet black background.

JotterPad for Android  JotterPad Android app

A drop-down menu on the upper right of the screen gave me access to that feature, as well as statistics such as word count and how long it would take to read it.

JotterPad for Android

Unfortunately, the file formats it used were plain text and markdown. That would be okay for some submissions, but some publications require your submission to be .docx (Microsoft's latest Word format), and JotterPad only had this option in beta. I would need to find a way to get work to my laptop for translation and submission.

A tech writer asked if I'd tried Google Docs, and I really hadn't. My previous phone was flaky, refusing to download any app it considered incompatible, which was most of them. So for comparison I downloaded Google Docs on my new, more stable phone and gave it a look.

Wow! Google Docs was an almost perfect solution, catering to needs I hadn’t considered until I saw how Google Docs handled them. Both apps had built-in floating research bars, thumbnail views of your saved files, and automatic file saving when you close the apps (a fabulous feature).

Google Docs  Google Docs for Android

But Google Docs had oh so much more.

In addition to Microsoft Word compatibility from the get-go, it supported link embedding (I need to include my research links for editorial fact checking), font options (including the necessary Bold and Italics), list formatting, inserting images in the text, style templates, and many other features an article writer would love.

Google Docs app  Google Docs for Android

I can even save my full-speed data by writing while offline; the file syncs up when I re-establish my internet connection (with WiFi access this app might never take up valuable data use).

Google Docs also has collaboration features like selecting who in a group is allowed to view a work in progress and comment sharing. While I won't need that, the app proves to be robust enough for any writing project I might embark on, big or small.

I'm grateful to the writer who suggested I try Google Docs, because his recommendation fit my needs better. JotterPad is a good fit for personal writing, but for my article needs Google absolutely has my back.


Author: David W. Jones (on his Android phone)

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