Scribbler’s Saga #2 – Black October

Posted: October 13, 2015 in Uncategorized

© 2015 G.N. Jacobs

I have just officially nominated October 2015 as Black October. No, I haven’t lost millions of dollars due to market positions predicated on red ink. And no one has died…yet. But, this month certainly shapes up as the month where mobile writing has taken a dive to the canvas. Currently none of the mobile writing apps that survived the writing app derby I conducted in print last year work properly.

Years ago, I started out using Documents to Go Premium before switching over to Microsoft’s Office apps. It was always a good mobile app for working on Word documents in the absence of Microsoft finally acknowledging the mobile segment of the business and putting out their own app. So, when Microsoft’s latest update (10/12/2015) essentially killed the ability to work going mobile, I thought I’d just tell my phone and iPad to reinstall Documents to Go again. But, I read the reviews on the iTunes store.

Documents to Go updated about a week ago creating a mess as if they brought a hand grenade to the pool party. The reviews essentially state that this once useful writing app corrupts saved data that the users that stayed with them despite Microsoft’s entry with non-third party Office are quite pissed off or vexed if you prefer nicer words. People don’t like losing data.

Microsoft’s problem concerns crashing. In both Word and Excel, the app crashes the user out to his or her home screen. In the 24 hours since I made this ill-advised update to keep up in the ongoing arms race between app design and operating system design both apps have crashed nearly every time I try to save the document. I work from the local file and then duplicate it into Dropbox where I keep the file that I then save using the Replace File method. Right now, the app will crash.

The review I left for Word this morning mentioned that the crashed documents do get saved. But, it’s a massive bitch. Preexisting documents with a lot of text in them seem to be unaffected, but new test documents created to determined the extent of the problem will save the file name, but with an otherwise blank page. As I write from prepared templates with a few words on the page in order to standardize margins, font and indents saving a blank page pisses me off.

So then I go into Apple’s Pages, I work on their phones and iPads. I think that I should be able to get some work done and the recent versions are free with Apple technology. Turns out, the mobile version of Pages is in even worse shape than either Word or Documents to Go. I couldn’t change the font to the 12-point Roman I use because I can. I can’t get the changes I ask for to show up on the screen causing me to lose trust that my document is in proper format. I deleted Pages back into my iTunes account as a bad idea.

So with QuickOffice dead about a year, what do we do to get work in mobile without losing data or too much time fixing that which wasn’t broken before yesterday? Microsoft is glitchy. Documents to Go and Pages seem worse for different reasons. Well, some of the reviews for Microsoft say to delete the app(s) after saving the files in the local folder so you don’t lose work that hasn’t moved over to Dropbox. Time consuming.

There are several solutions that mostly all simply say to not use the mobile apps until the various companies take their thumbs out and fix this perfect storm of bugs that afflict THREE SEPARATE WRITING APPS ALL AT THE SAME TIME! This message comes to you courtesy that I have the desktop version of Office and I can still type. A writer, I suppose, could look even further afield in the iTunes Store for an app with reviews that aren’t as scathing as the one I left for Microsoft insisting that they fix the glitches “at my earliest convenience, not yours!” But, the three writing apps savaged in this post are the leaders in terms of market share so the other apps might not be as well thought as the leaders were before last week.

I have one other solution for writers who also do scripts. Final Draft Mobile has the ability to write prose, a little publicized feature of the desktop version as well. The writer creates a new screenplay and simply clicks on General and then types. This element creates single-spaced text in Final Draft Courier that can later be cut and pasted into a Word document on your computer. There hasn’t been working Tab key in Final Draft Mobile since ever, so the writer has a bit of text jiggery ahead getting the indentation to work correctly. But, at least there is no crashing or lost data.

Imagine that; three major players in the iOS mobile writing app business are either down with glitches or, as I suspect with Pages, was simply never truly updated because the Apple in-house writing app was losing ground to Office that seemed to work perfectly until Monday. I’m sure others will start bandying conspiracies about this perfectly black week and a half where nothing works the way it should. Conservatives will blame al-Qaeda. Liberals will blame the Koch brothers. Who cares if the loud complaints get heard and these apps get fixed?

***

Immediately after making these whiny complaints, saving the important local files and deleting the Microsoft apps to load them all over again appears to have worked. The author wants to know where to direct the hard elbow for wasting about two hours of his life. He doesn’t care enough about Documents to Go or Pages to investigate those fixes, if any…

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