Distraction free and on the go: Epistle and TextCounter

One of the things I liked about writing on the iPhone was the variety in distraction-free writing apps. It took me a while to find the same kinds of things on Android, but not only are they there, but I found a combination that makes use of Android’s native Share function to do something you just can’t do in iOS.

The first piece is Epistle. This free app is a bare bones text editor. It’s nicely designed, and fits the Android 4.0 design guidelines; it feels like a native Android app rather than a quick and dirty iOS port. This scores big points with me. There’s not much to the app itself. It syncs to Dropbox and edits plain text files that you store the /Epistle folder of your Dropbox account (you can reassign this to a different folder if you like). What it has going for it is that it’s fast and lean. It supports Markdown syntax, so you can toggle over to an HTML preview of what you’re writing as you go. I love this, and prefer writing in Markdown any time I can. Epistle also provides a full screen view for really distraction free writing.

It has a few quirks. I can’t get it to scroll in full screen mode, so I have to find where I want to put the cursor ahead of time and then just start typing (maybe this is a feature?; not being able to scroll back certainly helps avoiding distraction). And a big, glaring flaw is that it lacks a word count function. This makes writing to a specific target really difficult.

Or does it?

The other free app I wanted to talk about is TextCounter. By itself, it doesn’t do much. It automatically pastes in whatever’s in the clipboard and pops up a little toast notification letting you know how many words, paragraphs, etc. are in the block of text.

Where TextCounter really shines, though, is that it ties into Android’s share system. So if you’re writing in another app — like, say, Epistle — and you share your document to TextCounter, it pops up the word count notification over the app you’re writing in. You don’t have to copy and paste, or leave the app. You’re essentially calling TextCounter as an add-on module to whatever app you’re using. Neat!

Why do I prefer using this with Epistle? Because its simpler. With Epistle, all I have to do is tap the share button at the upper right of the Action Bar and select “TextCounter (en)” from the list to get my word count. Writing in Evernote, I have to exit the editing mode, select all, and then hit Share from the overflow button on the text action bar. If I hit Share from the note itself, I get the number of words in the note title, not the note itself. In Google Docs, it’s even harder. Because Google Docs appropriates the Share function for it’s own kind of sharing, there I have to select all text, copy, and then switch to the TextCounter app manually (where it automatically pastes and counts, but still). With Epistle, it’s just two taps and I’m done. These two apps make writing a clean, distraction-free operation my Galaxy Nexus, while still giving me the power I need to make my word count targets.

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