As a group, writers are always on the search for the next cool writing tool, so when Matthew Stibbe of Bad Language wonders if his iPhone or iPad can serve as useful tools for editing MS Word documents, I suspect more than a few others wondered too.
Stibbe’s a Windows guy who uses Apple mobile devices, so as far as interoperability is concerned, he’s caught in the empty space between two walled kingdoms. His final word is that he can edit MS Word docs on his mobile devices, but he doesn’t necessarily want to.
I’m tempted to get all smug about my “open” relationship with Google and Linux except things on the Android mobile front really aren’t much better. In fact, Google typically supports Linux pretty well, but in the case of their Drive client (cloud file storage), they haven’t released a Linux version.
The Linux hordes are not pleased.
Still, like any writer with a tablet, I plumped for a Bluetooth keyboard and tried to embrace writing on a touchscreen, but I’m a spectacularly picky old guy who’s grown accustomed to the Emacs editor keyboard shortcuts, and nothing I found (so far) on my tablet supports them.
Unlike MS Word, I write using Markdown (which is stored as a text file), so you’d think finding happiness on a mobile device would be easier. And it is — but the rest of the world is unfortunately afflicted with MS Word.
I have found some success editing client-supplied MS Word files using Softmaker’s mobile suite. Softmaker is essentially an MS Word clone that runs on Mac, Windows and Linux, and the company recently introduced an Android version.
(I bought Softmaker years ago when OpenOffice [now LibreOffice] suffered at the hands of .docx files. LibreOffice now handles docx files nicely, but I maintain my Softmaker subscription as a “thank you” for maintaining a Linux version.)
In the face of all these software and ergonomic issues, my Ubuntu Linux equipped Dell XPS13 Ultrabook zips along nicely, takes up only a teensy bit more space than a tablet (it’s less bulky than a tablet and a keyboard), lives off its battery for hours, runs real writer’s software, keeps the screen and keyboard at good angles to each other, and saddles me with almost no compromises.
In other words, my writer’s tablet is an Ultrabook, and will probably remain so for the foreseeable future.
Keep writing, Tom Chandler.