Top Tools for Creating on the Go and Being More Productive

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Let’s face it, we are always on the go. Being productive and creative while mobile is becoming more a part of what we are called to do. So how can we be better at creating content while out of our studio or office? I know, it’s tough to be super productive today! Even when we try to slow down, there are status updates, texts, and so much more. This makes even sitting at a desk creating content ever more difficult. And so we adapt and learn new tools But, really, who has time to try all these new tools for creating content? Right now, where I work, we are creating content for next year’s show. While that may seem like a long time off, there are hours of animated content that needs to be designed and animated at super high resolution (higher than 8k!). It’s a full and pretty solid production schedule that demands being productive. Throw in a few years of Ancient Greek classes, reading through the Bible in a year (halfway there!), memorizing scripture, running with my wife for a half-marathon, bike riding, web design, mobile app design, and everything else, time vanishes. And I’ve got a feeling you are in the same boat. On the run more and more.

We’re fortunate to have more tools at our fingertips to do more when we are on the go.

Mobile Tools are Awesome for Creating more Productively But we are fortunate enough to have more tools at our fingertips to do more when we are on the go. For a long time, I was a consumer only. In other words, I used these powerful new tools to just relax and consume time. Watching Netflix, browsing social media. You know. The normal day to day stuff. Nothing wrong with this, but as a creator, I’m sure you get it. You know time is valuable and we need to create, even when on the go. Today, I’ve narrowed down my list of tools to a handful that help me when creating on the go. So what does my typical day look like and what tools do I use to create?

10.5” iPad Pro (with Smart Keyboard and Pencil) I was on the fence about Apple’s new 10.5” model that they just released. After all, Angie and I have their super sized iPad Pro which has a 12.9” screen. I’ll tell you, the 12.9” version is huge. Drawing on such a large screen (using the Pencil) is super fun. But I also need a crane to hold it for me after using it for even a short time. Their new 10.5” iPad Pro is closer to their original model as far as physical size, but the screen itself is larger and higher resolution, so you’ve got many more pixels to work with, and it’s much lighter to hold in one hand while using the Pencil in the other hand. Plus, under the hood, it is a beast. This thing is more powerful than you can imagine. And that means working with high resolution images is a breeze.

Affinity stands so far beyond any other app on iPad for doing that sort of work.

When not sketching, the Smart Keyboard is pretty darn good for typing. I’ve been using it to write quite a bit recently and I’m fairly impressed. Plus it folds flat into the cover for easy travel. And the fact that it all folds up so small (compared to the larger one), means I am taking it with me more than I did with the larger version. I can hear you ask, but what about the programs? Glad you asked. 🙂

File Syncing (for most of us): Dropbox & Google Drive Having my files available on multiple computers sure has helped be more efficient at working. I’m sure you’d agree that having what you need at your fingertips when you need it makes any workflow more efficient.

Google Drive’s 15 GB of storage is an insanely good deal

For years, I simply used either a thumb drive or Dropbox. These days, I’m jumping back and forth between Dropbox and Google Drive. I got interested in the latter when looking for an option with more space (I only have the free version of Dropbox, which, as of this writing, has only 2 GB of storage space). Google Drive jumps that up to 15 GB for their free option and the paid options are just insanely good deals. And now that iPad connects so easily with these services, there’s no reason (unless you are a super ninja spy) for not keeping your working files in such an accessible location. Plus, with iOS11, things are even more productive as Apple gives us more access to files and folder locations. By installing both Google Drive and/or Dropbox on an iPad, you can then sync them with other apps. All my writing is synced up, as is my artwork and media. But what if you need something a bit more advanced for uploading files to remote servers?

Web Design & File Transfer (Advanced): Coda If you need to be transferring files around more than just using online file storage like Dropbox or Google Drive, and instead, need more power, like FTP file transfer, then my app of choice is Coda. This is an amazing app that allows for code editing for websites, uploading/downloading of files, as well as even opening a command terminal to remote into a server. If that last sentence makes no sense, then don’t worry about it. Not everyone needs to get that deep into the code. But if you do, it is there for you. For the rest of the time, there’s Dropbox and Google Drive.

Art Tools – Procreate & Affinity Photo The two apps I currently have at the top of my list are Procreate and Affinity Photo. These two apps turn an iPad Pro into a powerful tool for creating art content. Procreate has been around on iPad for awhile. It is heavily gesture based, which works very well on a touch surface. The built in brushes are great. But you can also customize them, and even import other brushes from friends or online resources. In addition, your most needed features from a desktop drawing app are in Procreate. Layers are organized by dragging them, blending modes are available, as are masks, transform tools, and much more. It would take an entire post just to review Procreate. It is my single favorite drawing and painting tool out there. But where Procreate shines is creating original drawings and digital paintings. It isn’t designed well for photo manipulation or doing “Photoshop” style graphic design, like the graphic for this article. And this is where Affinity Photo shines. If you wished that Adobe would create a full version of Photoshop for the iPad, you are not alone.

In the meantime, Affinity stands so far beyond any other app on iPad for doing that sort of work. We are talking adjustment layers, curves, filters, layer groups, clone and healing brushes (and Affinity’s version of these is very powerful), mesh transforms like liquify, text and shape tools. They have been around on the desktop and introduced their iPad app within just the past few weeks. But already, they are the top app in this space. When you are finished working, you can save and share it as a PSD or flattened image, exporting to any of the file locations above or simply upload using something like WordPress. If you do any sort of graphic design, Affinity Photo should be your first choice. There’s something nice about being able to do full out graphic design and uploading to a site without touching a desktop computer.

Writing Tools: Scrivener & Byword I prefer using Scrivener for any type of long form writing. It was designed for authors writing novels and screenplays, but works very well for organizing articles, posts, and other writing you may do. It allows me to create folders for my blog posts that are being written, and then I can move them into the “Published” folder to archive them. For more basic writing, I find that Byword is a simple and clean interface for writing. Again, it syncs to Dropbox, so any text files you create in here will be available anywhere else.

Idea Tracking & Notes: OneNote Last year I made the switch from Evernote to OneNote. I did this for a few reasons. First was Evernote’s new terms of service, which limited the number of devices that can sync. Second, their interface was a bit clunky for my taste. Yeah, this is purely subjective, but I just “felt” more at home with OneNote. OneNote and I are like best friends now. It reminds me a lot of the Trapper Keepers in school (wait, what? You mean the thing with the Velcro flap?) and later, the DayRunner three ring binders I used when keeping track of clients. For me, it is super important to capture my thoughts right away. Too often, I had an idea and lost it by just not writing it down. This allows me to not just remember the ideas, but let them develop over time. What might start off as an average idea, eventually may evolve into something totally different. Sometimes that “different thing” is awesome. Sometimes it stinks. But at least I am capturing it. We can’t get better unless we fail, right? And I’m a huge fan of failure. (There’s got to be a better way of wording that!)

Conclusion There are so many other apps that I use. And then there is also my Moleskine (physical) notebook I carry with my pretty much at all times. But these are topics for another day. I’d love to know what tools you are using and how you use those tools.

Hi. I'm Scott Sullivan, a slave of Christ, author, AI programmer, and animator. I spend my time split between the countryside of Lancaster, Pa, and Northern Italy, near Cinque Terre and La Spezia.

In addition to improving lives through data analytics with my BS in Computer Science, I also published, Searching For Me, my first memoir, about my adoption, search for my biological family, and how it affected my faith.