In Part 1 of this series, I covered the creation of a simple multi-machine, multi-platform, potentially accessible from anywhere "idea tracker" system using DropBox. Part 2 was a tutorial on using the RainMeter software to put your idea lists on the background of your Windows desktop for easy viewing and access. In this third and final installment, I'll explore ways to get your idea tracker onto your smartphone.
It's happened to all of us who spend any amount of time trying to generate writing ideas - whether it's for business or pleasure, fiction or non-fiction. A product in a store catches our eye and spurs our imagination; and overheard snippet of conversation triggers an inspiring line of thought; or something as simple as a walk in the park gives a moment to relax and think, and the proverbial light bulb clicks on. But then the real world intrudes, and after a few hours of dealing with kids, stressful commutes, phone calls, and office work, the ideas are gone or muted, and you just can't seem to get that enthusiasm back.
I wanted to capture those moments - to scribble down whatever goes through my head in whatever detail I feel I need to, and when I get home and boot up my PC later, I wanted all that to be in my face right away with no extra work to get there. Integrating my smartphone into my idea tracker system seemed like the perfect way to do this.
DropBox is Everywhere
The key to sharing my files on all my computers and devices is, of course, DropBox. It's available for all the major phone platforms; I'll be using the iPhone version, since that's the phone I have access to, but the process will likely be similar.
The install process is straightforward; find DropBox on the app store, install it, run it, and log in to the account you created back in part 1.
Once DropBox is installed, you should be able to pull up your DropBox directory just as it appears when accessed from your computer. At this point you'll be able to view your text files, but not (at least on the iPhone) edit them. For this last piece of functionality. you'll need to install one more application - aDropbox-aware text editor.
A list of compatible apps for assorted phone platforms is available at the DB site. I picked one called PlainText simply by virtue of the fact that it was the first free, plain text editor on the list. The PlainText setup process is much like the one for DropBox - find it in the app store, install it, and run it. You'll need to click the little gear at the bottom of screen to go to the settings menu, then click DropBox, Link to DropBox Account. Enter your DB login info again, and you're all set.
Now let's test it out. go back to the DropBox app and tap the name of one of your text files in the file list; it should open in a read-only mode. Tap on the icon on the bottom right, and you should be presented with a list of available editors. Choose PlaintText, and you'll be in edit mode. Now you can modify the text files you created for your desktop display in part 2 and have them instantly available everywhere!
Ideally I would like to find a way to turn my three main notes/idea files into one-click shortcuts on the phone's main screen, but for now this will do - now wherever I go, my ideas go with me!