The 3 Indispensable Writing Apps in My Workflow

Charlie Gilkey
2 min readSep 17, 2021

I learned very early in my graduate career (in the early 2000s) that I needed different apps for the different phases of writing (drafting, editing, and publishing/printing). Word was great for the latter two, but it was terrible for drafting for me.

Since then, lots of tools have come and gone, but the following are my current indispensable writing tools:

1. Drafts. Drafts’ tagline — “where text starts” — nails exactly what it does for me. It is on all of my digital devices (including my Apple Watch) and syncs across all of them. Every device has shortcuts that get me in the app and out of the way quickly. Swipe shortcuts allow me to archive or process text quickly. And it understands Markdown, so it feeds right into our knowledge base, Ulysses, and email.

2. Ulysses. Ulysses is where I draft content of longer than ~200 words. I often start in Drafts and copy and finish longer drafts in Ulysses. It has just enough tools for me to structure longer essays and books. It also syncs across all devices swimmingly.

The can’t-quit-it feature for me, though, is the full-screen focus view — my settings are such that whatever I’m typing is always vertically centered on the screen and focused on my current paragraph. I typically push drafts from Ulysses to Word (for my book editors), Confluence (for internal team docs), or Google Docs (for pieces that need to be edited before publishing).

3. Google Docs. Google Doc’s ubiquity and comment features are what make it my go-to for all but book manuscripts. Long manuscripts are a bear in GDocs and the commercial publishing world still defaults to Word, so it’s just part of the gig.

The three apps above help me go from idea/snippet to longer-form piece to ready-for-public in a few pushes of a button in each phase.

Charlie Gilkey

Author of Team Habits - - and the best-selling Start Finishing. Executive coach, investor, and philospher.