My Review of Rough Draft

Rough draft

The other day I got a very well-written email from 96 Problems, the makers of the new Mac writing app, Rough Draft.

Rough Draft seems like a great idea for a writing program: it simply removes your delete key, forcing you to focus on continual creation. The logic is that drafting and editing are two separate endeavours, and they should be kept apart.

Compose first, then worry about quality, perfection, proofreading. Just write freely, at first, and then, once the draft is done, turn your editor’s eyes to the created text.

The app enforces this principle: you can remove or correct the word that you’re writing–while you are writing it–but once you tap the space key, and move on, your delete key becomes a strike-through: you cannot go back and remove the word.  You can strike it through, but that’s all.

This makes whole-scale revision very difficult; it makes even small edits hard to work with. And this is intentional. The goal is to cure you of the desire to edit while you write.

The app is free to download and use. However, if you want to export what you have written, there is a $15 in-app payment to export it as text.

96 Problems was kind enough to send me a fully-equipped version of the app for free, so I was able to test it in full (I was not paid to write this, however).

Personally, I think the app is a great idea. I can imagine many people would be liberated by the focused writing environment that Rough Draft creates. However, I would prefer more functionality for the $15 export in-app purchase. Here on the iPad, with Ulysses or Drafts, for instance, I can export text as plain text, as rich text or HTML, even as an elegant-looking pdf: being able to export in plain text alone means that I will need a second writing app to get what I’ve written on Rough Draft looking good.

Right now, the app is available for the Mac; an iOS version is coming, and is currently in early beta. I’m eager to see the iOS version finished, and suspect that it will actually be more equipped than the original: because the iOS version of Rough Draft exports using the standard iOS share sheet, it will be possible to run workflows (from the Workflow app) on the exported text (iOS can simply send the cleaned up text from the app into Workflow as an input), and this will instantly solve the export functionality complaint I made above.
Ios rough draft
Additionally, the app is connected to a forum / community of writers associated with the app, a friendly space of people sharing their work, strike-throughs and all. They have set up a clever approach to sharing one’s drafts: after a certain number of views, each piece is hidden from further viewing, effectively un-publishing it.

If you are a Mac user, the app is free to try: have a look!

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