This post assumes that you have been toiling over screenshots and features, tirelessly trying to decide between Drafts or Scratch. Thus, there are zero screenshots in this showdown. Links to both Scratch1 and Drafts2 can be found at the bottom of this page if you desire screenshots of either.
Many of us have exiled Apple’s note taking application for years. It’s terrible to use and far worse to look at. My digital device does not need to resemble a legal pad in order for me to recognize I should be putting my notes there. Instead, what I crave is an application that is speedy to launch, supports Markdown and is equipped to handle lots of export options. Though there are many options out there, Scratch and Drafts seem to be the leaders in the arena at present. Both support Markdown, both are lightning fast to launch and both are simple by nature. So how do you decide which to use? The choice is going to be an entirely personal one; both applications are fantastic and worthy of your purchase. Nevertheless I will be comparing the two applications, briefly, against features that I consider to be major deciding factors in purchasing a note taking application.
Okay, this may not apply to some folks, but I most certainly judge an app by its icon 85% of the time. I like things to look good and therefor icons are important to me. In this category, drafts comes up short as Scratch’s icon is both simple and beautiful.
Both Scratch and Drafts launch, ready for input in 2 seconds flat, even from a suspended or closed state. However, Scratch will open to the last note taken if you have yet to file it away in your history. In contrast, Drafts can be set to create a new note when returning to the app after a specified time. This means that Drafts will more than likely launch to a new note when you need it to, making it more readily available to receive input on launch. For that reason alone, speed aside, Drafts wins my vote.
Drafts and Scratch both allow for plain text or Markdown input. Both have very simple interfaces that focus on the text. However, each shines through in their own way. Drafts has the ability to preview your Markdown files whereas Scratch does not. Drafts also supports landscape mode, which is 200% more comfortable on the iPhone, and Scratch does not. That said, Scratch boasts a beautiful toolbar that contains swipeable [some even customizable] panels for quick access to your most used functions. This toolbar makes typing notes, whether plain text or Markdown, a breeze; lightning fast. Both applications track words and characters as well, making them both ideal applications for composing tweets. If you do not mind typing in portrait mode for everything, Scratch would be my pick for input.
The export options available in Drafts are amazing! We are talking actions to send your text to 20+ specific applications. That is not including the “open in” option or copy to clipboard, preview Markdown, or share actions. The options are easily customizable from the settings menu and can even be arranged to appear in the order you’d most prefer. To say it quite simply, Drafts makes exporting easily accessible and maximizes your possibilities.
Scratch offers an extensive list of export options as well, albeit not as comprehensive as that of the aforementioned Drafts. Accessing the list of export options is also a bit more of a process since you have to swipe the toolbar to reveal the panel with the share icon. However, Scratch allows you to export from its application to Drafts where drafts does not reciprocate the option. That means that if you like the look and layout of Scratch but want the Markdown and application support of Drafts, you can compose in one and send to the other for the ultimate feature mash-up.
If being judged on the export services and handling options alone, Drafts really crushes Scratch in this department. That said, Scratch is more flexible and will integrate nicely into an already established Drafts workflow; and for that, Scratch turns out to be the winner for me. Keep in mind, that victory is standing on the shoulders of Drafts integration. Remove it and Scratch falls way way short.
Both applications play nicely with DropBox, either creating new files or appending to existing ones. The trouble with Drafts is its rigidity in appending notes. Though you have access to your account and the ability to add text to an existing file, that file is unchanging in nature. Drafts creates a document called “Journal.txt” in the Drafts folder of your DropBox account. Each time you append a note, it adds it to the Journal file indiscriminately. If the Journal file has been moved, deleted or renamed, a new file with the same name is recreated. You are unable to choose/assign which note your text gets appended to. Thumbs up for integration; thumbs down for implementation.
Scratch on the other hand, allows you to access DropBox as if it were an SFTP. You can browse individual folders and files, selecting an exact document to add said text to. It is exactly what I would expect an application to do if it offers document appendage features. Scratch gets a thumbs up for integration and two big thumbs up for implementation.
As I prefaced this entire article with, both applications are stellar and worthy of your purchase. This is why I bought both and use both. Each is superior to the other in some aspect or another. If it were a horse race, you guessed it – photo finish. That won’t stop me from giving you my personal preference.
I prefer Scratch over Drafts for two reasons: the shortcut toolbar and the ability to append to specific documents in DropBox. It makes up for the lack of landscape support and the shortcomings of its export options. Plus, as I said, I can export to Drafts if need be for Markdown previews and added export options. At the end of the day Scratch takes the lead role with a heavy supporting role played by Drafts. Neither would not be as rich without the other within my workflow.
Scratch for iPhone
Drafts for iPhone