Drafts 5 is a great app for capturing thoughts, drafting notes, and capturing tasks, and quickly sending them, via Actions, to other apps or services for further processing. The typical workflow is:

  1. Launch Drafts
  2. Type a draft
  3. Launch an Action to process the draft
On iPhone, swiping left from anywhere to pick an Action is right at your fingertips, since you are typing on screen. On iPad, if you type with an external keyboard (which I highly recommend), launching an Action is a little more cumbersome. By default, you have to move your fingers off the keyboard and reach up to the screen to get to your Actions list. There is another way to launch Actions, however, that doesn’t require you to move your fingers off the keyboard.

Custom hardware keyboard shortcuts

Drafts 5 lets you assign custom hardware keyboard shortcuts to any Action. This is an extremely rare, and extremely powerful, feature. You can configure hardware keyboard shortcuts for text formatting commands and to insert text snippets (such as today’s date) into your draft. You can also define a set of hardware keyboard shortcuts to use to complete your drafts.

I use Drafts 5 throughout the day to write microblog posts, notes, and tasks and send them to where they need to go: Dropbox, Ulysses, my to-do app SwiftoDo, and so on. For all my most-used Actions that process drafts, I use an easy-to-mash but hard to accidentally type accelerator, Control+Option+Command, plus one letter, when I complete my draft and want to send it on its way.

I use the Control+Option+Command accelerator only for Actions that complete drafts, so it’s always clear to me when I type it that I am ending my draft and sending it somewhere else.

Here is my list of hardware keyboard shortcuts, each of which I find incredibly useful:

  • Control+Option+Command+D: save draft to a Dropbox folder
  • Control+Option+Command+U: save draft to a Ulysses Inbox folder
  • Control+Option+Command+T: send tasks in draft to my todo.txt file via SwiftoDo
  • Control+Option+Command+M: post draft directly to Micro.blog
  • Control+Option+Command+G: search for draft text in Google
  • Control+Option+Command+A: search for draft text in App Store
Each shortcut is easily mapped to its Action via the “Edit Action” dialog. (See the photo that accompanies this blog post.) If you forget what custom shortcuts you created, hold down Command while editing your draft, and all the custom shortcuts you defined will appear in the standard iOS hardware keyboard shortcut pop-up display.

These hardware keyboard shortcuts don’t necessarily save me a lot of time and trouble, but they make my Drafts workflow on iOS feel fast and comfortable. I highly recommend setting some up for your own iPad Drafts workflow.