The App Every Creative Dreams Of

Whether you’re a writer, developer, or any other class of creative, a good tool can be the deciding factor between success and failure in any project you take on.

[featured-image link=”http://johnmeese.com/gingko” link_single=”http://johnmeese.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/Screenshot-2014-05-21-at-5.07.53-PM1-760×419.png” single_newwindow=”false”]A screenshot of Gingko on my Samsung Chromebox[/featured-image]

For a long time, I used Microsoft Office for all my writing, organizing, & presenting needs. I just assumed it was the best option available.

As it turns out, I couldn’t be farther from the truth!

In the past couple of years, I’ve discovered a number of alternatives that suited my needs far better than Microsoft Office, most notably Google Drive and Writebox.

Last week, I ran across a new app called Gingko while searching for a web-based alternative to Scrivener. Within an hour I’d fallen in love.

How Gingko Works

Gingko is an online word processor that lets you work on structure & content at the same time. It’s built for mapping out thoughts as a series of cards and organizing them like the branches of a tree.

The app is built with speed in mind, so simple keyboard shortcuts using arrow keys let you hop between cards quickly, inputting content as it comes to mind.

There is no limit to the number of characters within each card, so you can use your document-trees for a simple outline or a thoroughly-written dissertation.

Why You Should Use It

Now that I’ve had a chance to explore the app and get used to it, I’m convinced every creative would benefit from using Gingko for some projects. Here are 8 key features that highlight why:

  1. Distraction-free writing. The app intentionally has a bare-bones design to keep your writing space clear and open. It’s designed to help you create, rather than get in your way or overwhelm you with options. Text-formatting is based on Markdown, which is super simple to use.

  2. Format as you write. Too many formatting options can become a distraction to writing. What Gingko does is allow you to map your ideas out as you write and move them around seamlessly as needed. Mapping out thoughts as you create gives you the freedom to let your thoughts flow, knowing you can reorganize by simply dragging and dropping ideas around.

  3. Work & save on the web. The app runs 100% online, meaning you don’t have to download any files to use the program or store your documents. This also means that you can leave your project at one computer and pick up just where you left off at another. Plus, auto-save keeps your files always up-to-date.

  4. Built-in project flexibility. Templates are available for story writing, academic papers, project management, and even screenplays. You can use the app to create sleek slide presentations, too. If If you have advanced formatting in mind, HTML & CSS are supported and extensive export options give you all the control you could want.

  5. Make any project public. From within the app, you can choose to make any document public by assigning it a public url. This is incredibly useful if you want to show off your project, get feedback, or create a template. I now use the SCORRE™ method to prepare most of my presentations and writings, so I created a Gingko template to make that easy to replicate.

  6. Share any tree for collaboration. If you’re working on a project with someone else, Gingko allows you to share access to your tree using a private link, so that you and your teammate(s) can work together on the live document simultaneously. Because the project is already broken up into different blocks, Gingko keeps two users from editing the same section at the same time—an issue I’ve run across before with Google Drive.

  7. Fantastic tech support. If and when you need it, a “Contact Support” pop-up is available that lets you type a message to the developers without leaving your project. In the short time I’ve used their service, I’ve interacted with the developers three times—once via the in-app messenger, and twice through Twitter (@Gingkoapp). Each time, their response was prompt, helpful, and courteous.

  8. Did I mention it’s free? Yup, you heard me. With a free account, you can have up to three document-trees at once. If you need more than that, a Pro account with unlimited trees is only $4.99/month (or $39/year). I’m still using the free account, but I’m sure I’ll be upgrading soon.

Gingko is a beautiful app. It’s sleek, flexible, and exactly what every creative needs. Whether you’re writing a novel, outlining a research paper, or planning your next masterpiece—give it a try.

I did. In fact, I wrote this entire blog post using Gingko, and it took half the normal time.

[reminder]What could you do with an app like this?[/reminder]

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  • Looks interesting, I’ll have to check it out. Thanks for the writeup.

    • You got it, Jordan! I’m always eager to share a great resource I find.

  • This is a wonderful app that I use pretty much exclusively for all of my writing at this point. I mostly write game design documentation, but I also use it for blog ideas and general writing. The only time I don’t use it is when I use a simple text file for a quick note, but even that has slowly been supplanted by Gingko!

    Great write up, John!

    • That’s awesome, Jon! I’m finding new uses for Gingko every day, slowly phasing out of most other options.

  • John,
    I enjoyed your article and look forward to checking it out. Are some of it’s qualities similar to Trello?

    Also, once you have finished writing an article/post/report can you export it to say a pdf?

    • Glad to hear it, Jeremy. Yes, it is similar to Trello but I really prefer the tree-like way Gingko ties every card together. And although you can’t export directly to .pdf, you can export to .docx or .html (among other options), which make .pdf creation simple.

  • This looks awesome! Playing with it right now. It is very similar to Trello, but really geared toward organizing writing. Trello is a bit more robust when it comes to project management. I see these as complementary services, and I’m super stoked to give Gingko a go!

    • I think using Trello & Gingko as complimentary products is a great idea! They both make visually-appealing writing really simple. Gingko does have a “Gettings Things Done” template, though, if you choose to try it out for project management.

  • Susan Silver

    I’ve started using it for my blog planning. I came up with 52 post ideas and I use the app to keep them organized. On the far left I have a tree where I check posts off when they are scheduled to post. In the middle is the topic planning, and the far right I use for the actual post. It just works so dang well to keep everything organized and accessible.

    • Wow, Susan, that’s a great use of Gingko! I never would have thought to write multiple blog posts within the same document-tree. I may have to give that a shot.

  • This sounds like a great tool, thank you for sharing it.

  • Hi John,

    Since this was written about two years ago, I wonder if you’re still using it to this day. Have you had any issues with losing content if the browser crashes?

    Thanks for sharing!

    • Has it really been two years? Wow, hard to believe!

      I now primarily use Calmly Writer for writing blog posts, but still occasionally use Gingko for larger projects that would require breaking things down into chapters or sections. Haven’t had saving issues, myself.