Archive for March 9, 2011

Wednesday, March 9, 2011 [Tweets] [Favorites]

Comparing iPhone Text Editors

I’ve long been frustrated with the iPhone’s built-in Notes app. At first, it used Marker Felt and synced only via USB. Now it syncs via IMAP but sometimes duplicates or deletes my notes. On the Mac, the notes are stored as .emlx files with numeric names that change with each edit; this is not very backup-friendly. Apple Mail’s editor is slow and has an annoying yellow background. It wants you to write in rich text, which means that I have to remember to “Paste and Match Style.” Even so, somehow my notes inevitably switch into rich text mode, which means that the skeuomorphic lines on the iPhone no longer match the text height.

Reading Dr. Drang’s iPhone notes app comparison got me interested in looking for alternatives. I definitely wanted a plain text editor that worked with Dropbox. This gives me full control over the backups, and it lets me edit and search the files using BBEdit, EagleFiler, and LaunchBar. An iPhone app is essential; an iPad version would be a nice extra. It was very important to me to be able to search across multiple files on the iPhone, pick a matching file, and then jump between the results within that file. Simplenote was the only app I found that could do this, so that’s what I’m using now.

Other apps have some nice feature as well, however no one app comes close to offering all the features I’d like to have. I’ve summarized my investigation in this table:

Droptext 1.2.1 Elements 1.5.1 Locayta Notes 2.0.1 Nebulous Notes 4.3.1 PlainText 1.3 Simplenote 3.1.3 (Premium)
Choose Folder on Dropbox Yes No No Yes1 Yes Yes
Nested Folders Yes Yes No Yes1 Yes No
Works Offline No Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Choose Font No (Helvetica) Yes Yes2 Yes No (Georgia) No (Helvetica)
Font Size No Yes Yes2 Yes No Yes
Font Color No Yes Yes2 Yes No No
Background Color No Yes No Yes No No
Multi-File Search No Yes Yes3 No No Yes
Search Results List No No Yes No No No
Jump Within File No No No No No Yes
LF Line Breaks Yes No Yes Yes Yes Yes
Sort by Name Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Sort by Modified No Yes No No Yes No4
Rearrange Lines No No No No No Yes
Versions No No No No No Yes5
Price $1 $5 free $2 ads or $5 $20/year

1. Rather than syncing everything, it makes you choose individual files as “auto-saves,” which is a drag.

2. This is the only app I saw that lets you set font and color options per-file.

3. It does some sort of indexed/prefix search, coupled with auto-correct, which didn’t work well for me. Some words it didn’t find at all. When searching for “cat” it would find lots of useless matches of “at” but totally miss “wildcat”.

4. The option is there, but in my experience the modification dates shown, if I’m using Dropbox, have little relation to when I actually edited the files. The tech support person said this is not the normal behavior and is looking into the matter but has not yet found a solution for me. Even going by the displayed dates, the sorting is sometimes out of order. Also, the first few days, I experienced problems where the iPhone app would not pick up changes from Dropbox for hours or days; this seems to be fixed now.

5. This is like the feature in Lion and works within the app—very cool.