Saturday, March 19, 2011

Comparing iPhone Text Editors, v2

Since my previous comparison, I’ve experienced more problems with Simplenote and started using Notesy (prompted by Dr. Drang and others). I’ve updated the table accordingly.

To reiterate, I want a plain text editor that works 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’s 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. Being able to see a search results list with the matching words in the context of their lines would also be nice. Locayta Notes and Simplenote were the only apps I found that could do more than show the filenames of the matches, but unfortunately they both had other drawbacks. Thus, I am currently using Notesy, which has a rudimentary search feature but works very well in other respects.

Droptext 1.2.1 Elements 1.5.1 Locayta Notes 2.0.1 Nebulous Notes 4.3.1 Notesy 1.6 PlainText 1.3 Simplenote 3.1.4 (Premium)
Choose Folder on Dropbox Yes No No Yes1 Yes Yes Yes2
Nested Folders Yes Yes No Yes1 No Yes No
Works Offline No Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Choose Font No (Helvetica) Yes Yes3 Yes Yes4 No (Georgia) No (Helvetica)
Font Size No Yes Yes3 Yes Yes4 No Yes
Font Color No Yes Yes3 Yes Yes No No
Background Color No Yes No Yes Yes No No
Multi-File Search No Yes Yes5 No Yes No Yes
Search Results List No No Yes No No No No
Jump Within File No No No No No No Yes6
LF Line Breaks Yes No Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Sort by Name Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Sort by Modified No Yes No No Yes Yes No7
Rearrange Lines No No No No No No Yes
Versions No No No No No No Yes8
Price $1 $5 free $2 $3 ads or $5 $20/year

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

2. Simplenote seems to be much slower than the other apps at picking up changes from Dropbox. It was often 5 minutes out-of-date, and sometimes hours or days. You can force it to sync, but to do that you have to go to the Simplenote Web site.

3. Locayta Notes is the only app I saw that lets you set font and color options per-file.

4. Notesy lets you set both a variable-width font and a fixed-width font, which is a good compromise between choosing just one and choosing per-file.

5. Locayta Notes 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”.

6. Simplenote’s results-jumping did not work for me with files containing basic Unicode characters such as é and . The tech support person was not able to tell me which subset of characters to avoid, so the only solution seems to be to stick with ASCII.

7. The option is there, but in my experience the modification dates shown in Simplenote, 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.

8. Simplenote’s versions feature is like the one in Lion and works within the app—very cool.

7 Comments RSS · Twitter

I believe your footnote #1 refers to Nebulous Notes, not Locayta Notes as the text of the footnote states.

@Jim Fixed, thanks.

Switched to Notesy on your recommendation—love the detailed progress indication, and the performance problems I saw in PlainText are completely nonexistent here.

Thanks for the research!

I'm wondering what my problem with Notesy might be. When I set it to the main Dropbox folder, as I did with PlainText, I don't see all of the document and folder options I see in PlainText. I want to like Notesy for the search function, but unless I can navigate to different folders for different notes, as I can do with PlainText, I don't see it staying on my devices for long.

Chris - that's what "Nested Folders" means in the list above. If you look in the App Store description it sounds like the feature is in progress and it won't be much longer.

Doh. Missed that. Thanks, Nicholas.

[...] have been some important updates since version 2 of my comparison. Notesy 2.0.1 now supports nested folders and has improved searching and a cleaner list view. [...]

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