Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Comparing iPhone Text Editors, v3

There 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. PlainText 1.4.1 now has a basic search feature. Both apps unfortunately only show you the list of matching documents; they provide no help in finding the matches within the files. Overall, Notesy is the clear winner for me.

Droptext 1.2.1 Elements 1.5.1 Locayta Notes 2.0.1 Nebulous Notes 4.3.1 Notesy 2.0.1 PlainText 1.4.1 Simplenote 3.1.4 (Premium)
Choose Folder on Dropbox Yes No No Yes1 Yes Yes Yes2
Nested Folders Yes Yes No Yes1 Yes 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 Yes9 Yes 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 $5 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 It was often 5 minutes out-of-date, and sometimes hours or days.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.

9. Excellent options for searching by word (Boolean AND), phrase, or regular expression. You can also choose whether to search everything or just the filenames.

7 Comments RSS · Twitter

I notice there's no row in the matrix for TextExpander support. Do you feel that goes without saying as a must-have?

I was using Notespark because if I make changes on two devices it syncs by doing three-way merge like svn or git, not "the last file to be saved wins". Notespark is the only iOS notes app I know of that does this, yet this feature never mentioned in roundups like this one, maybe because resolving conflicts is too "technical" for most users. I forget why I switched to Simplenote (via PlainText and Elements). I may switch back even thought I'm not sure if Notespark has TextExpander support.

@Andy TextExpander looks like a good app, but I haven’t wanted that functionality on iOS yet, so I simply didn’t investigate which apps support it. Similarly, resolving conflicts is a non-issue for me because both the Mac and the iPhone sync up to Dropbox as soon as I’ve made an edit.

I see.

Dropbox syncing *mostly* works for me too, except it adds a bit of a lag when I launch the app. I tap on the part of the text where I want to start editing, and it can take a couple of seconds for the cursor to actually be placed there and respond to my keyboard input. I assume what I'm actually tapping is the Default.png, and the lag is the time it takes for the app to load and replace the Default.png with real views.

I've also found that sometimes the first few words I type get entered twice, as if the keyboard events are being queued somewhere and being processed twice. I've seen this in a couple of the above apps.

So does Notesy support TextExpander? I don't see any mention of it so I doubt it.

Also, not sure how interested you are in keeping this up-to-date but Notesy raised their price to $5.

@Nathan Thanks for the price correction. Notesy does support TextExpander.

[...] version 3 of my comparison, I’ve added two new apps. Both offer features similar to Notesy, which remains my [...]

I use "Write 2" app. It has auto-sync to Dropbox, TextExpander support, PIN protection, themes etc. It's $2.

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