Monday, July 18, 2011

Comparing iPhone Text Editors, v4

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

Notely adds some extra arrow-key buttons to the keyboard that make it easier to fix typos. It also has the first graphical Dropbox folder chooser that I’ve seen.

WriteRoom has a minimalist interface that favors scrolling and pop-up menus over toolbars; I found that I prefer having the buttons more easily available. It also offers more control over line spacing.

The feature sets of these apps seem to be converging, except that most still don’t help you find search results within a file or offer versions or line rearranging.

Droptext 1.2.1 Elements 1.5.1 Locayta Notes 2.0.1 Nebulous Notes 4.3.1 Notely 1.3 Notesy 2.0.2 PlainText 1.4.1 Simplenote 3.1.4 (Premium) WriteRoom 3.0
Choose Folder on Dropbox Yes No No Yes1 Yes Yes Yes Yes2 Yes
Nested Folders Yes Yes No Yes1 Yes Yes Yes No Yes
Works Offline No Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Choose Font No (Helvetica) Yes Yes3 Yes Yes Yes4 No (Georgia) No (Helvetica) Yes
Font Size No Yes Yes3 Yes Yes Yes4 No Yes Yes
Font Color No Yes Yes3 Yes Yes Yes No No Yes
Background Color No Yes No Yes Yes Yes No No Yes
Multi-File Search No Yes Yes5 No Yes Yes9 Yes Yes Yes
Search Results List No No Yes No No No No No No
Jump Within File No No No No No No No Yes6 No
LF Line Breaks Yes No Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Sort by Name Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Sort by Modified No Yes No No Yes Yes Yes No7 Yes
Rearrange Lines No No No No No No No Yes No
Versions No No No No No No No Yes8 No
Price $1 $5 free $2 $2 $5 ads or $5 $20/year $5

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 It was often 5 minutes out-of-date, and sometimes hours or days.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.

4 Comments RSS · Twitter

I have been following this series for a while, and this one of the reasons I developed my own interpretation of Dropbox text editor - WriteUp. WriteUp has most of the features of your favorite editor, notesy, plus a nice way to take action on your notes quickly (like copying text, markdown HTML or mail) right from the list screen. Also, it lets you search text in your note.

I would love for you to have a look at the app, and provide any feedback you have. Please feel free not to publish this comment as this is not an attempt to advertise. Thanks a ton.

Prasanna Gopalakrishnan

@Prasanna WriteUp looks promising. Thanks for telling me about it.

Ted Goranson

Michael —

I have been evaluating this same field of apps as I depend heavily on iPhone notetaking. I have three finalists: Notely, Notesy and Writeroom. Each serves my needs well enough, but my current preference is for Notely because of the black keyboard background (I use a black text page) and the ability to move files among folders.

Many of these notes are for a SimpleNote sync, so I just email to my SimpleNote account.

[...] version 4 of my comparison, I’ve added WriteUp and Write 2. WriteUp is my new favorite text editor because it can jump [...]

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