Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Comparing iPhone Text Editors, v6

Since version 5 of my comparison, I’ve added rows for tracking iPad and TextExpander touch support.

Elements added support from LF line breaks and a nice interface for choosing the folder on Dropbox. It also has an interesting Scratchpad feature. Locayta Notes added support for choosing the Dropbox folder, background colors, and sorting by date. Nebulous Notes added multi-file searching. WriteUp, still my preferred editor, syncs faster with Dropbox than before and now supports .taskpaper files.

It’s nice to see so many of the features that I track become standard across nearly every app in just a matter of months.

Droptext 1.2.1 Elements 2.0.1 Locayta Notes 2.0.1 Nebulous Notes 2.1 Notely 1.3 Notesy 2.0.2 PlainText 1.4.1 Simplenote 3.1.7 (Premium) Write 2 1.1 WriteRoom 3.0 WriteUp 1.5.1
Choose Folder on Dropbox Yes Yes Yes Yes1 Yes Yes Yes Yes2 No Yes Yes
Nested Folders Yes Yes No Yes1 Yes Yes Yes No Yes Yes Yes
Works Offline No Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Choose Font No (Helvetica) Yes Yes3 Yes Yes Yes4 No (Georgia) No (Helvetica) Yes Yes Yes
Font Size No Yes Yes3 Yes Yes Yes4 No Yes Yes Yes Yes
Font Color No No10 Yes3 Yes Yes Yes No No No10 Yes No10
Background Color No No10 Yes Yes Yes Yes No No No10 Yes No10
Multi-File Search No Yes Yes5 Yes Yes Yes9 Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Search Results List No No Yes No No No No No No No No
Jump Within File No No No No No No No Yes6 No No Yes
LF Line Breaks Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Sort by Name Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Sort by Modified No Yes Yes No Yes Yes Yes No7 Yes Yes Yes
Rearrange Lines No No No No No No No Yes No No No
Versions No No No No No No No Yes8 No No No
TextExpander Yes Yes No Yes Yes Yes Yes No Yes Yes Yes
iPad Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No Yes Yes
Price $1 $5 free $2 $2 $5 ads or $5 $20/year $2 $5 $3

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 It was often 5 minutes out-of-date, and sometimes hours or days.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

10. You can’t pick colors, but there are preset themes to choose from.

10 Comments RSS · Twitter

An attribute that I would greatly appreciate seeing explored here is a variation on "Choose Folder on Dropbox." Specifically: can one choose the root directory? Attempting to do so with Elements and WriteUp appears to cause significant problems. Elements started duplicating all of my Dropbox folders, and WriteUp just crashed every time. Nebulous appears to work well, however.

Hey Sean,
I am the developer of WriteUp. The issue you are mentioning should have been fixed with 1.5.1 update, but will find out if it's something else. Could you please mail me on support@prasannag.com and I will help you figure this out?


Prasanna: indeed 1.5.1 did fix this issue, thank you so much!

[...] a full copy of everything, in a normal folder that I can back up, search, re-arrange, etc. Multiple iPhone text editors can share the same folder with BBEdit. Nothing is locked away in a silo, only accessible through a [...]

Of Elements, Nebulous, and Writeup, only the latter two currently open files with "tex" file extensions (though none of the three does LaTeX syntax highlighting). Thanks to the WriteUp author for recently adding this feature to open tex docs, though.

[...] smart folks have already written about the note-taking apps/text editors they like and use. Mine doesn’t want to be a [...]

[...] an iPhone version. It has lots of good editing features, but I do not expect it to fare well in my iPhone text editors comparison. It uses a “download” model rather than live editing files in a folder, and it does not [...]

[...] Drafts has for appending or prepending to text files stored on Dropbox. It’s not really a Dropbox text editor, though. The main syncing is based on Simperium, the engine behind Simplenote, which was unreliable [...]

@Sean It looks like Simplenote removed Dropbox sync?

Leave a Comment