Plain Text

by Scott Roche on March 28, 2011 · 6 comments

in iOS

I’m a big fan of programs that do precisely what I need them to do – no more, no less. It seems that the folks at Hog Bay Software are of the same mind, because their free app Plain Text is a great example of just that. I’ve been enjoying my iPhone immensely and one of the things I wanted was a basic text editor. I don’t plan on writing any novels on the micro computer, but the idea of being able to take a few notes here or there appealed to me.

The interface is very simple.

The gear symbol takes you to a very minimalist settings page. There you can change the view, how the list is organized, headings, and orientation lock. That latter setting is important only if you don’t want it to change orientation when you move your iPhone/iPad. You can also set up DropBox synchronization (more on that in a bit) or activate TextExpander, a third party app that lets you enter shorthand

The second icon allows you to create a folder structure and the third creates a new document. Exquisite in its simplicity. You can tell something is a folder by a “greater than” symbol out to the right of it.

Pros – The biggest pro here is this app’s interaction with Dropbox. I’ve become a huge fan of the service (reviewed here by Doc). When you set this up to synchronize with your Dropbox account, it creates a Plain Text folder and stores all of your documents there. You can chose to make it sync on when you edit, launch the app, or open a file or folder. I’ve composed short blog posts and created notes for stories using Plain Text and I can’t tell you how nice it is to just have those text documents waiting for me on any computer that I have Dropbox installed on. Okay, I can tell you, since we’re friends. It’s frickin’ awesome.

One other pro, though a minor one, is that it uses the iPhone’s spell check and auto-correct features. That’s one over on a plain text editor like Notepad.

Cons – The only downside I can find in this little gem is that in order to use the folder structure, you have to create the folder first and then add a new document within that. Once you create a document, you can’t move it into a folder using the iPhone app itself. If you go into Dropbox, you can use that to move things around though.

Plain Text is a free app, so long as you don’t mind an ad at the bottom of the page. I certainly don’t. If you really want to get rid of that it will cost you $4.99. As nice as PlainText is, it’s not worth five bucks to me. That may change if I use it more or if the ads get obnoxious. My experience with this app has been so good, I’m eager to check out other offerings by Hog Bay.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Doc Coleman March 28, 2011 at 4:54 AM

It should also be noted for those fans of Scrivener out there, that if you set Scrivener up to sync your project out to a Dropbox folder in plain text, you can have Plain Text pull those same files in from Dropbox. This allows you to edit your Scrivener text on your mobile devices and to sync it all back into Scrivener when you open that application. All very smooth and connected.

Doc

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Nobilis Reed March 28, 2011 at 7:03 AM

I don’t have a Mac, so I use a program for my computer inspired by WriteRoom (called ‘PyRoom’) which is one of Hog Bay’s earlier efforts. I wonder if anyone has made something like this for Android?

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Doc Coleman March 28, 2011 at 7:14 AM

I haven’t heard of one, yet, but if we do get some suggestions, would you be interested in doing some testing and review for us?

Doc

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J-P Losier April 8, 2011 at 2:55 PM

Nobilis, the Dropbox app for Android actually has a decent basic editor built in, or allows you to use any other installed text editor when you select a text file in it. When you save the file, it syncs back to Dropbox. No fancy bells and whistles, but for what we’re talking about, it works great. Free.

I haven’t used PyRoom, but if you really want to go that direction and use Python, there’s SL4A [http://code.google.com/p/android-scripting/], which is an app that allows you to use and write scripts (interpreted programs, not screenplays) in, among other languages, Python. I’ve seen everything from Barcode scanning library inventories to web servers to scripts that tell you the weather forecast. PyRoom may work through SL4A, though it might need tweaking to deal with the smaller screen or such.

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