Ted Goranson - Personal Blog

The blog of Ted Goranson. This is both a personal blog and an ongoing update on his projects.

iPhone Editors

Published: 30 Aug 2011
Revised: 7 Oct 2013

Edited on 2 Oct 2013: to reflect changes from iOS7 and some new hardware.

In another post, I talk about restructuring a Pismo to be a portable notetaker. But my main portable note writing machine is the iPhone, currently the 5.

Michael Tsai has a series of posts comparing iPhone editors. This is informative, but it doesn’t quite suit me. So here is my own comparison. Rather than do a feature matrix as Michael does, I’ll just do a lightweight comparative review of the ones I consider.

Because of the increasingly tight integration with Tinderbox and its new Mac counterpart, I will keep and use SimpleNote. But it is frustrating in some respects: I cannot set the colors the way I like. It has no folders, no titles (!), but it does support TextExpander and the editing is smooth. It allows a passcode and has very cool version archiving. The syncing is live and immediate: I can have the same document open on two machines and witness change.

Though it does sync secondarily with Dropbox, it provides me with an alternative to that service, should DropBox start being evil (which I suspect).

But this note is about the everyday writing environment. I am considering three: Notely 1.3, WriteRoom 3 and Notesy 2.02. All three are good and would be serviceable. All support Folders, DropBox, TextExpander and Mail. (The latter is an alternative to feeding Tinderbox via SimpleNote.)

The main thing that differentiates them is the appearance of the editing environment. My preferred environment, within the constraints of iOS, is a clean screen with no status bar, a black background (the keyboard set in the same black) and the text set in orange HelveticaNeue 13. All three editors will give me my HelveticaNeue on a black background, but Notely forces me to choose 12 or 14. Notely alone allows the black keyboard. (WriteRoom used to.) Writeroom allows control over line spacing. No one allows control over paragraph spacing, which would matter a lot.

Three Interfaces: Notesy, Notely and WriteRoom

(Image) Three screenshots, side by side.

Three Compared
Click image above to enlarge
You can see that all three are tolerable. WriteRoom has the best handling of the text area while Notely’s keyboard is much more comfortable on the eyes. That extra, tailorable row in Notely’s keyboard has turned out to be useful. If I make it go away, I have to live with the top ‘status bars.’ Today, I would rank them on this measure as Notely, WriteRoom, Notesy.

The back end has much more differentiation. All allow the creation of nested folders. WriteRoom is the least capable: it sets up a dedicated folder in DropBox for its files. Notely is also limited to a single folder but allows you to choose an existing folder. Notely also allows you to move files around among folders and surely is the most capable in the back end. However, Notesy alone allows you to see all your files in the DropBox, but the folder structure is not shown.

Tsai is interested in search capabilities and folder navigation, but those are not important to me at all.

The bottom line is that any of the three meets my needs well, and with a SimpleNote email address can replace that one as well. I expect them to each nudge ahead of each other over time.

Right now, Notely has my vote.

Edit: the developer abandoned Notely and I find no other that gives me joy, though I own dozens. I am using Drafts for the time being.

What I want is simple. Take Drafts and add the ability to select my own font and colors, including keypad background. I want to have paragraph spacing. A tailorable extra keyboard. iOS 7 conventions. Optional typewriter mode, so that the bottom line of the document is not necessarily jammed against the keypad. No markdown needed. Make the status bar go away.

© copyright Ted Goranson, 2011