As I’ve been looking at minimal writing apps on OSX and switching over to [judicious use of text files][textlink] I’ve also been on a quest for a great iOS app to edit plain text files. Since I’m a fan on [WriteRoom][wrlink] on OSX already I figured the iOS version was worth a look as well.
I actually found PlainText first which is also by [Hog Bay Software][hoglink]. It’s more or less an ad supported version of WriteRoom. You can pay to have the ads removed but it’s still lacking a few features that may make the purchase of WriteRoom worthwhile.
Both WriteRoom and [PlainText][ptlink] have built in support for [Dropbox][droplink] which I consider a must have feature. The whole purpose of switching to plain text is so that I can edit text files from both the desktop and my iPhone and the only viable way to do this in my opinion is through Dropbox. Adding Dropbox to either application is as simple as inputting your username and password. Each application will want to create it’s own folder for syncing but it’s a simple matter of changing the name of that folder to match whatever folder you’ve already created (in my case a folder called text).
Both WriteRoom and PlainText also support [TextExpander][textelink] which is a huge time saver on OSX already but really shines on an iOS device, saving you lots of thumb typing on a small screen. Getting a snippet to expand is as simple as typing it and hitting space and watching the snippet expand. Again this is another required feature as far as I’m concerned.
Search is another feature shared among both applications. Simply hit the magnifying glass on the bottom of the screen and start typing. In my tests it seems very fast but since I’ve really just started the text file life I’m only dealing with 20 files at most. I’ve heard that if you’re dealing with thousands of text files search can be problematic so remember your mileage may vary.
WriteRoom starts to pull away from PlainText in it’s interface. I was unable to find a way to get PlainText to go in to a full screen mode while in landscape orientation and on an iPhone those few extra pixels, since the top menu bar remains showing, make a big difference.
While they both also share the same interface on initial start WriteRoom offers a number of configuration options. You could set a dark background with green text or a blue background with white text, but only if you’re using WriteRoom.
Not only does WriteRoom offer colour options that are unavailable in PlainText, it also offers choices in fonts, font sizes, and line height that are lacking in it’s cheaper priced sibling. Even the stock font in WriteRoom feels much easier to read than what is supplied in PlainText.
The final question is, which one should you buy. I’d say download PlainText and give it a go. If the ads, font and loss of full screen don’t bother you then you’ve got a free solution. If you can’t stand the ads 1.99 removes them and you’ve got a cheap solution. If you dislike the font and want those extra few pixels get WriteRoom, it’s only 4.99 so it’s still cheap. I found enough annoying about PlainText that I forked out for WriteRoom. I haven’t spent enough time with it to really know if that’s where I’ll stop bit it was good enough to write this 600 word blog post on and that ain’t bad.
Both PlainText and WriteRoom are universal applications, which mean they work on iPad’s as well. I got an iPad on Saturday so I can tell you that WriteRoom is pretty nice. It works the same as the iPhone version. When in landscape mode you can make the text go in to fullscreen which is pretty awesome. The addition of the landscape keyboard makes writing full blog posts pretty easy. Outside of that I don’t have enough experience with the iPad versions to feel like I can give them a solid opinion. So far they seem to be just as awesome on the iPad as they are on the iPhone, I expect that I’ll continue to like them.
I paid for all of the applications myself but most of the links above are affiliate links.
[droplink]: http://db.tt/O0rpE6t “Dropbox”
[textelink]: http://click.linksynergy.com/fs-bin/stat?id=ov53b8ogfCc&offerid=146261&type=3&subid=0&tmpid=1826&RD_PARM1=http%253A%252F%252Fitunes.apple.com%252Fus%252Fapp%252Ftextexpander%252Fid326180690%253Fmt%253D8%2526uo%253D4%2526partnerId%253D30 “TextExpander for iOS”
[wrlink]: http://click.linksynergy.com/fs-bin/stat?id=ov53b8ogfCc&offerid=146261&type=3&subid=0&tmpid=1826&RD_PARM1=http%253A%252F%252Fitunes.apple.com%252Fus%252Fapp%252Fwriteroom%252Fid288751446%253Fmt%253D8%2526uo%253D4%2526partnerId%253D30 “WriteRoom for iOS”
[ptlink]: http://click.linksynergy.com/fs-bin/stat?id=ov53b8ogfCc&offerid=146261&type=3&subid=0&tmpid=1826&RD_PARM1=http%253A%252F%252Fitunes.apple.com%252Fus%252Fapp%252Fplaintext-dropbox-text-editing%252Fid391254385%253Fmt%253D8%2526uo%253D4%2526partnerId%253D30 “PlanText for iOS”
[hoglink]: http://www.hogbaysoftware.com/ “Hog Bay Software”
[textlink]: http://yourworkflow.ca/2011/07/27/using-omnifocus-appropriately/ “Using OmniFocus Appropriately”