Last month I reviewed three plain-text note applications for iOS (Elements, PlainText, and Nebulous Notes) and it turned out to be one of the most popular items in MacFilos in the past three years. There’s obviously a lot of interest out there in the concept of taking quick notes on the iPhone or iPod touch and being able to work on them in any other application without worrying about formatting or layout. Dropbox synchronisation was a common feature of all three apps and an essential factor in my view.
Shortly after my post I came across a more extensive review of the same three applications, plus Simplenote, at Leancrew.com. Now Dr.Drang of Leancrew has unearthed yet another app to add to the list in the form of Notesy. I’ve purchased it and have installed it as my plain-text-editor-of-choice on my iPhone’s home screen. I like it and believe it could take over from my previous favourites, Nebulous Notes and Elements. I’ll be publishing a full review soon.
In the meantime, take a look at Leancrew’s first impressions.
What is clear from reviewing all these notes applications is that everyone has their own favourite. Some swear by Hog Bay Software’s PlainText and I can see why. It’s very clean, clear and minimal. Whichever we have as current favourite, though, we all share a quirk of changing from app one to the other—probably simply because we can without data incompatibilities. Unlike the proprietary format word processors such as Word or Pages, plain text editors are able to share the same, simple data files. All the iPhone editors I’ve looked at are cheap. For under $15 or £10 you can buy the lot and use them on alternate days until you have decided which is for you.
I tend to use these file-based note applications for blog posts in progress, letters and other drafts. In other words, for discrete compositions rather than quick notes. For quickly jotting random information I prefer Simplenote which encourages lots of separate, short snippets. Simplenote has one of the best search facilities I’ve come across, so there’s no need for complicated file naming or for separation into categories. I don’t see Simplenote in the same business as Elements, PlainTex, Nebulous Notes, Notesy and the rest. They are for longer texts and drafts where you want to keep separate files. On my home screen you’ll find both Simplenote and Notesy (at the moment) in pride of place.
None of these apps has companion Mac desktop software. Simplenote works well with Notational Velocity which is very similar in concept and offers an OS X view of your Simplenote database. You can sync via the dedicated Simplenote server or, if you are a Simplenote premium subscriber, via Dropbox. For the plain text editors mentioned in this article, you can use many desktop editors that can access the same datafiles. TextEdit is the one built into OSX and is a very competent and free contender, but others include WriteRoom (also from Hog Bay Software.
More on Notesy later when I’ve worked on a few files.