Searching For A Text Editor

I have been a Simplenote user for some time. Pretty much for as long as I can remember, easily a few years. I keep a lot of stuff in Simplenote; from tasks (until Clear came along) and reminders, to blog posts and ideas for future projects. However this has not been without issues, I have on multiple occasions been burned by Simplenote sync—either through losing notes or through some notes not making it to all devices. So I wanted to try and find another solution that was Dropbox only.

I put out the call on Twitter and recieved a bunch of suggestions (people really love their text editors) and the ones I decided to test were:

These weren’t the only apps that we’re suggested (Nebulous notes and Plain Text were also popular) but I wasn’t a fan of the UI’s that these apps exhibited and if I’m going to be using an app so frequently then I’ve got to enjoy how it looks.

All of these apps share one common ‘fault’ which means I would find it hard to replace Simplenote with them; they do not support clickable links in the main text view. This is an issue for me because I use my note taking app to compile the shownotes for the Podcasts, so I like to be able to click through to the links I insert. This won’t be a critical thing for most, but it’s something that I am so used to in Simplenote that I have trouble replacing it with an app that does not have this feature.

The apps that I have mentioned here are predominantly markdown editors (with the exception of iA Writer) and do have ‘Markdown preview’ modes that would allow me to view an additional pane, with clickable links. There is a problem with this method however and that is that I currently do not write in Markdown and I’m not even sure if I would want to write quick notes this way.

So, once again I find myself at a crossroads with these types of app. I know I am fiddling and really shouldn’t be looking for another text editor but I just feel that Simplenote isn’t cutting it.

Of those that I tested, Notesy seems to have the most promise and it’s currently installed on my iPhone for some further testing. However, I feel that in the end Simplenote is going to reign supreme. The core of it being that I have used Simplenote for such a long time now that I have grown accustomed to the app and its features, so for an app to come along and take its crown it had to do everything I am used to and more.

There has been one good thing to come out of this test though and that is Byword. Again, this is an app that is not without its flaws. I really like the interface and the Markdown tools that it comes with (it’s actually helping me learn how to use this style of writing and provides me with functionality – like link insertion – that is painless to use) but the way it syncs with Dropbox doesn’t work for me in regards to an every-purpose Text editor. If you want to access a note on Byword that you have not opened before, you select it and it starts downloading, the app does not cache all files when you first link it to Dropbox—it only caches when you first open it. This is difficult for me as if I am working somewhere without an Internet connection or on my wifi iPad then I must have already opened every note I may possibly need.

However, Byword is sticking around at the moment as for longer pieces – like this one – it is perfect. I really like the minimal interface and the excellent additional controls. The ‘arrow keys’ really help me correct small errors and as previously mentioned, the simple Markdown tools are excellent. Currently writing in Markdown seems to make sense for me when writing an article – but as mentioned – I cannot see it working for me when only writing quick notes, on the go. Also, do get me started on the built-in iCloud sync (cough 250 words lost cough) I would suggest sticking with Dropbox for the time being.

Since I started this piece I have read Federico Viticci’s excellent piece on Markdown text editors for the iPad. He awarded Writing Kit with his best app placement and I have downloaded it to try out. This app has a built in browser to allow you to do research whilst writing. This seems invaluable for me and the way I write, so I shall look to give this a good try.

So after all this, Simplenote remains king of the jungle. Maybe one day the perfect solution will come along for me, or I’ll just become so intrenched in markdown that I won’t even care..