App Review: PlainText

PlainText, which is free, but costs $4.99 for an ad-free version, is an extremely basic yet helpful text-editing app, available for the iPhone, iTouch, and iPad, that syncs with Dropbox. It allows you work with .txt files right on your device, and then wirelessly sync them to your computer with your dropbox.com account, allowing you to easily view and edit these documents on the computer as well.

Features

Although this is a simple app, it still has plenty of very useful features, primarily because it syncs with drop box. PlainText allows you to create, view, edit, rename, and delete .txt files on your device. These files can be synced to your computer via Dropbox, and this is an extremely simple process that will be discussed later.

Review

First off, I highly recommend you create a Dropbox account because this is what allows you to sync documents from your device to your computer, and vice versa. Once the account is created, you will have access to a myriad of helpful features that greatly enhance PlainText, and Dropbox is generous enough to give you 2GB of free storage with the option to pay for more.

Within the PlainText app, which has a bland black and white interface, there is a main folder called “Documents,” which is where all your documents are stored. Within this folder you have two options: you can create a document, or you can create a folder. When you create a document, you simply give it a name and type away. However, you can also create folders, and within that folder you can create documents, and if you want you can make even more folders. This makes organization much easier than with the default notes app, and it a great feature of PlainText. What’s even better is that with your Dropbox account, any documents and folders you create are automatically and wirelessly synced, almost instantly, to any computers on which you have installed Dropbox. This means you can create a document on your iPhone, and view or edit it on your home or work computer, assuming the computer has Dropbox installed. Dropbox creates a folder titled “Dropbox” on your computer, so to find your documents simply navigate to this folder.

Although documents and folders sync automatically, one small complaint is that the contents of folders do not sync automatically. The folder itself will sync to your computer, but the documents within that folder will not sync until you either visit the folder or modify a document within the folder. I’m not quite sure why it is like this, but it would be nice to see an update that automatically syncs everything.

Another great feature is that any documents you put into the Dropbox folder are automatically backed up online, which means that you will still have all of your documents even if your computer crashes. So now your documents are stored on your mobile device, all of your computers that have Dropbox, as well as the Internet, so you it would be nearly impossible for you to lose your documents. Even if you accidentally delete files, Dropbox saves a history of all your changes so you can undelete documents if you need to. This makes usingPlainText and Dropbox a great replacement for emailing documents back and forth to and from your iPhone.

Even though there are many benefits to using PlainText, there is one thing that I’m sure many people would like to see. This app, called PlainText, allows you to write using no formatting other than plain text. You cannot change anything about the text. This means the font, font size, and color all must stay the same, and you cannot even make text bold, italic, or underline within the app. If you make these changes on a computer, then try to sync them to the app, they will not sync properly and you will not be able to properly read the document. It would be nice to see an update which either supports .doc and .docx extensions, so you can use all the formatting that word has, or at least be able to use different fonts and font sizes, as well as bold, italics, and underline in the .txt file. This would be excellent in allowing you to organize text within a document, as well as simply giving you more options for text appearance.

Conclusion

For a free app, PlainText [iTunes link] sure is a great deal. This app makes it easy to create and edit text files right on your iPhone or iPad, and make changes later on a computer, or vice versa. The automatic syncing and backup is also extremely beneficial, as is the option to create folders to stay organized. Although it isn’t my preference, some may prefer the lack of a nice interface or text formatting as it prevents any distractions, and allows you to simply focus on writing. Overall this is a very useful app that I would recommend to anyone who needs to create and edit text files on their iPhone or iPad, and may later need to make changes on a computer.


  • Amory

    There is a slippery slope issue here. PlainText, like the other Hog Bay products, is just plain text. The bad news, as you say, is that you cannot add formatting. The good news is that you cannot add formatting. This product and its siblings are great for writing. That means both little snippets like a notepad and long documents like articles.

    There is an elegance in design and function of PlainText that make the application almost invisible. All you can do with it is write things. I love formatting things. I have a background in typography. Now I write speeches and small articles. But as many do, I can easily get invovled with using bold type and hanging indents and such. To do this is, for me, a form of procrastination, a diversion. And besides, in the forms I use, it is the words themselves that should carry the meaning. To rely on the form is not effective.

    I think that PlainText is brilliant for three reasons: 1) it is so well designed and such a pleasure to use that you don’t have to think about the application, 2) it looks great on the iPad, and 3) the syncing system (including folder and such) is just right.

  • Matthew Frederick

    Adding .doc support would pretty much destroy the whole reason for the app, IMO. It’s about simple, clean text files that can be edited on any device that can reach Dropbox using nearly any piece of software you can imagine, including dozens of other iOS apps. The app is about portability and availability of notes, not about “word processing.” Plenty of other apps for that.

  • George

    Anyone can share please the old version before 1.7.1 of PlainText? I made a mistake by upgrading the app and now is incompatible with mi device. It would be very appreciated.

  • Susan Foote

    Can anyone help, my husband created something in Plain Text that was very important and now that there is a new version he cannot open it, he can still see it but when he goes in to app, it only offers him to upgrade to new version and not to cancel.

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