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Dropbox-backed note apps for iPhone/iPad
January 13, 2012 9:28 AM   Subscribe

Can anybody recommend a good Dropbox-backed text-based notes app for the iPhone? I'm looking for the following properties:

  • Notes should be plain text files, not wrapped in HTML/SGML/XML/RTF/any other crud
  • it should be able to edit files not created by itself.
  • It should support hierarchical folders, ideally within a designated notes folder in Dropbox
  • It should store the contents of the nodes folder locally, allowing the user to edit them offline, and sync them with Dropbox when it next gets a connection; i.e., if it becomes useless without a data connection, it's not good enough.
  • Being able to intelligently resolve conflicts between notes updated on the client and server (or at least not falling to pieces if that happens) is a plus. (If subversion and git can do it, surely personal productivity apps can.)
I'm looking to consolidate my notes around Dropbox. At the moment, I have a number of notes in an oldish, slightly idiosyncratic locally-synced iPhone app (SEPV's Notes+), which I chose mostly because its system of categories was a good match for my PalmOS memos, and some other notes in Dropbox. I want to replace the former, and ensure that the latter are accessible offline on my phone.
posted by acb to Computers & Internet (17 answers total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
 
Not Dropbox, but you may want to take a look at Simplenote. Plaintext notes, synced through their service, but the iOS app can work offline and sync when you reconnect. Also lots of good desktop clients that work with it.

Doesn't quite meet all of your specs (I think), but some of the third-party apps that interface to it may provide the capabilities you're looking for as well.
posted by McCoy Pauley at 9:34 AM on January 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


Doesn't answer your question, but may save you some time: Speed Notes (as recommended by Matt) fulfils almost all of your requirements (and if you like Notational Velocity then you're going to like the UI concept), but it does not work offline. This fact is what's keeping me from using it regularly too.
posted by caek at 9:40 AM on January 13, 2012


I haven't experienced it's conflict resolution (either that or it's so awesome I have no idea I've experienced it) but Plaintext is absolutely great. It's got a very clean interface, it's build for editing (surprise!) plain text files, and stores those files in a specific folder (and subfolders) in Dropbox. I believe you can even use a custom folder. There's a free ad-supported version so you can see if it meets your needs, and there's a in-app purchase to remove ads.
posted by duien at 9:42 AM on January 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


Offline support is apparently in the works for Speed Notes.
posted by caek at 9:44 AM on January 13, 2012


I haven't dealt with its iPhone version or its "create text files" function, but I believe Goodreader might fulfill all your requirements.

It's primarily meant as a document viewer (which is how I use it), but it contains a text editor and (again, at least on the iPad) allows you to create text files and manage all kinds of files. You can also connect to all different kinds of servers and services to get files, which I think is pretty cool.

* You can only create text files.
* You can edit files created elsewhere.
* You can create/delete/edit/move folders anywhere
* You can set it up to sync with a Dropbox folder (man page

Kind of an unorthodox solution for a text editor, but it just might work.
posted by brentajones at 9:45 AM on January 13, 2012


Nocs is good for sync.
Writing Kit is a little less polished but works also.
Trunk Notes is a local wiki that syncs with Dropbox.
posted by seanmpuckett at 9:45 AM on January 13, 2012


Michael Tsai's "Comparing iPhone Text Editors" will definitely be of interest to you. I'm pretty sure that's his latest round-up but you might find other useful things by searching through his blog.

I use Notesy and it has not let me down yet, but it doesn't meet your criteria.
posted by bcwinters at 9:57 AM on January 13, 2012


I used to use Plaintext, and it is pretty good but it will not open files created elsewhere unless they are saved as UTF-8.

Recently I switched to Writing Kit which is better at keeping local copies, removes the UTF-8 requirement and also adds the ability to use/view markdown formatted documents. I wholeheartedly recommend Writing Kit.
posted by fjom at 10:00 AM on January 13, 2012


I forgot to touch on your other requirements - TL;DR: Writing Kit covers all of them.
posted by fjom at 10:04 AM on January 13, 2012


I had Plaintext, and it looked OK, except that at one point, as I was editing a note, it crashed, and got into a state where it would crash upon startup. That's when it lost me.
posted by acb at 10:08 AM on January 13, 2012


Dr. Drang's Iphone Notes App Comparison is a good read.
posted by backwards guitar at 10:19 AM on January 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm a Simplenote man, so I've never used it, but people seem to go crazy over Elements.
posted by Magnakai at 11:18 AM on January 13, 2012


Michael Tsai's "Comparing iPhone Text Editors"

Elements does support choosing which folder to use on DropBox, but it was in a recent update. I'm not a heavy user of it, but it has been working fine for todo lists, reference files and things like that.

I've had it get grumpy if I'm trying to edit a file while it is syncing the newer version of that file. Other than that it's worked great.
posted by Gary at 12:50 PM on January 13, 2012


You want Nebulous Notes.

✓ Notes should be plain text files, not wrapped in HTML/SGML/XML/RTF/any other crud
✓ it should be able to edit files not created by itself.
✓ It should support hierarchical folders, ideally within a designated notes folder in Dropbox
It can access anything in your dropbox actually.

✓ It should store the contents of the nodes folder locally, allowing the user to edit them offline, and sync them with Dropbox when it next gets a connection; i.e., if it becomes useless without a data connection, it's not good enough.

You can save local copies/create files on the iPhone and then sync with Dropbox later.

✓ Being able to intelligently resolve conflicts between notes updated on the client and server (or at least not falling to pieces if that happens) is a plus. (If subversion and git can do it, surely personal productivity apps can.)

Updates are synced to Dropbox immediately upon closing the note in Nebulous. There are a few cases where this could introduce problems (e.g. if you open a file on your computer, then open it in Nebulous, then save it on the computer, then close the note in Nebulous, overwriting the PC changes). But that's why Dropbox has the Previous Versions button.

It's the best text editor I've found for the iPhone so far.
posted by JDHarper at 9:41 PM on January 13, 2012


Just a note on backwards guitar's link: It's nearly a year out of date. For example, it says that nebulous notes has no search feature, and which they have implemented in the intervening 11 months. Some good alternatives in there, but don't take it all at face value.
posted by JDHarper at 9:44 PM on January 13, 2012


I use Elements on both my iPhone and my iPad. I'm well pleased with it.
posted by malthusan at 12:08 AM on January 14, 2012


Thanks; I picked up Notely (from Michael Tsai's comparison table), and it it seems to do what I want so far. I have yet to stress-test its Dropbox merging.
posted by acb at 6:40 AM on January 14, 2012


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