iPhone app that autosyncs input to computer in a readable format
July 9, 2013 1:06 PM   Subscribe

I want to be able to record measurements and events on my phone, and have that data automagically accessible on my computer (or the cloud). For example, I would record things like 1) exercise type, distance and duration, 2) tire id, position and pressure, 3) flea treatment application date, brand, and effectiveness. Then I would write scripts that would tell me 1) what kind of exercise I'm best at doing consistently, 2) whether the back passenger tire really does lose more air, even after switching tires, and 3) which flea tx works best and when to buy and apply the next round. The challenge, it turns out, is finding an app that can automatically write input back to my computer as a plain text file. Ideally I'd like a flexible app designed for data entry. Do I have to give up and use Documents To Go and Excel file format? Tell me it ain't so.

I've found apps that automatically sync data via Dropbox (good!) but use unparsable binary formats. There are also apps that can export the data to .csv (good!), but only manually, involving bunch of fiddly steps for each thing tracked. GeneralDB and Lumen Trails are good examples of apps that are highly configurable and have good interfaces for recording the kind of stuff I'm interested in. Neither makes the data transfer cut, unfortunately.
posted by manduca to Technology (6 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Notesy (and several other apps, but notesy is the one I use) writes plain text to Dropbox.

Set it up in combination with Drafts for ultra-quick entry.
posted by caek at 1:45 PM on July 9, 2013

Is Simplenote too simple?
posted by jon1270 at 1:47 PM on July 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

Unless Google dropped this tool to further lock people into their ecosystem, you could edit a Google Docs-based spreadsheet document on your phone and have a command-line script run every ten-fifteen seconds or so to pull updates to a text file on your computer (see the watch UNIX command).
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 1:47 PM on July 9, 2013

Hrmm, if you're going to write a script anyhow, I think I'd use Drafts (and maybe coupled with the TextExpander Touch app and its fill-in capabilities). For each script I'd just have each line of my draft scratch file be a piece of criteria, Example, for this criteria:

Line 1: Exercise Type
Line 2: Distance (km)
Line 3: Duration

your scratch file would look like so:


Then have your computer script append this scratch file to a csv or a markdown table (which should be easy enough to parse) and then delete the scratch file.
posted by backwards guitar at 2:19 PM on July 9, 2013

I use PlainText and SimpleNote: both work with plain text files.

I also suggest keeping an eye on Vesper. It is gorgeous as all hell, a pleasure to use, and has a very nice tagging system that would be just right for your needs ("Tires", "Exercise", "Pets"). The downside is that version 1 offers no way to export data beyond email or copy and paste, but that should change soon.
posted by RedOrGreen at 7:39 AM on July 10, 2013

Drafts has been fantastic. I have several actions set up that just add lines to a text file in Dropbox. Pretty much all of them automatically prefix a time stamp to the note. I have one for my weight, and some for general journaling. When my dog got sick, I started recording his symptoms while I visit him at the vet. Once he got home and I had six (actual) feedings and a million (approximately) meds per day, it was really helpful. I didn't have to fight my sleep-deprived mind to remember whether I had already given him his pre-meal treatment or whether he had been walked 60 minutes ago. With all the Drafts docs, R code can parse and plot or trigger actions based on the contents. Drafts!!!
posted by manduca at 3:35 PM on January 14, 2014

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