Review: Four Text Editors For iOS

I just started to write a few words about Byword for iOS and realised that I’ve got a bunch of editors on my iPad and they all deserve a few words. So here you have them all in the one post.

Before I start if you are already running one or two editors and you’re just looking for a good comparison list of iOS editors to find your perfect one (or you want to check all the features of the four I’ve reviewed below) Brett Terpstra recently crowd sourced the definitive list.

Byword

On the Mac Byword is my go to editor for writing, so how does it stack up on the iPad?

Quite well. Of course it supports Markdown well, including a good preview. Like all good editors on the iPad it has an extra row of keys above the standard keyboard. The extra keys are optimised for typing Markdown syntax including a key for headings, inserting hyperlinks and creating lists. One neat trick I haven’t seen elsewhere are that the extra row keys include ‘(‘ and ‘[‘ but not the matching close, when you type the opening character the key changes to the matching close.

For file storage it supports both iCloud and Dropbox.

It has a good range of export possibilities including the ability to copy a HTML conversion to the clipboard and email a number of formats.

I don’t really use it that much, I’m much more likely to use either Nebulous or Textastic.

Byword • A Simple Text Editor for Mac and iOS

Elements

Elements is the first editor for writers I tried and at first I liked it’s clean look but it lacks a number of features I need. The export options are limited, the font is fixed, there is no extra keyboard row.

It does have a good, clean look. It supports MarkDown syntax with a single button preview. It supports TextExpander. It does export the HTL of your MarkDown to the clipboard, though it takes a moment to find it – preview the MarkDown and at the bottom of the screen is a “Copy HTML” button.

The one good feature not commonly seen is a small scratchpad for taking a quick note while you are editing a document.

I don’t think I could recommend Elements unless you want a really simple editor, even then the lack of the extra keyboard row is a drawback.

Elements — A Markdown Text Editor For iOS

Nebulous

Nebulous is neat, really neat. It has some great features.

The look is highly customizable with four themes and from there you can change colours, fonts and sizes.

Even the extra keyboard row is customizable with full macro support, these are real macros with support for cursor positioning not just text substitutions. This is the killer feature that keeps it on my home row. My only request would be the ability to easily switch between a couple of custom rows — I’d like one for writing and one for coding.

If you want to get really geeky then Nebulous’ latest update supports URLs in the iOS URL scheme so you can have Launch Center or bookmarklets do such things as open a file or add a line of text to the end of one.

As well as Dropbox support it’s the only iPad editor I know that will save your document as a note in Evernote, extremely handy since I don’t really like the editor in the iPad Evernote app.

The one weakness in Nebulous is that it doesn’t automatically sync with Dropbox or iCloud, it keeps a local copy of your file and I’ve been unable to figure out exactly when it decides to sync with the online file.

Nebulous Notes

Textastic

This is the code cutters editor of choice in my view. It has code completion, syntax highlighting, symbol navigation, TextMate snippets and auto indentation. The extra keyboard row is ideal for coding. It even supports TextMate themes.

For the writer it also has a few tricks. It has MarkDown preview and export to HTML, the two basics for MarkDown and the symbol navigation system recognises MarkDown headers for navigation round large documents.

Textastic also has a pop up cursor pad rather than arrows for moving the cursor and selecting text. Given that it uses more of the valuable screen space I’m not sure if I prefer it over arrow keys but it can be dismissed with a tap and brought back with a double tap.

As well as Dropbox it also supports FTP, SFTP, SCP and WebDAV for those that want to edit files on, for example, a web server rather than just their Dropbox.

Finally it also has the best regular expression search and replace I’ve seen on iOS.

Textastic – Text, Code and Markup Editor with Syntax Highlighting – FTP, SFTP, Dropbox – for iPad

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