Noel Rappin Writes Here

Elements, and other iPad Text Editor Stuff

Posted on August 18, 2010

I have something like eight different apps on my iPad which are text editors or note takers of one form or another. Plus I know of at least one more that I’m waiting for.

It’s possible I have a problem.

I really want to be able to use my iPad as a writing tool – the best apps are super responsive, and I like the ergonomics of using it with the Bluetooth keyboard. Making the iPad a useful writing or editing tool makes it much more useful for me.

Which brings me to Elements, the latest in my string of writing apps. (The name comes from Strunk & White’s Elements of Style). Elements is a text editor that backs to your Dropbox account, in many ways similar to DropText.

There are a couple of differences:

  • Elements does not expose your entire Dropbox, instead it maintains its own folder and synchronizes it. This is a big DropText advantage, since one of my big use cases involves using files that are already stored elsewhere in my Dropbox.

  • Elements is limited to text files. And I mean really limited. If you put a file with an extension other than .txt in the Elements folder from another machine, Elements will ignore it. Another big problem for me, since it means I can’t edit book files from Elements without pre-placing them in the Elements folder and change their names before I start.

That said, I like Elements for its other features.

  • Elements supports TextExpander. Yay. All the HTML tags in this post are thankful. (Of course I’m writing this in Elements…)

  • Elements auto-syncs back to Dropbox every minute or so. Droptext, I think, requires a manual save.

  • Elements allows you to change font and font size. Double yay. (One setting for all files.) I like messing with fonts, and I normally prefer a larger size than most applications provide by default. Especially in my normal iPad typing position.

  • You can email your file out, which makes it a plausible blog tool via WordPress to email.

  • It maintains a word count overlay, which is handy.

  • It has a little scratch pad, which I think is common to all files, and doesn’t seem to by synched. Still, I suppose it’s kind of dandyish.

  • Subjectively, it feels more polished than Droptext (it’s also more expensive). The UI is a little cleaner.

So… Elements seems to be a nice tool for my blog use case, but a lot of other uses I have require general access to Dropbox. (Though I suppose it’ll depend on whatever Scrivener’s Dropbox support eventually looks like). So far, though, I like it.

Still waiting for the great programmer’s editor, though. Or even the one that looks good enough to try…


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