Noel Rappin Writes Here

Nebulous, or More iPad Text Editors. Really.

Posted on April 8, 2011 uncategorized

Hey, guess what, I’ve got another iPad text editor or two to review.

The thing is… I really like writing on the iPad, with or without the bluetooth keyboard. It’s a very lightweight, fun writing machine. But all the editors I’ve used have flaws that have been making them less than workable for me. I still like them, but I’m getting resigned to their limitations.

For example, iaWriter doesn’t see subfolders, meaning that it doesn’t work with Scrivener sync directories. Plus, its sync feature is annoying, and likes to recreate files that I have deleted. It also has a charming habit of not remembering the last open file, and choosing which file to start with seemingly at random. Textastic fixed some of its bugs, but typing is still laggy from the bluetooth keyboard, and the actual display of the text is awkward if you are doing text and not code. I’ve been using PlainText, which has a nice direct sync with Dropbox, but is deliberately not as fully featured as some of the other tools.

I’ve got a couple of new contenders. One is named Nebulous, which is a criminally low $2 on the app store right now, the other is Notesy, which is $3. Without much more ado, lets see how they stack up against the functionality that I find useful in my iPad text editor.

Dropbox support:

Nebulous let’s you read anything on your Dropbox folder, but it doesn’t auto-sync. It does let you open files regardless of type or file extension, which is a big win. When you select a file, it goes into a “auto-saves” list, which is basically local storage – the “auto” refers to automatically saved locally. You can upload a file as you work on it, or from the list of open auto-saved files. The setup is a little non-intuitive (I think calling the lost “local” files would go a long way.) Nebulous does, however, seem to automatically notice and update if the Dropbox version has changed. Overall, once you get used to the naming scheme, the sync seems to work pretty well. I’d rather have full auto-sync, but the implementation here seems clear and safe.

Notesy syncs with one folder on Dropbox, your choice, and automatically syncs when you change the active document if you are connected. I think it only sees .txt files. The auto sync is nice, but the folder constraint is a minus. However, Notesy does allow you to search the body of all the files in the folder, where Nebulous is limited to only a list sorted by name.


Both programs support TextExpander. Yay. As far as I can tell Notesy has no other fancy keyboard features.

Nebulous has a upper row of extra characters, similar to Textastic, even down to the fact that the row can scroll, which I’m still not sure about. I am sure, though, that Nebulous adds the fantastic ability to customize the keys in the row, making them effectively one-key shortcuts to common snippets. This includes the ability to create macros that wrap selected text. Wow. Very useful. I can already see how I’d use that to make some killer HTML macros. Extra nice: the macro bar stays on-screen even if you are using the bluetooth keyboard.

Text Settings:

Nebulous has about 10 proportional and 5 monospaced fonts to choose from, lets you select size, and uses the pinch gesture to change font size while typing. There are also some themes, which are kind of pointless.

Notesy has a slightly larger set of fonts and let’s you quickly change a single file to the default Monospaced font from the variable font and vice versa.


Basic word count style information is more accessible in Notesy. On the other hand, Nebulous let’s you preview in HTML or Markdown for any file, regardless of the file extension, which is handy.


Nebulous has pretty much taken over as my workhorse editor. It’s more featured than iaWriter, and smoother then Textastic, although Textastic would probably still be my choice if I am actually editing code. I think, though, that it beats out iaWriter and PlainText, at least for the moment, though there are still features of each of those apps that I like. Notesy looks like it will replace Simplenote, since that let’s me sync with NotationalVelocity via Dropbox, and Notesy seems faster for just creating a new, short file.



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