Simple, mobile text editing

Something that should be simple has me confounded. Suddenly we’ve got a surplus of simple text editors. Notational Velocity, Simplenote, PlainText and Apple’s own TextEdit hardly represent the beginning of what’s available, and each deserves a thorough examination. For example, spend an hour with TextEdit and you’ll begin to see what it’s capable of.

The problem is that I’m a nerd, and as such feel compelled to check out any system that might be better than one I’m using.

Let’s start with what we know. I know that I love PlainText. Why?

  • It’s beautiful
  • Dropbox support
  • I can create files on my iPad and edit them in TextEdit on my Mac, and vice versa
  • Tidy folders appeal to the neat-nick inside of me

What don’t I like?

  • It works with Scrivener but does weird things as well, like create oddly-titled folders that you are not allowed to move or rename ever under penalty of death
  • It won’t open any plain text file in my Dropbox, only those in the designated directory

The other problem is that I can’t easily find a file created in the PlainText folder from the Mac OS Finder. That requires opening a Finder window, navigating to the right folder, double-clicking the file. [1. Yes, I know there are significantly worse things in the world, like cancer, social injustice and Tim Allen movies.]. But it’s still bothersome. For that reason I’m tempted to use Notational Velocity and Simplenote, but I don’t like the Simplenote web app. I’m not keen on its looks but more importantly, it dumps everything into a single pile. My brain needs folders.

Fortunately, I found this post from CMDComma explaining how to use Notational Velocity to sync with the PlainText folder on Dropbox. It almost works for me. The problem is that, as I said, I’ve got several folders within the main SimpleText folder, and NV makes you choose one. So, I’ve made a “NV” folder within the SimpleText folder. But that’s just added another layer of complexity.

Hopefully, I’ll be discussing the whole mess with Myke and Terry on tomorrow’s episode of The Bro Show, as they’ve been kind enough to oblige me. Believe me, I’m keenly aware of the irony here. Dead-simple text editing has got me befuddled.

Notational Velocity and Twitter as Birdhouse for Mac

Here’s an nice solution to something I’ve been wanting. I love Birdhouse for iPhone, which stores tweets until they’re ready for publication. There’s no Mac alternative, so I’ve been putting potential tweets into Notational Velocity, and then copy-and-pasting them into Twitter when ready.

Today, MacStories points out that Twitter for Mac adds a contextual menu item that lets you tweet nearly any text you’ve selected in Mac OS X. You see where this is going: I can call up Notational Velocity with a keystroke, right-click on a tweet and send it off via the contextual menu. Awesome!

Of course, Notational Velocity isn’t required, as this action works in nearly any Cocoa app that supports contextual menus. But that’s where my “tweet locker” is, so that’s what I’m using.Plus, it provides a chronological, searchable history of my tweets that’s synchronized with Simplenote.


After reading the tech web for years, you begin to see the same topics come and go. Recently, email management and  comments on blogs were hot topics. This week, Markdown has had a resurgence.

Patrick Rhone at Minimal Mac demonstrated how he uses TextExpander to bring Markdown functionality to apps that don’t support it. That post got the ball rolling, and prompted MacSparky to respond with a post on using reference links.

I also received an email from Eddie Smith which pointed out his call for developers interested in working with Notational Velocity and Markdown. Eddie has done some fantastic work with both technologies; if you can contribute to his current project, please do.

I’ll admit that I don’t use Markdown but this conversation has got me interested. Gruber is, of course, the authority, and TUAW posted a brief “cheat sheet” earlier today.

What all of this demonstrates is that there are human beings behind the words and ideas you read online every day. Most of them are generous and smart, which I appreciate. Thanks, everyone.

iPhone note nirvana [Updated]

I’ve never gotten much use out of notes on the iPhone because I dislike typing more than a few words on it. I’m slower with it than I am with a full-sized keyboard and the bundled Notes app syncs with Mail, which makes no sense at all.

Now that I’m using the combination of Notational VelocitySimpleText and WriteRoom, my iPhone is full of easily-accessed, useful notes that I wrote on my Mac and transferred with no effort. Here’s how it works.

Notational Velocity is designed to create, store and retrieve notes. Its marquee feature is modeless operation. There’s no difference between searching for a note, browsing a note or creating one. It’s extremely fast and efficient.

WriteRoom is a full-screen text editor for the Mac and iPhone/iPod touch. It works well, but I’m really using it just to display notes.

SimpleText brings the two together. It’s a sync service originally created to let Taskpaper and WriteRoom users sync documents. Fortunately, it works with Notational Velocity, too.

Here’s how to set it up

  1. Open Notational Velocity Preferences
  2. Open “Notes” preference pane
  3. Select SimpleText’s folder for “Read notes from folder”
  4. Under storage, select ”Storage and read notes on disk as Plain Text Files”

That’s it. Now every note created in Notational Velocity is instantly synced with WriteRoom and vice versa. It’s simple, it costs all of $4.99 to set up (the price of WriteRoom) and it “just works.”

Update: Many readers have pointed out that Simplenote offers synchronization and is free. I know it’s a very popular app. Check it out if you’re looking for a similar solution that won’t cost you five bucks. I opted for WriteRoom because I enjoy the desktop version and wanted to support Hog Bag Software.