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iPad writing app review: Plain Text

Plain Text is a free iPad text editor with a simple but elegant interface. Its typography and layout make for a visually graceful app, without letting you forget what you’re there to do: generate thoughts on a page. It’s minimalist: it can only handle .txt files. But it frames your words in a classy 18pt Georgia, with each sentence gracefully line-spaced on an off-white background, like paper, like a final draft.

Just look at the Zen of it.

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No clutter anywhere means you can FOCUS, cough out the drafts to meet those darn deadlines, or bring out the inner-mental-patient-writer in you (see the image above).

What you get is all there is (and is probably all you need). If you need to pour your thoughts on a page, then you don’t need all that formatting clutter – that’s for when you actually have something to format. All you need is black text on plain white. No toolbars to fiddle with. Only four or so icons to tap on – and you’ll find them when you need them, not before (unless you’re looking for excuses not to write).

You can use portrait mode to thumb-type minor corrections, to fluidly scroll through your draft, and to quickly load one file after another. The default view has two panes: create files and folders on the left, open up a file on the right. It’s like having a single-purpose can opener that really knows how to open cans.

You can’t change the fonts, you’re stuck with Georgia 18pts and black. That off-white background is eternal. There’s no text-find feature. Bare-bones means there’s no grammar or spell check either – auto-correction is the closest thing you have, and that’s an iPad feature, not a Plain Text one. Believe you me,┬áthis is a typewriter that saves your drafts.

What you do have is a clean notepad that fires up quickly, loads files in a blink, comes with word count, and integrates with Dropbox. Speaking of loading files, some text editors yank you out of the document you’re editing, when you want to look up files in other folders. With Plain Text you can stay on your currently open file, while the left pane lets you sift through files in folders, and load them up when you’re ready. I like that.

If you want to view white text on black background, there’s a work around – set up the iPad’s home button to toggle white on black. Voila! Instant night mode reading.

Ho-Kay. Now we come to a mystery: I can’t find any ads in Plain Text. That’s a good thing, but Plain Text is supposed to be free to download, with ads you can shoo away by shoring up $4.99. But the one I have, and I haven’t paid anything (the upgrade offer still shows up in settings), doesn’t have any ads. I kid you not.

Never mind. A good thing is a good thing. So, if you want a quiet, classy-looking, fast-on-its toes, super stable, completely free notepad (with a convenient text-file browser), Plain Text it is.

Irwin Allen Rivera

Irwin Allen Rivera

Irwin Allen Rivera loves his wife's cooking so much he's now twice the man he used to be. He and his wife maintain www.storiesaboutph.com, where you can read the best short fiction in English, by Filipino authors, for free. Irwin's English essay won a Don Carlos Palanca Memorial Award for Literature in 2012. His philosophical-horror story appears in Philippine Speculative Fiction 8 (2013). He was managing editor and lead writer of Sites and Symbols 2 (2005), a coffee-table book about buildings in UP Diliman - his alma mater (BA Philosophy; MA Creative Writing continuing). He worked at the UP Diliman Information Office before shifting to web content writing full-time. His sudden fiction, "Notwithstanding Pigs," initially a Friendster testimonial, appeared in Philippines Graphic (2006) and in Very Short Stories for Harried Readers (2007).

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    • bad_boy|

      @Irwin: Nice. Looks like I have something to download tonight ;)


    • Irwin|

      @bad_boy. I’m a typography fan, so Plain Text scores high on my list. The file browser on the left side is a big help, since you don’t have to get out of the file currently loaded to view your other files (which is the case with most text editors on the iPad). The effect on me is that I get to see that current file – paragraph, sentence, words, punctuations – at the corner of my eye, and that let’s me spot errors and possibilities which I don’t often see when looking straight at the text. Strange, really, but it helps me.


    • bad_boy|

      @Irwin: I love me some good typography too! This looks great for my random thought-scribbling (aka brain farts).

      BTW, is Maid for Drugs a promo? LOL.


    • Irwin|

      @bad_boy. “Maid for Drugs” is a short story of mine in the works. It’s set in a future Philippines, where it’s normal practice to let maids ingest a drug that lets them forget the last six months, that way they regain the good manners and fresh, masipag approach – but their bank accounts reflect the money they earned in the last six month, tapos medical reports sent to their families reveal they were not abused by their employers. The goal is for the “rebooted” and “refreshed” maids to remain in service – kse there’s a trend wherein after six months daw the maids start abusing their employers – taking frequent leaves, slacking up at work, getting up late, forgetting to fetch the kids from school, overcooking meals, ironing uniforms to cinders, making kupit from the pamalengke funds. etc.
      .
      So the drugs bring back the good old days. :D
      .
      I know. It’s strange. :D


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