However, there is one major gap with using Dropbox as a mobile collaboration tool: Since it’s just meant as a way to store your files, there’s no way to edit text within a file uploaded to Dropbox when using your mobile phone. Luckily, there are a number of apps that work within Dropbox that let you edit on the go, and then return the file to Dropbox so the rest of your colleagues accessing that folder can use it.
We’ll take a look at two great text editors for mobile that will sync with your Dropbox account: PlainText for iOS and Epistle for Android. There are any number of mobile apps that can be used with Dropbox to replicate this kind of functionality, but Epistle and PlainText are both simple and easy to use–and, even better, they’re both free (though PlainText does have ads that you can remove for $1.99).
Once you’ve downloaded PlainText from the iTunes store and opened it up, you should see a screen similar to the one on the right.
Tap on the gear icon located in the lower left corner to open up your preferences, and then tap Dropbox to set up your Dropbox account. You should get to a screen that lets you set your Dropbox preferences.
By default, PlainText syncs only with a folder it creates called PlainText within your Dropbox account. But you can access your entire Dropbox by changing the /Plaintext on this screen to a simple slash, or /, to set access to your home directory in Dropbox. Once you’ve made that change, you’ll want to select Link to Dropbox Account, which will open up a dialog box for you to enter your Dropbox login information. If you don’t already have a Dropbox account, don’t worry; PlainText allows you to create one from within the app.
Once the app is linked up with your Dropbox account, it should be a simple matter to grab a text file from it. The home screen should now look exactly like your Dropbox folder, so you can just navigate to a text file within your Dropbox folder and tap to open it. You’ll then be able to edit the file within PlainText. When you’re done editing, you can select “Sync all folders now” from the dropdown menu in the document’s title, or just wait for PlainText to sync automatically with your Dropbox account.
You’ll find the process of setting up Epistle to be strikingly similar to setting up SimpleText, since Epistle’s creator, Matteo, admits that he modeled the app off of SimpleText but since SimpleText isn’t available for Android, Epistle is your best bet. It may share a lot of DNA with PlainText but it’s still a solid app that made our list of the best Android apps in the first half of the year.
First, open up the preferences for Epistle (located in the lower right), and then log into your Dropbox account.
Just like with PlainText, Epistle will set up an Epistle folder within your Dropbox folder, unless you set it to have access to your entire Dropbox folder by selecting the slash,/, as the filepath–and just like PlainText you’ll be able to check out, edit, and resync any text files.
What Can’t They Do
Both PlainText and Epistle support .txt, .doc, .xml, .css, and .html but are otherwise fairly limited in their functionality. While you can edit the actual text of these files, any sort of formatting changes will require a more robust app. If you do a lot of editing on the go, you might want to consider some more robust text editors like QuickOffice that will actually cost you some cash, but for most users anything more complex than some quick proofreading and corrections or jotting down some notes will probably require opening up their laptop or desktop anyway.