If there’s one thing that unites ProfHacker writers, it’s probably an appreciation for plain text files and well-designed text editors, preferably with Markdown support. Plain text goes anywhere, is easily searchable, and is upgrade-proof. As a Mac user, I rely on Brett Terpstra & Elastic Threads’s nvALT fork of Notational Velocity to do most of my writing at my computer, and I use Nebulous Notes or Byword on my iOS apps. All of these apps sync via Dropbox, so I pretty much always have access to current versions of whatever I’m working on.
Sometimes, though, you might need to create or edit a text file on a computer or device that’s not your own. Maybe your university doesn’t give you the ability to install apps on your office machine–and maybe it blocks Dropbox. What do you do?
TextDrop is a browser-based text editor that combines four great things: Dropbox syncing, nvALT-style functionality, MultiMarkdown support, and the Pinboard self-sustaining funding model. (There’s a similarly-named free text messaging service, called, txtDrop, so be sure you’re in the right place!)
Browser-Based Text Editing
Pretty much what it says on the tin: TextDrop offers a split-screen view with files and folders on the left, and a field for text editing on the right.
It’s just plain text, so there aren’t a lot of fancy settings to worry about, and it’s fast and responsive.
Instead of signing up for yet another account, you sign in and out of TextDrop via Dropbox, and so all your files are saved there and thus accessible from anywhere. Nice! You can also navigate to any folder in Dropbox to edit previously-existing files, or to save your files in a particular place. (And because you’re in a web browers, you can also toggle a setting to preview PDF, audio, and video files right in the same window.)
TextDrop also leverages Dropbox’s sharing services, such that you’re able to share and publish items immediately. Check out this video from developer Sam Nguyen:
Fair warning: if Growl tells you any time a Dropbox file is saved, be prepared for lots of notifications.
Also: TextDrop doesn’t store much remotely. It loads your file locally.
For those poor souls who work at places that block Dropbox, TextDrop also provides an option to set up your own TextDrop-password, so that you’re still able to access your stuff.
One of the many strengths of nvALT how simple and fast it is to move from search to edit. You just start typing in the search box, and it finds matching files (using full text search). If there’s no match, hit return, and you have a brand-new file all ready to go. The “omnibar” in TextDrop works the same way: live searching of all your files, coupled with the ability to create a new file instantly.
Also on evidence in the video above. MultiMarkdown takes the human-readability and flexibility of Markdown and adds support for things like tables and footnotes, as well as easy conversion into a variety of formats. TextDrop provides a real-time preview pane, which you can toggle on or off.
Pinboard-style Funding: Sustainability Without Ads
The social bookmarking service Pinboard pioneered a variable-pricing funding model a couple of years back, whereby the price slowly goes up as more users join the service. Maciej Ceglowski has explained that web services need money to keep running, and this is a way to keep the doors open without showing ads. When I signed up for TextDrop, it was $10, but over the past week or so, it must’ve gotten a metric ton of new users, as the price has nearly tripled to $28.90. (Actually, Sam Nguyen explains it here: it hit a 500th user benchmark. Might’ve been me, for all I know.) This is a yearly fee, and the price you signed up with is the price you’ll always pay.
At $10, TextDrop was a steal. At nearly $30, it still offers good value for money, especially for people who write on locked-down computers.Return to Top