Simplest Text Synchronization Between Mac & iPhone

I’ve been seeking a simple solution that automatically synchronizes text between my Mac and my iPhone. Simple means two things: one, the software apps need to be simple use and two, require minimal hardware resources. This solution allows me to put my thoughts down with as little friction as possible, and not have to worry about anything else.

Why am I looking for a text synchronization solution between my Mac and my iPhone? I take a lot of notes. Sometimes I’m out with my iPhone; at other times I’m at home in front of my Mac.

There are bits of thought scattered everywhere on my Mac and iPhone: TextEdit files, Pages files, on my blog as private posts, in my Documents and DropBox folders, on the PlainText and Momento apps on my iPhone, etc. All over!

I want a single app on my iPhone and a single program on my Mac. And I want automatic cloud synchronization between the two.

My solution has three components:

  • DropBox
  • PlainText
  • Notational Velocity

Here’s a simple “flowchart” to explain how the three work together:

PlainText (iPhone) ↔ DropBox (cloud) ↔ NV (Mac)

Put your files in the DropBox folder and they are automatically synced to a folder in the cloud. Apps can make use of this service. DropBox is free but storage is limited. I use it mostly for synchronizing text files since they are small.

PlainText is the simplest text editor that I’ve found for the iPhone . There’s an iPad version, too. The UI is simple and it allows you to get to the business of jotting down your thoughts. There is a special bonus: the jotted-down-thoughts are automatically synced with DropBox. That means your thoughts are automatically saved (no ‘save’ button) and you have access to these text files on your computer. iOS 3.0+ is required.

Notational Velocity is a unique text editor for your Mac. Enter the title of your thought and two things happen. NV searches in real-time: if there are matches you’ll see them; if not, press enter (the text entered becomes the title). Start jotting down your thoughts. Simply brilliant, and I mean that literally. NV doesn’t automatically sync but you can easily set it up. Here are the steps:

  • In Notational Velocity, go to Preferences → Notes → Read notes from folder:
  • Select the PlainText folder inside your Dropbox folder.
  • Also change “Store and read notes on disk as:” to “Plain Text Files *”.

You need to use plain text since PlainText on your iPhone can only read plain text.

I have found this solution to be the simplest and most elegant solution for automatically synchronizing text between a Mac and an iPhone. It has simplified my life; I hope it helps simplify yours.