Mobile Text Editor drags under its own weight

Spoiler alert! Mobile Text Editor attempts to do everything and it’s upscale partner Mobile Text Editor X1 even more. But it may not find it’s niche because almost everything it does well, other apps do better. And the handful of things it does do exclusively may not merit (aka reviewer talk for “probably won’t merit”) the high price.

I’m sure you’re getting tired of reading about text editors. I’m sure getting tired of writing about them. That being said, Mobile Text Editor and it’s upscale partner Mobile Text Editor X1, charge such a high price for a text editor (or any iPad app for that matter) that I thought readers might appreciate knowing what they will get for their twelve (or twenty) dollars.

So I’m not going to bore you with a cutesy introduction that has nothing to do with iPads (although Carol insists that nobody actually reads the reviews, they only read the introductions). Today we’re going to close the subject of text editors and word processors (hopefully) for a long, long time.

Besides, I have more Christmas apps than I have days to review them before Christmas.

The heavyweight app that couldn’t

Last week we discussed the rationale behind bare-bones editors. Mobile Text Editor takes the opposite direction and may be the app that shows why writers like their features stripped down.

Mobile Text Editor is an app in search of an identity. It happens when developers don’t focus their planning meetings onto the core features of what makes the app work. The developers start brainstorming about what would cool features the app could have and lose sight of the few things it should do.

Instead of the little engines that could, as we got last week, we get this gangly awkward clumsy app that overcompensates for its lack of identity.

Even the app store description makes it clear the developers weren’t sure which direction to take. Is this a text editor or a document reader?

It calls itself a text editor, but the description focuses more on the countless non-text editing features that set Mobile Text Editor apart from other the pack. On the one hand it was the first text editor for the iPad with both word count and search and replace. On the other hand, you can use it to view everything from mp4 files to spreadsheets and PDFs.

What Mobile Text Editor does really, really well

  • Mobile Text Editor allows you to have as many documents as you want open at the same time and tab through them. You can have spreadsheet, pdf and even movie files all open at once.
  • You can add text to images.

I’ve had the app since the first week I started doing reviews and these are the only two features that I haven’t found since in other apps (that I know of).

What Mobile Text Editor doesn’t do really really well

  • Edit non-text documents (but you can add text to pictures).

I don’t know. When you compare what it does do against what it doesn’t, it doesn’t seem all that useful. Especially since almost every office knockoff (not to mention iWorks) reads the same documents, and you can edit the spreadsheets and Word files. Oh, and create brand new Word and spreadsheet files as well.

But let’s look at Mobile Text Editor more closely to see if I am being fair.

Document Central

If you just want to read and review documents with a wide range of formats, Mobile Text Editor provides a good central storage location, and access point. You can even create nested folders and access files wirelessly.

Mobile Text Editor supports movie and image files as well as text based documents. You can open as many as you want at once and use the tab buttons to move back and forth between documents. The favorites window even keeps track of the documents you refer to most frequently.

Mobile Text Editor allows you to move back and forth between multiple documents.

Click image to see full size
The favorites window keeps track of the documents you use most.

Click image to see full size

Why would this matter? If you’re attending a meeting or lecture which requires you to refer back and forth between documents, this feature could really come in handy. It’s a pain to have to close a document, search for and open a new document each time you need additional information. The ability to move quickly between documents makes it easy for you to find the information you need as quickly as possible.

This is why I was so surprised that I couldn’t find a navigator window to select from the titles of open documents. Sure, it’s quicker to tab though several documents than to open and close them one at a time, but it would be nicer if I could choose from a list.

Mobile Text Editor X1 claims to allow users to view multiple documents at the same time, so this may be the developers solution to quick document access—making you pay for it. Or a crafty way of saying X1 does the same thing Mobile Text Editor does. But after shelling out twelve dollars for the more limited version and finding so little to recommend it, I wan’t about to shell out twenty for the enhanced version to find out.

Image editor

Perhaps the most unusual feature set in Mobile Text Editor is the image editors. Mobile Text Editor is a “text” editor. But I couldn’t find any way to insert the edited images into documents (which makes sense; text documents can’t contain image data).

The image features set is somewhat bizarre, considering that the images can’t be used in documents (at least within the app itself). You can convert color images to black and white, add tints or apply a sepia tone. As someone who has spent a number of years working with image editing for publication, I can’t imagine any three less useful filters (except to people who think sepia tones are cool in presentation graphics).

Mobile Text Editor allows you to add text to images, and limited ability to change color tones.

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You can add text to the images, edit the text, reformat it and even change the text color. That being said, the process is tedious and unpredictable. It takes a lot of practice to add or edit text and I was never able change the text color or delete a text box from an image (short of closing the image without saving the changes).

You can also add ellipses and rectangles to any image.

The image editing features totally baffle me. I’m sure someone thought they were a good idea, but there are any number of better image editors for the iPad. In my experience, image editing capabilities are usually little more than a useless appendage to word processing apps, and these are very limited.

The only reason I can think of for having multiple open documents and text on image capabilities is for presentations in meetings. Mobile Text Editor would allow you to quickly access and display a wide range of documents and images, without having to throw together a Power Point presentation. But you would need a projector and the iPad attachment cable to make it worth your while.

If you find you really need Mobile Text Editor for meeting displays, I would ask your employer to pay for the software, cable and projector. In fact, your employer should pay for the iPad as well.

Text features

Mobile Text Editor remains one of the few text only editors with decent find and word count features. The find and replace features are well implemented as are the word count features. You can not only find the total word count, but the word, line and character number of any selected text.

Mobile Text Editor provides a full complement of search and count features.

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Unfortunately, Office emulators like Office2 HD, and Apple’s iWorks program do pretty much the same. And you can edit and save Office documents as well.

Unfortunately for the developers of Mobile Text Editor that is. Not unfortunately for users.

I just can’t recommend Mobile Text Editor even at half the price. The couple of things it does exclusively just don’t merit carrying it around as a support app for your word processor. The text editors we looked at last week do a much better job of drafting, especially My Nook Writer and PlainText, which also support Text Expander.

To be honest, I’ve removed Mobile Text Editor from my iPad several times and loaded it back to see if the improvements made me change my mind. This last time I only installed it to write the review because I felt any app this expensive should be reviewed. It aspires to a lot, but manages to hang itself in a limbo between real word processors and stripped-down editors.

Jenny Manytoes rates Mobile Text Editor

Jenny Manytoes would take a nap next to Mobile Text Editor. Don’t get her wrong. The developers did a lot of work, and what they did they did well (mostly). It just reminds me of the girls my son Bryan dated. They were okay, I just kept thinking he could have done better.

My parents said the same thing to Carol. “We love him, and he has his good moments, but don’t you think a girl like you can do a little bit better?”

On Thursday, we move on to the Christmas apps.

The Jenny Manytoes Rating System

Jenny Manytoes, our polydactyl cat
  • When Jenny makes biscuits on a product she thinks she’s in heaven.
  • When Jenny purrs over a product she’s very happy.
  • When Jenny naps next to a product it’s okay with her.
  • When Jenny bunches her tail she can live with a product, but she has higher expectations.
  • When Jenny leaves it in the litter box….I don’t think I need to explain this one.

Contact me at Email iPad Envy or
Email The Hidden Grimoire


About Phillip T Stephens

Phillip T. Stephens disappeared into the Bermuda Triangle twenty years before he was born, creating a time travel paradox so confusing it remains unspoken between physicists and sci-fi writers to this day. Follow @stephens_pt
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