Tot for iPhone, configured with SF Mono as a custom font.

Over the previous few weeks, I’ve been on a quest to find the very best iPhone and iPad apps to gather and edit numerous bits of textual content I come throughout each day. The results of this analysis was a set in Challenge 211 of our Membership-exclusive publication MacStories Weekly, during which I rounded up the six most fascinating plain textual content apps I’d discovered looking the App Retailer. Members can try the total assortment within the publication archive, however, for context, right here’s how I led the story:

I usually discover myself desirous to retailer random bits of plain textual content in a doc, which I don’t need to save in Apple Notes or iA Author the place my extra essential notes and paperwork reside. I simply need a fast technique to stash random, disposable items of textual content – telephone numbers, addresses, URLs, and so forth. – that I’ll discard shortly after. Inevitably, my analysis led me to find a bunch of apps I wasn’t accustomed to.

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For the aim of this roundup, I’ve excluded apps like iA Author, 1Writer, Drafts, and different, extra advanced textual content editors that transcend the straightforward act of simply saving textual content in a scratchpad. Whereas it is potential to make use of these apps for that sort of activity – and I imagine loads of people use Drafts like that – I used to be successfully on the lookout for iPhone and iPad alternate options to Apple’s TextEdit for Mac.

I take advantage of Apple Notes for general-purpose note-taking, however I’ve began shifting a few of my videogame-related paperwork and notes that require heavier formatting to Noto (which Ryan reviewed right here). All my writing occurs in iA Author, the place I do not need to retailer every other plain textual content (Markdown) content material that gained’t find yourself both on MacStories or Membership MacStories. These days, nevertheless, I’ve discovered myself looking for a device that lets me jot down (or in any other case gather from Safari or Mail) random bits of textual content which are essential for the second, however ephemeral, and as such not a very good match for the richness of modifying instruments obtainable in Notes or Noto. It’s possible you’ll be accustomed to this downside: possibly it’s a telephone quantity you might want to hold helpful for a pair minutes, or an inventory of three objects you might want to purchase on the grocery store, or a URL to a webpage you might want to share with a colleague. To me, utilizing Apple Notes or Drafts for this type of plain textual content content material expiring quickly feels extreme; I simply need a scratchpad that frees my mind of the accountability to carry this textual content with as little friction as potential.

Enter Tot, the newest launch from The Iconfactory. At a excessive degree, Tot is a plain textual content editor that permits you to swipe throughout seven paperwork from a single view; every doc is represented by a coloured dot, and the colour can also be used for the doc’s background to make it visually stand out from the opposite six. You possibly can change between plain textual content and wealthy textual content modifying modes with the faucet of a button; there are phrase and character counts above the keyboard; whenever you’re accomplished modifying, you possibly can share your textual content as .txt or .rtf paperwork with different apps. On a superficial evaluation, Tot could not appear that totally different from the plethora of light-weight Markdown or wealthy textual content editors obtainable on the App Retailer. What units The Iconfactory’s newest app aside, nevertheless, is the mixture of embracing constraints and adopting system applied sciences with a considerate, balanced design. Enable me to elucidate.

In Tot for iPhone and iPad (a Mac model can also be obtainable, however I haven’t used it), as a substitute of coping with plain textual content “information” as common paperwork saved someplace in iCloud Drive, you could have a single view that permits you to swipe throughout seven paperwork, every represented by a dot and coloration. Paperwork contained inside Tot sync with iCloud throughout gadgets; in my expertise, sync has been quick and dependable, with adjustments displaying up inside seconds on my second gadget. By putting off a standard file construction and counting on in-app iCloud sync, Tot is quicker at ingesting textual content than apps equivalent to Femto or Blockquote (which I coated in MacStories Weekly); Tot is at all times able to go once I open it since I don’t need to seek for a particular file utilizing the doc browser or Recordsdata picker. The draw back, in fact, is that textual content saved inside Tot shouldn’t be obtainable through Recordsdata/Finder by iCloud Drive, however that’s not one thing I care about in the case of a scratchpad utility.

Greater than a mere character trait, Tot’s coloured dots serve the twin objective of being spatial navigation device (extra on the app’s spatial UI beneath) and context indicators. You possibly can navigate throughout paperwork within the app with a fast swipe, and in doing so on fashionable iPhones you’ll really feel a pleasant haptic faucet1; alternatively, you possibly can faucet the dots to change paperwork. As I discussed above, every dot carries a coloration, which turns into the background coloration of the chosen doc (vibrancy can also be used to let the colour shine by the software program keyboard – a pleasant contact). The palette chosen by The Iconfactory for Tot’s seven paperwork is a few of the best number of colours I’ve seen in a contemporary iOS app: it appears nice in mild mode, and it appears wonderful in darkish mode because of its mixture of excessive distinction and translucency. It takes an actual understanding of coloration to make a easy textual content view and keyboard appears this good – which isn’t stunning given The Iconfactory’s background on this area.

Examples of Tot's light and dark colors.

Along with letting you navigate throughout paperwork, the coloured dots additionally point out state: the present doc you’re modifying will get a filled-in dot; different paperwork have a coloured define, however provided that they maintain some textual content.2 This design method makes it simple to see which paperwork comprise textual content at a look, permitting you to pick and empty them if their contents are not needed.

Tot’s different distinctive function is the way it implements view settings on a per-document foundation. In contrast to most textual content editors, which allow you to apply international settings that modify the app’s habits for each doc presently open, Tot lets you set totally different show and formatting choices for every doc. That is potential since Tot successfully provides solely two choices to configure for every doc, however the potential to take action is welcome nonetheless: you possibly can select to cover the additional toolbar containing phrase/character counts in addition to change the format of a doc from Markdown-flavored plain textual content to wealthy textual content. I admire this sense of spatiality and context in a multi-view editor; view choices stick even in the event you force-quit Tot and reopen it.

Talking of textual content codecs, the final facet I need to point out is Tot’s help for fundamental Markdown and wealthy textual content, which comes with some good touches and stunning limitations on this first model. Tot will at all times attempt to protect formatting of pasted textual content no matter whether or not you’re utilizing Markdown or wealthy textual content: if a doc is ready to Markdown and also you paste a block of wealthy textual content containing hyperlinks and daring components, they are going to be routinely translated to their Markdown equivalents; change the identical doc to wealthy textual content, and so they’ll be displayed accordingly with tappable hyperlinks and daring fonts.

You can paste rich text in Tot, which will preserve formatting in Markdown as well.

The flexibility to dynamically change between Markdown and wealthy textual content3 lets Tot match into a wide range of textual content workflows, and it’s the sort of function I want extra textual content editors supported.4 I like the truth that I can copy a bit of wealthy textual content from Apple Mail, paste it in a Tot doc, and immediately convert it to Markdown with the faucet of a button whereas preserving its fundamental formatting.

That mentioned, Tot’s Markdown integration could possibly be improved: the app doesn’t supply any sort of syntax spotlight for Markdown components equivalent to daring and italics, and customary components equivalent to ## Headings are usually not transformed to wealthy textual content in any respect. Tot provides a set of three customizable buttons with Unicode characters equivalent to arrows and bullets to create visible lists; nevertheless, the app doesn’t help computerized record continuation, which means that you simply’ll need to press the character key for each new merchandise within the record. I get that The Iconfactory needed to supply a “much less is extra” sort of expertise, however I really feel like sure functionalities – significantly lists, which are perfect for a scratchpad app – can’t be excluded for the sake of minimalism.

You can customize the quick keys, fonts, and spacing used in Tot from the app's settings.

What actually stunned me about Tot – and, in the end, why I’ve some reservations about recommending it to iOS/iPadOS-only readers – is its pricing mannequin. The Iconfactory launched Tot as an unique preview for his or her Patreon supporters, who have been in a position to attempt the Mac model of the app a number of weeks upfront. Tot was designed in the beginning as a Mac expertise; later, the corporate determined to carry the app to iPhone and iPad. I imagine it’s because of this that The Iconfactory determined to run the next pricing experiment: Tot is free to obtain and use on the Mac; if you wish to apply it to the iPhone and iPad, it’s a $20 paid upfront buy.

Whereas I’m going to buy Tot for iOS as a result of it does precisely what I would like and I personally need to help The Iconfactory, let me clarify why I don’t like this method and why I can’t simply advocate the app to everybody. The choice to make the Mac app obtainable free of charge and lock the iOS model behind a $20 buy feels unnecessarily punitive in the direction of iPhone and iPad customers who will not be within the Mac app in any respect. I perceive how The Iconfactory could think about Tot for iOS a “satellite tv for pc” model of the “actual” Mac app (a line of considering that, frankly, could be pretty shortsighted in 2020); even then, nevertheless, iOS customers who will not be accustomed to (or care about) the backstory will simply see a $20 scratchpad app on the App Retailer, and so they’ll most likely balk at downloading it. In fact, everyone seems to be free to undertake and experiment with the pricing mannequin they like; as a reviewer although, it’s my job to let you know that you will discover extra inexpensive plain textual content apps on the App Retailer lately.

As somebody who solely makes use of a Mac 3 times per week to report podcasts, it’s robust for me to advocate Tot to fellow iPhone- and iPad-first customers. Tot turns into a a lot better proposition in the event you think about the $20 buy as a single worth for the total line of Mac/iPhone/iPad apps, however I’ll allow you to be the decide of that. What I can say is that Tot, regardless of some preliminary limitations, strikes an ideal stability of kind and performance; its novel navigation system is completely tailor-made for a scratchpad which, in contrast to different apps from the App Retailer, can change between Markdown and wealthy textual content.

Tot is the sort of utility I used to be on the lookout for; it’s on my House display screen, and I’ve been utilizing it each day for the previous couple weeks. On the similar time, I’m not a fan of the pricing mannequin and I want The Iconfactory handled the Mac and iOS/iPadOS variations as equals. I’m curious to see how the corporate will evolve Tot over the approaching months; in the event you’re curious in regards to the app and have a Mac, I suggesting downloading the desktop model to see if its method is sensible for a way you want to gather and edit bits of textual content.

Tot is obtainable free of charge on the Mac; you may get the iOS and iPadOS model at $19.99 on the App Retailer.


  1. Do this in your iPhone: choose the primary dot on the left, then faucet the final one on the proper, and really feel the fast succession of faucets. ↩︎
  2. Talking of The Iconfactory’s consideration to element: whitespace characters don’t rely as textual content for Tot; in the event you enter a number of areas or tabs in a doc, its dot will not get a coloured define. ↩︎
  3. Which on iPad you are able to do by urgent ⌘⇧T. ↩︎
  4. Ulysses’ good paste performance is sort of comparable, however the app doesn’t help switching the editor between Markdown and wealthy textual content. ↩︎