All text editors might seem the same, but choosing the right one is important. Whether you’re writing a novel or a shopping list, you need the right tool. Here are some of the best text editors for iPhone and iPad.
What to Look for in a Text Editor
Text editors are meant to do just that—edit text. But there are plenty of other features you might look for in a text editor. First, do you want rich or plain text functionality? In rich text editors, you can add—and sometimes lightly edit—images, but in plain text editors, you cannot. However, plain text editors often have more advanced Markdown support and syntax highlighting.
Support for Markdown isn’t a given—especially in rich text editors, like Pages—so keep your eyes peeled if that’s a must-have for you. The most robust plain text editors often support rich previews of your content, if needed.
If you write code, syntax highlighting might be a requirement. Markdown highlighting is also available in some apps.
All of the apps we recommend support syncing of some sort, whether via iCloud or a storage service, like Dropbox. Document organization depends on the sync method. Those that use iCloud, for example, often don’t offer any form of folder or subfolder structure. Pages, again, is a good example here.
You probably already know the features you need, but with so many different text editors to choose from it’s easy to become overwhelmed. Which one is right for you?
The Best for Most People: Pages
You can’t have a list of text editors without including Pages. It’s also different from the other apps on our list because it’s more akin to the old-style, what-you-see-is-what-you-get (WYSIWYG) text editors from Mac.
Rich text, images, and support for the Apple Pencil are all present. There’s no Markdown support, though—if you want any kind of syntax highlighting and such, you have to look elsewhere.
However, Pages immediately feels like home for those who like their words to look exactly as they will when printed.
For most people, Pages offers everything they need to write an occasional letter or create a greeting card. It has built-in iCloud support, too, which adds a degree of collaboration other apps don’t have. You can even use pages on a PC via a web browser if you need to.
Pages is free, and it comes with every iPhone and iPad.
The Best for Pros: iA Writer
iA Writer has been around in different forms for a long time. As you’d expect from something with years of polish behind it, it ticks a lot of boxes. It’s also a four-time Best of App Store award winner, and anything mediocre doesn’t win those.
Text editors aren’t renowned for their glorious interfaces or fancy gestures, but iA Writer is a step above the competition and looks great. It still gets out of your way when it needs to, though. You can make text look exactly the way you want it to with the different fonts, sizes, and even line length. Anyone who wants to make her writing experience her own will be in her element.
All writing is still plain text, despite how you configure it to appear onscreen. Markdown is supported, and you can preview documents in HTLM format to see how things will look when they’re published. A customizable keyboard puts all of your most commonly used commands at your fingertips. The impressive Focus Mode dims everything except the current sentence or paragraph to help you get into a groove.
But what makes iA Writer stand out most is it incorporates the latest, greatest iOS features. Whenever Apple adds a new API or framework to iOS, you can bet iA Writer will be one of the first apps to take advantage of it.
You can get iA Writer for $8.99, and no in-app purchases are required.
The Best for More Than Text: Bear
Bear has received an Apple Design Award, and those aren’t easy to come by. It’s suitable for notes but can just as easily handle your latest blog post or book draft.
It looks, feels, and works in a way that lends itself to holding scraps of information, including images, links, and files. We included it because it’s beloved by those who use it, and if you’re looking for something to handle notes and long-form writing, Bear is the pick of the bunch. Its ability to handle different types of information makes it particularly suitable for use as a journaling tool.
You can cross-link notes for quick reference and export individual notes in all kinds of formats, including PDF, JPG, DOCX, and HTML. A strong search game means you can easily find things you wrote previously.
There are lots of themes, too. They change every aspect of how Bear looks and feels. Whether you want a dark or light background or all manner of different colored text, Bear has it. None of this makes your writing any better, but it sure does make the app more fun!
A version of the Bear app is available for the Mac, with syncing between the two apps possible if you pay the $14.99 per year subscription fee for Bear Pro.
The app is free to download, but you miss out on the advanced export options and themes if you don’t get the Bear Pro subscription, too.
The Best for Automation: Drafts
Drafts is another app that doesn’t necessarily fit the mold of the standard text editor because it does so much more. With more automation than anyone could possibly need, Drafts is where you can start all your text-based work and let the app handle the rest.
Drafts’ tagline is, “Where text starts,” and that sums it up perfectly. You type text into Drafts, and then use the customizable automations (or Actions) to send it to web services or other apps. That text might turn into a text message or email. Or it might be uploaded to a web server or blog. Actions can be built to interact with just about any other app on your phone, or any web service with an API.
Drafts also supports some heavy-duty scripting. Developer Agile Tortoise maintains a directory of Actions, too. If you don’t want to build your own, there’s probably already one that will do the job just fine.
Even though Drafts’ power comes from its automation, it’s also a great place to just write words, too. It supports multiple flavors of Markdown and can be themed to look suitably stealthy if dark modes are your thing. It also supports syntax highlighting and in-line Markdown previewing, so you can see what something will look like when it’s converted to another format, like HTML or rich text.
Because Drafts is built to take text and send it elsewhere, the interface reflects that. You can have as little, or as much of it visible as you like. All of that automation is just a couple of taps away when it’s needed and out of the way when it’s not.
Drafts is free to download, but the $19.99 Drafts Pro annual subscription is necessary to access themes, Workspaces (similar to saved searches), and the ability to create and edit actions. Drafts Pro is also required to use Drafts with URL schemes.