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Summary:

The lack of the ability to cut, copy, and paste and to select portions of text makes text editing on the iPhone/iPod touch an exercise in patience. So, for all you writers who are masochistic enough to use your mobile device to write, this one is […]

The lack of the ability to cut, copy, and paste and to select portions of text makes text editing on the iPhone/iPod touch an exercise in patience. So, for all you writers who are masochistic enough to use your mobile device to write, this one is for you.

Consider this scenario: You start a draft in the Notes app or in the WordPress app and write a paragraph or two. Some time later, you re-read what you’d written and think, “Well, that sentence doesn’t really belong there.” What now? You’ll have to set the cursor to a new insert point and, while referring to that sentence in its existing location, retype it in its new location. Moving just one sentence? Fine. A whole paragraph? Forget it; it’ll be easier to edit the article on your Mac later.

Sounds painfully familiar?

Today I discovered not one but two solutions: TextGuru and MagicPad. Both are text editors for the iPhone and iPod touch with one very important feature.

Cut, copy and paste.

I can cut text! I can copy text! I can paste text!

(If you haven’t already guessed, the three sentences above were copied and pasted while I was drafting this article…just because I can.)

Ten minutes into trying out both apps, I could only exclaim — and I will steal Steve Jobs’s own words — that both TextGuru and MagicPad are like “giving a glass of water to somebody in hell,” for any one who has ever cursed and swore while editing text on the iPhone and iPod touch.

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Cut, copy and paste in TextGuru goes like this: first, in magnified view, you move the cursor to the start of what you want to highlight. Tapping once, then immediately again and still keeping your finger down, you drag to highlight the passage. Finally, you tap on the cut, copy or paste icon on a toolbar that appears automatically.

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It is less complicated than it reads, but it is also not the most fluid of gestures. More often than not, double-tapping on a cursor point while in magnified view causes the cursor to jump to another place, or worse, causes the page to scroll. And it gets more difficult when the cursor is at the edge of the screen. Perhaps this is why the folks at Apple have yet to agree on a copy-and-paste gesture that is foolproof and to their complete satisfaction.

magicpad-c&p.jpg

MagicPad’s implementation of cut, copy and paste, which is called ‘Precise Selection’, works exactly like TextGuru’s. But it has one advantage: ‘Quick Selection’. You can double-tap any word and it will be highlighted. You can then immediately drag and extend the selection. With a larger target area to tap — a word instead of a miniscular cursor — it is easier to make the right text selection.

Of the two, TextGuru is the more full-featured app. Besides cut, copy and paste, TextGuru also offers landscape mode editing and a Statistics feature that shows you character, word, and paragraph count in a pop-up window.

textguru-webconnect.jpg textguru-overview.jpg

Another unique feature is file sharing; with TextGuru File Server, a free companion application on your host Mac or Windows, you can send documents over to TextGuru via Wi-Fi for editing and/or viewing. To access documents saved in your iPhone or iPod touch, you type the IP address of your device (as provided by TextGuru) into a web browser. This way, you can even access documents in one iPhone from another. Useful as this may sound, this feature is broken at the moment. I can get files into my iPod touch but not out.

textguru-browser.jpg

Plain text, HTML, PHP, and JS files are editable in TextGuru, while Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Pages, Numbers and PDF files are viewable but not editable. Also unique to TextGuru is a Web Preview feature, convenient when you are editing web-specific files. TextGuru also saves internal documents as files in .TXT, .HTML, .PHP, .BIN, .JS, .C, .H, and .M formats.

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MagicPad is more of a rich-text replacement for the Notes app in iPhone OS. While it can email an entry in either rich or plain text, it does not have the ability to export it as a file. Also, you cannot edit or view entries in landscape mode. Neither app offers an Undo feature, though TextGuru can revert a document to its last auto-saved version; it’s not exactly step undo, but it’s better than nothing.

Both TextGuru (Brancipater, US$4.99) and MagicPad (Proximi, Inc., US$3.99) are available from the iTunes App Store. If you do heavy text editing on your iPhone or iPod touch, I’d recommend TextGuru. That it has cut, copy and paste and landscape mode for editing alone makes it an essential app for any writer.

  1. Why haven’t Apple “invented” copy/paste ability for iPodTouch/iPhone natively yet…

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  2. [...] Two apps for iPhone with copy-paste ability. This entry was written by dave, posted on Today at 6:52 am, filed under apple. Bookmark the [...]

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  3. great review – I’m just about to get my new iPhone – having finally given up on my Treo 650 and I am disappointed that text editing is not better supported.
    Text Guru looks really good but doesn’t have a folder system to manage files – I do a lot of writing on the move and have found this really useful with the Palm.
    I would like .CSS support as well and a file system that I could point Safari at or preview in Text Guru with linked CSS files working.
    I would also like a spell checker but well…
    The main point is, and speaking as a long term Apple user/ fan going back to a Classic and OS 7, Apple have really made a mess of the iPhone by limiting it and text editing is one of the glaring mistakes. Why no straight forward syncing? having a Palm Treo didn’t stop me getting a Mac Book Pro after my PowerBooks?
    Why no full Bluetooth object push?
    No Movie camera?
    etc etc
    Still I’m looking forward to using it, I suppose I must be incurable

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  4. Hi,
    Nice review so far. Only one question, once transferred those files (pdf, ppt,..) to the ipod, is possible save the files and read those offline?.

    Thanks in advance and cheers,

    josé

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  5. Hi José,

    Yes, you’ll be able to read PDFs, PPTs, DOCs, XLSs, etc. offline.

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  6. Thanks for your reply Claiton, very appreciated.

    Have a nice day,

    José

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  7. [...] This is where Clippy’s similarity to 3.0’s cut, copy and paste ends. A highlighted selection in Clippy does not have handles you can grab to finesse where it starts and ends. Getting a selection right the first time requires much precision. You have to get it right the first time or you’ll have to do it all over again. Also, when you select a passage that extends beyond the page view, you have to hold your finger at the edge of the view to get the page to scroll, if it scrolls at all. Even when it does scroll, oftentimes the selection will break. Text editor apps such as TextGuru and MagicPad also employ this method with equally mixed results. [...]

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