February 19, 2015

Tagging, Markdown, and text expansion need to get together on iOS

The state of plaintext note taking is somewhat frustrating on Mac/iOS at present due to the lack of a robust combination of tagging, Markdown and text-expansion on iOS.

My setup is NVALT syncing to Simplenote for tagged items and Editorial/Byword/1Writer syncing to a folder on Mac for notes needing higher-level editing.

nvALT / Simpletnote

Simply put, the main advantage here is tag syncing. My tags from Simplenote can be picked up by the Finder, Leap, DevonThink and many more apps. I use this system for web articles I’d like to read later which are tagged with readlater” as well as things that I’d would like to have archived for later reference. The problem is that Simplenote no longer supports TextExpander as well Markdown editing. A few months ago I emailed Simplenote support to ask about any plans to add back TextExpander support and they replied that they have none.


Dropbox appears to sync tags via extended attributes but I am not aware of any iOS text editors that will allow the setting of tags. TextExpander is well supported across many editors.

TextExpander keyboard + Simplenote

This is a possible combination but inconvenient if one likes to dictate via Siri since 3rd-party keyboards don’t have the dictation key and are not allowed access to the microphone via the API.


I will continue to search occasionally for a unified combination of OSX tagging, text-expansion, sync and markdown but for now this split approach appears most prudent.

Additional reading

Brett Terpstra, July 2014: How to Lose Your Tags
MacRumors Forums, Nov 2013: Dropbox does NOT sync tags
Cult of Mac, Noc 2014, Why does Apple strip dictation from third-party keyboards in iOS 8?

  • plaintext
  • apps
  • mac
  • iphone
  • productivity

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