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Using Dropbox to sync notes across platforms

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Dropbox is great. It seems like I learn of a new use for this amazing service every week. Here’s a new one to add to the books. You can use Dropbox to sync text notes across platforms and access them via note-taking clients.

Every since I purchased my first iPhone about 2 years ago I’ve used many different apps to make to-do lists and to take quick notes. The problem was that I could never find one that was simple enough, fast enough, and synced between all of my platforms. Evernote will do this but it has way more features than I need. It’s too distracting for me and the iOS client is slower than just firing up the native notes app. Simplenote is a new service that works pretty well and will do exactly what I need it to do, but I found the ads in the iOS app to be too distracting and I’m not willing to pay $20 a year to get rid of the ads.

So, I’ve found a solution to this issue that I’d like to share. Using several free apps, you can store all of your notes and to-do lists in DropBox and then access them from apps on all of your devices. If you don’t have a Dropbox account, go sign up here and thank me later. Now if you have an iPhone, iPad, or other iOS device go download a fee app called PlainText. It allows you to create and edit text files in your DropBox. It will automatically create a folder in your DropBox called PlainText and it will sync and store text files in that folder. The default folder is at the root of your Dropbox but you can change that if you like. To set up DropBox syncing, just go to settings and then select DropBox and follow the directions. Here’s a screenshot of the DropBox settings in PlainText:

Now you just need a desktop client. I recommend Notational Velocity for Mac or ResophNotes for Windows. Each of those apps allow you to edit and sync text files to your DropBox in plain text format. Notational Velocity is a super simple, minimalist app that just does note-taking and that’s it.

Here’s how to set up Notational Velocity once you’ve enabled DropBox syncing in PlainText:

Notice that you have to change the storage setting to “Plain Text Files” in order for it to sync to dropbox and the other clients. Also make sure you change the source folder to the same folder PlainText is synced to in your DropBox.

Once you have it set up you can create notes on your iPhone using PlainText or on your Mac using Notational Velocity and they will sync to your DropBox and be available wherever you go.

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