How To Use Dropbox to Edit Text On Mobile Devices

With clients for every mobile and desktop operating system and tons of great functionality, Dropbox makes it easy to share files from basically any device.

However, there is one major gap with using Dropbox as a mobile collaboration tool: Since it's primarily meant as a way to store your files, it can be difficult to edit text within a file uploaded to Dropbox when using your mobile phone. Dropbox’s Android app has a simple built-in text editor to help, but the iOS app has no native text editing capabilities. Luckily, there are a number of apps that work within Dropbox that let you edit on the go, and then return the file to Dropbox so the rest of your colleagues accessing that folder can use it.

[Read: Dropbox Gets More Businesslike]

Here's a look at what you can and can’t do with Android’s Dropbox Text Editor and a great text editor for iOS that will sync with your Dropbox account: PlainText. PlainText and Dropbox are both fairly simple text editors, but they’re both great tools for editing on the go--and, even better, they’re both free (though PlainText does have ads that you can remove for $1.99).

Dropbox for Android

Dropbox Text Editor
Dropbox’s App for Android comes with its own built-in text editor, DB Text Editor, to help make editing your text files easier. All you need to do is click on a file in Dropbox and then select DB Text Editor from the pop-up menu (you can also set this as a default so you don’t have to see your options every time) to start editing.

While DB Text Editor makes editing Dropbox files on your mobile relatively simple for Android users, it’s still important to keep in mind that DB Text Editor only supports .txt, .css, .xml and .html files so if you’re trying to edit a .rtf file or a Microsoft Word document you’ll need to look elsewhere. The built-in text editing capability is still a nice bonus of course. For iOS users there are a few extra hoops to jump through.


Once you’ve downloaded PlainText from the iTunes store and opened it up, you should see a screen similar to the one on the right.

Tap on the gear icon located in the lower left corner to open up your preferences, and then tap Dropbox to set up your Dropbox account. You should get to a screen that lets you set your Dropbox preferences.

By default, PlainText syncs only with a folder it creates called PlainText within your Dropbox account. But you can access your entire Dropbox by changing the /Plaintext on this screen to a simple slash, or /, to set access to your home directory in Dropbox. Once you’ve made that change, you’ll want to select Link to Dropbox Account, which will open up a dialog box for you to enter your Dropbox login information. If you don’t already have a Dropbox account, don’t worry; PlainText allows you to create one from within the app.

Once the app is linked up with your Dropbox account, it should be a simple matter to grab a text file from it. The home screen should now look exactly like your Dropbox folder, so you can just navigate to a text file within your Dropbox folder and tap to open it. Like the Dropbox Text Editor, PlainText can open .txt, .css, .xml and .html documents. You’ll then be able to edit the file within PlainText. When you’re done editing, you can select “Sync all folders now” from the dropdown menu in the document’s title, or just wait for PlainText to sync automatically with your Dropbox account.

What Can’t They Do

While you can edit the actual text of simple formats like .txt and .html, any sort of formatting changes will require a more robust app. If you do a lot of editing on the go, you might want to consider some more robust text editors like QuickOffice that will actually cost you some cash, but for most users anything more complex than some quick proofreading and corrections or jotting down some notes will probably require opening up their laptop or desktop anyway.

Editor's note: This story initially omitted that text editing is built-in with Dropbox for Android devices.

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