Friday, November 2, 2012

HTML Text Editors for Android Tablets

My last post on iPad apps got a good reception so I will follow up with a review on some Android "tablet" text/code editors. These editors are designed for writing code with syntax highlighting and more advance features than a simple notepad editor.
Some of these apps have code preview, FTP, and even SFTP integration.

The apps I will mention in this post are:
Touchqode , DroidEdit Pro , AndEdit HD , WebMaster's HTML EditorAndroid Web Editor PRO , SilverEdit , and kEdit.

Rather than bore you with in-depth review on each and every app, I will highlight what I think in terms of good features and shortcomings.

I chose these apps due to their popularity and the touted "tablet" compatibilities. You don't need to use a tablet specific apps. In fact, there are some good phone apps that work.
However, I am believer in optimized interfaces.If you use a tablet,the experience should be more compelling than a blown-up phone app. Unfortunately, a majority of these apps are just that - blown up phone apps.
Well, you can also use phone apps and they may work for you.  Phone Apps include Jota Text Editor , TextWarrior , 920 Text Editor and I will briefly mention them as well.

First of all, before anyone attempts to do any text editing on Android, they need to use Hacker's Keyboard. If you have been using Android for any serious work, Hacker's keyboard needs no introduction but it is pretty much essential for control,tab, and escape which are not found in stock Android keyboards.

If I had to choose any apps out of this entire lot, it would be DroidEdit Pro or Touchqode. Both are highly rated and popular. Both have the important requirement of SFTP integration. That is a pre-requisite for me. There is no point in editing a server-side script locally off a SDcard or internal storage.

If I had to end this review, these are the two apps you only should look at.
I would give a slight preference over DroidEdit due to user interface. Touchqode feels too much like a blown up phone app in my opinion.

DroidEdit Pro Screenshots

Unfortunately, DroidEdit Pro suffers from many Android quirks in responsive layout. I had to switch orientations for many of the feature-sets because you would have over-lapping UI. I'll cover more of these "Android quirks" later.

Touchqode screenshots. As you can see, it still looks like a blown up phone app. Those buttons are extremely small. The app works fine on my phone but looks out of place on a larger screen.

Next, The only app that has a tablet feel is AndEdit. It supports a dual pane interface and you would easily mistaken it as a clone of an iPad app such as Texstastic. Unfortunately, that is all it has. It is rather buggy. Syntax highlighting is poor and there is no FTP/SFTP. Furthermore, it has no option of full screen text editing. The dual pane view is only good for selecting among files. It tries to be a clone of some iOS apps and ends up becoming an also-ran app.

AndEdit screenshots:

Bugs like these are annoying. Frozen panes and the apps tell you there are no open files. This happens after you try re-opening after a crash.

WebMaster's HTML Editor,SilverEditkEdit, and Android Web Editor Pro were pretty much lackluster. They felt like text editors with minor features like line numbering and additional buttons for brackets and curly braces.

WebMaster's HTML Editor

kEdit. In addition to the lack of SFTP, the poor syntax highlighting made this program irrelevant for me.

SilverEdit made me scratch my heads a few times. The UI doesn't work too well on a tablet.

I didn't feel like Android Editor Pro added any value vis-a-vis the competition. And look at that UI!

In fact, I prefer the free phone apps such as Jota, TextWarrior, 920 Text Editor. Unfortunately, they also lack FTP/SFTP integration which rules out their utility.

Still, I would keep at least one text editor on hand. I figure I could use some other apps to get my files but that is rather clumsy and requires clicking in and out of apps.

920 Text Editor


In general, these apps suffer from  Android quirks. Yes, I call them quirks. These apps are designed with "responsive layout." Meaning the UIs are designed for multiple resolution and are highly adaptive
( ).
Developers need to take lesson from these guys on Design principles and guidelines for Android apps (

The problem with the stale responsive approach is you get a lot of wasted space. Incredibly small interface elements on high DPI tablets. Buttons tend to be small. List menus require a toothpick or stylus to click. For example in SilverEdit, I had a hard time clicking on files in the file manager. I would mistakenly open up an excel file instead of a javascript file in my Downloads folder. This would trigger a crash every time.

Then you have mismatch elements. Keyboards covering up menus. For example, trying to do a search-n-replace in DroidEdit is a frustrating exercise. I would end up switching orientation from landscape to portrait to reveal the "Find menu." In fact, in numerous instances, I had to switch orientation for various reasons. The ridiculously large virtual keyboards (I've tried many different keyboards) would take up a lot of wasted space that I would often end up going portrait.

To fix the problem above, you need to flip the tablet to portrait mode which is counter intuitive when you use a bluetooh keyboard in a case or dock.

First, none of these apps support version control (I haven't found one on iOS either). But the important thing is none of them support organization by projects. If you are connecting and downloading from various SFTP servers, you can easily get lost on which files belong to which server. In my testing, I was simply downloading various source code and it got confusing to which files belong to what source. Since many of these apps are "blown-up" phone apps, none of them offered a dual-column file manager that would allow you to organize your downloads. A better option is the ability to clone a folder from a remote website locally. Hence, you would probably end up using another FTP/SFTP client to organize your files. In the end, it is a bit counter-intuitive and gives a user a cumbersome experience. However, if you are only editing off one server (say a personal website), then an application like DroidEdit Pro would work.

I would also caution that you should always check to see if you are working locally or remotely. Some of these apps open up remotely and save remotely at the same time. If you lose a data connection or something happens, you can accidently delete a live file. Hence, I prefer some sort of cloning/downloading to a staging area. You can always "save-as" to a local folder but the UIs in many of these apps are not that informative or intuitive to tell you. Never hit the "save" button and always use the "save-as."

Last but not least, the most important thing is stability. All of these apps inhibited stability problems especially when loading large files such as javascript frameworks, libraries and minified files. Loading up the main jquery framework file would often result in a crash in many of the apps. They would attempt to syntax highlight and simply crash. Fortunately, some have the option of turning off syntax highlighting.

My conclusion. Android tablet apps have a long way to go. But if you had to choose, some of these may work for you.


DroidEdit Pro

WebMaster's HTML Editor

Android Web Editor PRO
Lite version:

SilverEdit Lite


kEdit Lite
kEdit Pro

AndEdit HD

Phone Apps

Jota Text Editor


920 Text Editor


Hacker's Keyboard

1 comment:

  1. I selected these software because of their acceptance plus the recommended "tablet" compatibilities. You should not use a tablet certain software. The truth is, there are numerous very good mobile phone software in which perform.

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