iOS 11: Not A Happy Camper – The ‘Book Mystique

I ended up installing the iOS 11 upgrade sooner than I had planned, and thus far I dislike it intensely. My iPad Air 2 feels clunkier and less responsive with the new OS, especially to gesture input, and none of the new features so far have enchanted me.

The reason I took the plunge was that Dropbox stopped syncing with my iPad running iOS 10. I tried restarting the device and trashing and reinstalling the Dropbox app twice, but no joy.

As I’ve related here before, an excellent little app called PlainText, has been my anchor writing and Dropbox Folder access and organization tool since I got my first iPad in 2011. It’s no hassle support of Dropbox has made working with the same file on both the iPad and my Macs easy and virtually effortless, automatically synching documents back and forth from my Dropbox Folder with a dedicated searchable directory that listed files in order of most recent modification whether on the iPad or one of the Macs.

Unfortunately 32 bit PlainText was orphaned by its developers years ago and is thus not supported by 64 bit only iOS 11. I was aware that termination of support for 32 bit apps was coming (Apple gave notice in 2013), but had hoped to keep using PlainText, which was also an excellent text editor, for a while yet in iOS 10. However the Dropbox sync problem had me stymied. I should mention that Dropbox has continued to work just fine on the Macs.

So bowing to what appeared to be the inevitable, I hit the Install Upgrade button in hope that the new Files app feature in iOS 11 would live up to its billing and provide a satisfactory Dropbox document directory function, or perhaps even better an interface similar to the macOS Finder that documents could be exported from iOS apps to as individual text files that could be dragged and dropped to the Dropbox Folder and accessed by the Macs.

Apple claimed that the Files app would allow us to browse, search, and organize all of our files in one place with dedicated space for our recent files on our iPads as well as in app on our other iOS devices, and our Macs or PCs in iCloud Drive, as well as across other services like Box and Dropbox. That all sounded very promising.

Unhappily, the Files app turned out to be a major disappointment, and I have yet to discover a satisfactory way to restore the functionality I’ve lost. There are several iOS text apps that can link to Dropbox, but none that I’ve tried has come close to matching the elegant simplicity of PlainText, which set the bar very high. iCloud? I’m not a fan of Apple’s iCloud service, with its relentless demands for password sign-ins, and it doesn’t provide the functionality I need anyway, which is is a plain text editor that can synch with Dropbox and provide a searchable directory of the apps in the Dropbox Folders on my Macs listed from most recently modified. Such an app may exist, but so far I haven’t found it. The Files app, which feels beta-ish, will likely improve with time but whether I’ll find a satisfactory replacement for the way I used the PlainText app remains to be seen.

In the meantime, iOS 11 and the demise of PlainText have transformed my iPad from a highly functional and useful production tool to essentially a Web surfing and email device.

A couple more observations about iOS 11. The new Dock is sort of OK as long as the app you want, but I miss quick access to the Control Center for quickly switching WiFi, Bluetooth, and Airplane Mode on and off They’re now harder to get at in iOS 11 and make matters worse, these radio functions and Airplane Mode now work differently in ways that are less convenient and that the Electronic Frontier Foundation has criticized as a user security risk. In short, connectivity that you turn off doesn’t stay turned off and is only partly disabled anyway in order to maintain communication with Apple Pencil and Watch. Nice move, Apple.

Maybe iOS 11 will grow on me, but I’m skeptical.

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