TextSoap Review: Scrub Down Dirty Text

TextSoap 6




Unmarked Software
-Lets you create complex Cleaners
-Services menu
-Automator workflow action bug
-Only has plug-ins for a few apps
-Interface looks complex


Sometimes people don’t care enough about the text in their documents. Then, when you have to clean it up, you have to do the same task many times, like converting double spaces to single spaces, or changing case. It is very tedious, which is exactly why some developers have created software to do these tasks. One of the more notable ones is Unmarked Software‘s TextSoap.

TextSoap looks a lot like TextEdit, except for the drawer on the right side and the toolbar at the bottom. The three buttons in the lower left-hand corner of the window allow you to choose what type of line endings to use. Unless you know what line endings will do to your text, I would stick with Unix. Now for the buttons in the lower right-hand corner: The one that says 100% just changes the zoom. The graph button next to it allows you to see stats, like the number of paragraphs, words, characters, etc. The paragraph button allows you to see formatting like new lines, tabs, spaces, etc. The fourth button simply allows you to toggle the drawer. With all of these buttons, the interface can look complex, but in reality it isn’t.

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The main point of TextSoap is to clean your text, and this is what the drawer is for. At the top of the drawer you can choose what set of Scrubs to see. Library will show them all (100+), but the most useful (for the average user) are going to be found in Standard. When you click on one of the Cleaners in the list, it will preform that action on the text. These Cleaners are great, but they are just the base of TextSoap — the real power lies in custom Cleaners. Custom Cleaners allow you to create Cleaners that preform more than one task. To edit your Custom Cleaners, just click on the Edit Cleaners toolbar item. You will then see a window with all of your custom Cleaners on the left and the workflow for the selected cleaner in the middle. On the right side, there are about 25 actions that you can drag onto a workflow. When you drag one onto the workflow, there will usually be some fields that you need to fill out. If you need help with Syntax elements, Characters, and more, just click the RegEx Help button at the top of this window. Custom cleaners allow you to create complex workflows for things you do with text all the time. One of my favorites is a Blog post archiver, which grabs the text, changes the font, and even runs an AppleScript to download the images. My point is that you can create the simplest or the most complex actions with this one tool. There is only one minor issue — if you edit a Run Automator Workflow’s workflow, and there are no workflows in Automator’s actual workflow folder, then the popup box will not popup, which may make you think that TextSoap has frozen.

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One feature that makes using TextSoap even easier than it already was is its OS X Service menu support. What this does is add a TextSoap item to your Services menu (found at [Open Applications Name] > Services), where you can apply TextSoap’s built-in Cleaners and your own to text. You may be thinking that you can only apply it to text in editable fields, but this is not true. You can actually change text on a Website in a (non-editable) Mail message! Well, it only stays that way until you refresh, and, of course, no one else can see it. But, nonetheless, this is awesome! So, if you just use the service to clean a Mail message in Mail.app, and then copy the text to your clipboard, it is clean! No need to even open TextSoap. To enable or disable this, just go to the OS X Services pane of TextSoap > Preferences.

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Another feature that integrates TextSoap into your daily workflow is its plug-in support. TextSoap comes with plugins for BBEdit, TextWrangler, Mailsmith, Coda, and Eudora. In the Plugins pane of TextSoap > Preferences, you need only click the checkbox by the plug-in you want installed, and it will install! In an application such as Coda, TextSoap will appear in the Plug-ins menu for even easier access. Of course, you are limited to these applications, but hopefully the developer will add plug-ins for other applications too. But you can always use the Service menu.

One feature that would be nice to have is a System-wide keyboard shortcut. Yes, the Services menu is easy to use, but to have shortcuts for different cleaners would be really cool and make this much easier to use. It would also be cool to have droplet files, where you would drop a file, or some text, and it would created a new file with a certain Cleaner applied.

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Unmarked Software‘s TextSoap retails for $39.95, and you can download a free trial from their site. It is a great tool that allows you to save a lot of time by not having to do tedious tasks. And, since time is money, in these times, this means that TextSoap will save you money.


9 Responses to “TextSoap Review: Scrub Down Dirty Text”

  1. Chris on January 9th, 2009 11:01 pm

    It isn’t really worth the money if you only are going to use it once and a while, but if you need to reformat text very often this is the best!

  2. Mark Munz on March 8th, 2010 2:16 pm

    You can have shortcuts for items in the Services menu. In TextSoap, select Preferences > OS X Services.

    In the list of cleaners that will appear in the OS X Services menu, double-click next to the cleaner you want to apply a shortcut to (in the Key column). OS X Services shortcuts are currently limited to cmd-(Letter) or shift-cmd-(Letter).

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