Text is best

By jeff


If you have been following this site for any length of time you probably know that I am always trying to simplfy my flow, and to future proof it. The person that has led me on this path more than anyone has been Derek Sivers. He is the creater of the now page author of a bunch of books, podcast, and lots more.

It's his latest blog post about why plaintext is best that has my cognitive bias juices flowing this morning. I agree with a lot of what he is saying and why I'm actually enjoying writing on this site, my company site, and more lately.

He mentions a couple of markup languages in that post but he missed the one that I am a huge fan of right now - RST.

Sivers converts his text files to the various languages as needed to various formats depending on if/how he is publishing them, I would argue that just using RST from the start removes that requirement.

I use pelican to convert this RST file to HTML, rst2pdf for PDfs (I finally have this working, a thefog post is coming), and sphinx for epub/mini-site documentation/reports.

For Notes and other stuff

I flip back and forth between using Ms OneNote and notepad for buisness notes, and everytime that a sync to OneDrive breaks or it crashes I abandon it for notepad. Then I will be away from my computer and want to make a note/journal about something and realize there isn't a good way to just create a text file on iOS (or IPADOS) and open OneNote again.

I would be 100% plaintext based if there was a great app, but I really don't see that happening anytime soon.

Am I going back to plaintext for notes and such right now? Maybe for work, it will help enforce a boundary where I'm only working from a computer or laptop, but for other things I will stick with OneNote.

For my work reports I'm really trying to figure out a template for rst2pdf to make the reports look the way I want and when that happens it will reduce my dependance on Word drastically.

Future Proofing

If you have been around online for any length of time you know that the hardest part about tech life is future proofing. Think "save button" and you know what I mean. Plaintext is going to work for ever (probably), it is so simple that I can't foresee a time in the future where UTF-8 will NOT be able to be figured out and then converted to the format that is in favour at the time.