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Thursday, January 03, 2013
UPDATE 2019-05-11. Some of the links in this post are dead. It you have an interest, you may be able to find the articles at web.archive.org.
I have always been fascinated by what tech experts could accomplish with plain text. They could keep notes and articles in plain text for simplicity, portability, and future retrievability, then turn those files into formatted, structured documents through the magic of markup or filters. Years ago, I began to keep my personal notes and information in plain text because files were small and search was fast. I never, however, really learned how to manipulate text. I came out of the corporate environment, a lifelong Windows and Office user. I didn't have the exposure to Unix and the Unix tools to manipulate text. I didn't know how to do the magic I saw others doing. I'm now retired, so I decided to learn more about the foundation of using text.
How I Started with Plain Text: I don't know when I first read Merlin Mann's 43Folders, but I do recall that his post about using plain text was one of the first I read on the subject. Really savvy tech experts, called "alpha geeks" by Danny O'Brien, frequently prefer plain text to get their work done. O'Brien surveyed his tech friends and publicized this preference for simple approaches in 2004. The information from those links got me interested. The links below gave me a feel for what others were doing with plain text.
- more on O'Brien's life hacks
- using one big text file for everything
- living in text files
- more from 43folders
From there I began to explore the tools I could use for plain text information storage and retrieval. Little did I know that the exploration would continue until now. I'm still working to master using text.