When we write stuff in plaintext format, our lives are be better for it.
We can use plain ol’ text on any platform, any device, at any point in time. There is nothing to convert, and nothing to format. Nothing will ever be more portable or searchable or translatable or ultimately useful. We can copy and paste it to and from anything (social media, websites, forms, emails, code, text messages on your phone, etc.) without any extra work or workarounds or errors to fix. It just works, and anything else is ultimately more work.
Text is Distractionless
I’ve learned to love the act of creative writing in plain text. It’s ideal for creating drafts and initial planning for pretty much anything. I can’t get caught up in anything but the words themselves, and I simply produce a greater volume of words and higher quality of language at a faster pace in text format than any other. Scripts start here, lists start here, even blog posts like this one start in a text file.
Text is Clear
As a consultant, I always provide deliverables in plaintext format whenever possible, because the work then speaks for itself. Yes, we can make things flashy and pretty, but wouldn’t you rather make them clear and useful, and be done with it? Have you ever done any project anywhere that has their formatting templates built out correctly and rolled out consistently across the organization? You could learn their way of working around this gap, you could try and fix the gap yourself, or you can just ignore the gap and deliver plain text. Your mileage may vary, but I’m usually thanked for it. Text files take up an infinitesimal amount of space compared to ANY other document format. I made the two simple files in the header image to illustrate my point. That’s a ratio of 461,538 to 1 — without even needing any compression. Fairly convincing, yes?
Text is Flexible
What is easiest to translate? Text.
What is quickest to search using the default search built into your computer? Text.
What converts into any other written format easier than every other written format? Text.
What can you export every other written format to? Text(.CSV and .TAB are really just text, y’know).
What is best for users to read comfortably and adjust easily for their optimum vision? Text.
What is best for those with disabilities of any sort? Text.
What can you hand to a coder and a salesperson and CEO and customer and know they can read and understand it? Ahem, yes. You get the idea.
Text alone endures
I’ll bet you that in a generation or two, few will even remember what a .DOCX or .OPD file is or what it is for (remember .WPD, .HWP, .SXW? I thought not…). And you can’t open those in the ubiquitous text editor, or if you do it’s all gobbledegook. .TXT will work anywhere now and in the future just as well as it did on a monochrome screen in 70s. You will always have it, it will never go bad.
There’s an old Chinese proverb…
Even the strongest memory is not so strong as faded ink.
Very true. And now I’d like to extend it with my own, new proverb…
Even the best of formats is not so strong as plain text.
…Yeah, okay. Maybe my proverb could still use a little help. Guess I’ll just work on that in my text file.
Questions? Comments? Flaming disagreement? I sure would love to hear about it in the comments!