Ear readers, press play to listen to this page.
In computing, plain text is a loose term for data (e.g. file contents) that represent only characters of readable material but not its graphical representation nor other objects (floating-point numbers, images, etc.). It may also include a limited number of “whitespace” characters that affect simple arrangement of text, such as spaces, line breaks, or tabulation characters (although tab characters can “mean” many differentOur friends and allies at Randimals have a saying, What makes us different, makes all the difference in the world.Randimals We agree. Randimals are made up of two different animals... More things, so are hardly “plain”). Plain text is different from formatted text, where style information is included; from structured text, where structural parts of the document such as paragraphs, sections, and the like are identified; and from binary files in which some portions must be interpreted as binary objects (encoded integers, real numbers, images, etc.).Plain text – Wikipedia
As hackers and writers, we spend a lot of time in text editors. Almost everything we write starts in our favorite text editors. A text editor is our thinking space. It is a place for moving around blocks and tinkering with parts. It is a place to explore our minds and write them the way we want them to read. Iteration and ideation happen in our editors. Our notes are not just a record of our thinking process, they are our thinking process. Text editors are extensions of mind that facilitate thinking.
All of this happens in beautiful, wonderful plain text.
I love that with plain text the focus is on the words, not the formatting. I love that it’s portable and can be used anywhere and everywhere, in any piece of software that edits or displays words. I love how easy it is to create beautifully formatted documents when needed. Most of all, I love how fast it is. I simply work more efficiently since switching to plain text.Removing the Word shackles: getting started with plain text
In the age of distributed collaboration, we are constantly writing. Equip students with the writing tools and flowEntering flow states - or attention tunnels - is a necessary coping strategy for many of us.Fergus Murray People need to feel appreciated and safe, to give themselves to an... More popular with hackers, writers, scientists, and screenwriters—plain text & Markdown. Let’s infect education with the love of plain text. It’s portable, durable, flexible, ubiquitous, and humane. It is indie ed-tech that is not captive to an ed-tech business model or the whim of shareholders.
With blogs, plain text editors, and team chat, we have a wide selection of often free tools that enable the cultivation of authentic writing for authentic audiences. Instead of ELA rubrics that kill the joy of writing with remediation and formulaic prescriptions, students can write about what they careThe activities that constitute care are crucial for human life. We defined care in this way: Care is "a species activity that includes everything that we do to maintain, continue,... More about and share that writing collaboratively with real audiences. Relax control over the writing process. Encourage revision and tinkering without the red ink of assessment. Don’t define and model students into the stilted, joyless unreadability typical of rubric writing. Get out of the way, let kids write, and write alongside them. Let them write not for gradesGrades tend to diminish students’ interest in whatever they’re learning. A “grading orientation” and a “learning orientation” have been shown to be inversely related and, as far as I can... More, but to share their lived experience, share their passions, and affect their worlds.
Keyboards, spellcheckers, and assistive tech encourage writing and editing. Let students fill their toolbelts and start writing without shackles.
A big part of the problem is that we’re often using the wrong default tool to create our words. When ready to write, the majority of computer users will open a word processor like Microsoft Word or Apple’s Pages rather than a text editor like Notepad on Windows or Text Edit on the Mac. We do this even if we’re simply drafting an email or jotting down notes to ourselves. The problem actually lies in the name. A word processor, while capable of being used for the creation of words, is actually optimized for formatting text in order to be printed or read. Whereas a text editor is more focused the creation and editing of your words.A Plain Text Primer
So writing plain text means to separate writing from formatting for the sake of productivity. The essential structural elements of a text are marked up while writing: You can write headings of various levels, add emphasis, add lists• Progress in human understanding has become increasingly complex and overwhelming.• Checklists help prevent serious but easily avoidable mistakes.• Checklists should be as short as possible, include all essential steps... More and more. What you can’t do: Tweak marginsFor me this space of radical openness is a margin a profound edge. Locating oneself there is difficult yet necessary. It is not a “safe” place. One is always at... More, or choose your first order headings to be 24 pt, and red-colored. All the layout tasks that have nothing to do with the content you’re trying to compose. Take care of layout later. This first instance should be about writing, and writing only.
If you want to publish your text more than once, but in different formats, plain text is very effective – thanks to the use of markup, you can easily convert it. Ulysses, as an example, can use one and the same text to create a formatted PDF, an e-book or standard HTML – with just a few clicks.Why Plain Text Will Boost Your Productivity as a Writer | Ulysses Blog
There are a lot of reasons to like text files. The large adoption of the iOS and Android platforms and increasing success of Mac OS X means writers are now using multiple platforms, and they need a simple way to keep their precious words bouncing between their phones, tablets, and computers without losing bits and pieces along the way. Every platform has a selection of quality apps that read and edit text files. There is nothing proprietary in the Markdown format, so Byword (iOS App Store) (Mac App Store) (website) on your iPhone has no trouble readingThere are three types of reading: eye reading, ear reading, and finger reading.The Dyslexia Empowerment Plan: A Blueprint for Renewing Your Child's Confidence and Love of Learning Most schools and... More something you wrote with iA Writer (Mac App Store) (iOS App Store) (website) on your Mac. Writers are free to use whatever application scratches their particular itch. Nobody controls the content except the writer.Markdown
Once you start working with plain text documents, you realize the powerThe 20th Century political scientist Karl Deutsch said, “Power is the ability not to have to learn.”I quote this statement often, because I think it’s one of the most important... More of their infinite portability and compatibility. You can edit them anywhere, on just about any device, and never break anything. It’s addicting.
The popular Markdown syntax is valuable for text editing because it allows you to add formatting while maintaining this portability and compatibility. You might think that formatting text by typing special characters is nerdy and distracting. Nerdy maybe, but in practice it’s quite the opposite of distracting. Markdown keeps your hands on the keys. It keeps you typing. Screenwriters know the value of this. It’s the butt in the chair that gets the words on the page.Fountain FAQ – Fountain | A markup language for screenwriting.
Briefly, plain text is a great format to use because (1) it can be read by any computer or device; (2) it’s future proof, since computers will always be able to read it; (3) it can be synced to all your devices; (4) it can be converted to virtually any format.Markdown: The Syntax You (Probably) Already Know – ProfHacker – Blogs – The Chronicle of Higher Education
Plain text is ubiquitous. It works on every operating system, and on every mobile device, regardless of who makes it. A wide variety of apps can read it. You’ll never run into file compatibility errors. You can take what you write from one app to another without a thought.
Likewise, plain text will never change. Where an app might get updated with new features and a new user interface, plain text is pretty much always plain text. I will never open up an app to find a new design that I hate, or a new user experience I have to learn. Text editors may change, but there’ll always be another, and they’ll never all go subscription-only. This is really important to me. I use plain text every single day for simple tasks. I don’t need anything getting in the way of me capturing text as quickly as possible.I Still Use Plain Text for Everything, and I Love It
Walk into a room of codersCode has been my life, and it has been your life, too. It is time to understand how it all works. What is Code? What is Code? is great interactive... More and ask what the best tools of their trade are—keyboards, text editing software, etc,—and you’re bound to start a war.
But in a world where programmers are fanatically divided, advocating fiercely for their favorite window managers and text editors, there’s one thing many engineers agree on. It’s called Solarized, and for four years, it’s reigned supreme as the color scheme of choice for many coders and the text they have to stare at all day.
After all, coders have, well, rather extreme thoughts about things like color schemes and text editors.
“This is close to people’s hearts,” Yale Spector, a senior developer for WeWork, told the Observer. “People take this shit real seriously.”
At this point, you’re probably asking yourself, “Why, why do these people care so much about the most minute details?” It’s because coders, who are also just very particular in nature, have no other tools of their trade but their computer and their mind.
“Text editors are where we live, where we spend so many hours in our day,” Mr. Spector said. “It’s so personal to us, it’s our home. When you get a house, you spend time making it comfortable, because you’re going to be there a long time.”
And, as Mr. Brocken puts it, it’s not just hot rodding—or tricking out your equipment for the sake of ostentatiousness. No, this is about building the perfect tool.
Developers may be overly opinionated, but they are also, by virtue of their work, obsessed with efficiency. For programmers who are building programs and designs right from their imagination, every additional advantage in their work environment is one less barrier between their mind and the machine.
“It may looks ridiculous to the outside observer, but it’s about eliminating that invisible barrier between you and the tool that you’re using,” Mr. Schoonover said. “It’s the carpenter making his own work bench.”Meet the Man Behind ‘Solarized,’ the Most Important Color Scheme in Computer History
1. Write programs that do one thing and do it well;
2. Write programs that work together;
3. Write programs to handle text streams, because that is a universal interface.
If Unix is the geek Gilgamesh epic, it’s a tale told in plain text.Plain Text For Authors & Writers – Richard Dooling
Markdown isn’t so much a language as it is a writing method. Markdown greatly simplifies the formatting for rich text elements, such as bold and italics, and web-friendly doodads, such as links to the Internet, using plain text. The fancy-pants word for this is syntax. Put simply, Markdown makes it deceptively simple to write for the webIn essence, the open Web, while not free from governmental and commercial pressures, is about as free from such pressures as a major component of modern capitalist society can be.... More and rich text word processors with plain text. It is a game changer, and by the end of this book, you are going to be a pro at it.Markdown
There is no reason to make thought capture harder than it already is. In fact, the very best thought-capture routines are those that have the least friction between the thought and the act of writing it down. We even wrote the initial outline for this book in Markdown.
As we will show shortly, the Markdown syntax for standard outline elements, such as headings and bullets, is extremely simple to both write and read. Markdown is useful even for text that you never plan to publish on the web. It can be great for taking notes in meetings, conference calls, or in any situation where you need to get text down quickly. The simplicity of the syntax has another benefit—you can use whatever tool is handy: computer, tablet, or phone.Markdown
To answer this question, we designed a study in which we would interviewWhile the autistic individual is interviewing, they will often be acutely self-aware and preoccupied by their own nervousness and internal coaching, and be simultaneously experiencing two conversations at once—one that is shared... More several of these influential Markdown “teachers.” We mapped the Markdown affinity space, prioritizing those who had a significant audience that spanned multiple platforms, including blogs, podcasts, books, and Twitter feeds. In particular, we were interested in writers within the Markdown affinity space who published texts written in Markdown, taught users how to use Markdown, and made recommendations about Markdown-focused software.
When we started to analyze our data, however, we realized that this wasn’t a project about Markdown. Instead, we saw that the interviews offered insights about broader writing practices and software preferences. These writers were interested in and talked in detail about software-mediated approaches to writing practices—what they called “workflowsWorkflow thinking is the act of reading knowledge work as modular and intertwined with technologies. Through workflow thinking, writers break any particular task into a series of smaller steps and... More.” We began to identify and trace a practice that we saw as “workflow thinkingWorkflow thinking is the act of reading knowledge work as modular and intertwined with technologies. Through workflow thinking, writers break any particular task into a series of smaller steps and... More,” which we introduce in this book. To build and contextualize our macro concept of workflowWorkflow thinking is the act of reading knowledge work as modular and intertwined with technologies. Through workflow thinking, writers break any particular task into a series of smaller steps and... More thinking, we offer the cases of three writers.Writing Workflows | Introduction
Formatting text in Markdown has a very gentle learning curve. It doesn’t do anything fancy like change the font size, color, or type. All you have control over is the display of the text-stuff like making things bold, creating headers, and organizing lists.
If you have ten minutes, you can learn Markdown!Markdown Tutorial | Lesson 1
Plain text doesn’t change. Fifty years from now, you’ll still be able to open a plain text file. Until we all have squiggly tentacles on our faces and communicate telepathically, plain text will be a thing.
What about conversion software? Let’s say a tiny black hole swallows up every Markdown converter on the planet. You still have nice, clean plain text.
You control your destiny because, yes, you guessed it: It’s plain text.Why I Use Markdown, & You Should Too – Portent
Since its introduction in 2004, Markdown has enjoyed remarkable success. Markdown works for users for three key reasons. First, the markup instructions (in text) look similar to the markup that they represent; therefore, the cognitive burden to learn the syntax is low. Second, the primary arbiter of the syntax’s success is running codeCode has been my life, and it has been your life, too. It is time to understand how it all works. What is Code? What is Code? is great interactive... More. The tool that converts the Markdown to a presentable format, and not a series of formal pronouncements by a standards body, is the basis for whether syntactic elements matter. Third, Markdown has become something of an Internet meme, in that Markdown gets received, reinterpreted, and reworked as additional communitiesWhat I have always been hoping to accomplish is the creation of community.Community is magic. Community is power. Community is resistance.Disability Visibility: First-Person Stories from the Twenty-First Century https://www.amazon.com/Disability-Visibility-First-Person-Stories-Twenty-First-ebook/dp/B082ZQBL98/ https://www.amazon.com/Disability-Visibility-Adapted-Young-Adults-ebook/dp/B08VFT4R9T/... More encounter it. There are communities that are using Markdown for scholarly writing, for screenplays, and even for mathematical formulae. Clearly, a screenwriter has no use for specialized Markdown syntax for mathematicians; likewise, mathematicians do not need to identify characters or props in common ways. The overall gist is that all of these communities can take the common elements of Markdown (which are rooted in the common elements of HTML circa 2004) and build on them in ways that best fit their needs.”RFC 7764 – Guidance on Markdown: Design Philosophies, Stability Strategies, and Select Registrations
Find Your Flow
We like and advocate plain text, but choose the tools that fit your flow. Many of our favorite authors use word processors.
Others prefer Scrivener.
George R.R. Martin famously uses WordStar 4.0 on DOS.
The important part is writing. Find your flow.
I’m learning a lot about myself since my ADHDADHD or what I prefer to call Kinetic Cognitive Style (KCS) is another good example. (Nick Walker coined this alternative term.) The name ADHD implies that Kinetics like me have... More and autismAutistic ways of being are human neurological variants that can not be understood without the social model of disability.If you are wondering whether you are Autistic, spend time amongst Autistic people, online and offline. If... More diagnoses. One of the things I’m learning is that a lot of my ways of working are actually disability hacks: as it turns out a LOT of my people are very visual and a LOT of my people have poor working memory. Instead of trying to change myself to fit the ways of working I think I should have, because other people, I should maybe instead celebrate that I have, by trial and error and very little help or encouragement from anyone, kluged my way into some best practices for my particular career and set of challenges. I should congratulate myself on the self-knowledge that got me to a place that I’ve devised a whole workflow that minimizes the disabling effects of my particular forms of neurodivergenceNeurodivergent, sometimes abbreviated as ND, means having a mind that functions in ways which diverge significantly from the dominant societal standards of “normal.”NEURODIVERSITY: SOME BASIC TERMS & DEFINITIONS Neurodivergent is quite... More and allows me to shine.I did it myyyyyyy waaaaay: and you should, too – Hook & Eye
Writing Workflows | Chapter 1
We asked our building leadership teams, and we asked those Principals and Assistant Principals to ask their teachers, to experience a bit of “writing for empathyEmpathy is not an autistic problem, it’s a human problem, it’s a deficit in imagination.We all need to work on imagining things we have not been through.Empathy, Imagination and Autism... More.” Medical educators have discovered that when doctors write from the point of view of their patients, empathy increases and the quality of care increases. We thought it might be worth seeing if this applied to our educators as well.
So we began, and told them not to be limited by structure – choose any writing mode you’d like – or grammar or spelling or where or how to write – on the floor, standing up, on paper, on phone, on computer – to just find the emotional path and write.
We so often stop our students from writing… we tell them that everything from how they sit to how they spell is more important than communication… and we thus raise children who hate writing.
This became powerful. People not only chose every and any place to write, every and any device to write on, they chose modes from poetry to an email exchange between high school students in class, from narrativeWhen we successfully reframe public discourse, we change the way the public sees the world. We change what counts as common sense. Because language activates frames, new language is required... More to internal monologue to dialogue in the corridor. From tweet and text to song.
It is remarkable what happens when you stop telling people how to write and start encouraging them to write.
“Our kindergartners and first graders are natural writers,” one principal said, “and then we tell them to stop and worry about handwriting and spelling and punctuation, and they never really write again.”SpeEdChange: Writing for Empathy