Plain text or .txt files are a simple and effective format that belong in every writer’s workflow.
Here are five unexpected reasons why they rock:
1. You Don’t Have to Worry if People Can Open Them
You don’t need special software or tools to open a plain text file. This is a real problem for certain formats, as those who have tried to open a .docx file on older versions of Word understand.
It’s not always possible for various word processing applications to open certain file types.
If they’re plain text, you’re guaranteed that anyone can open them on any system. Plain text files have been around longer than many operating systems and they’re not going anywhere.
2. Plain Text Files are Light and Fast
Older computers can struggle with the latest word processors. Tables, pictures and macros can bog down large documents, as can pages of text. Text files on the other hand lack all these kind of fancy features and, for this reason, they open quickly and easily.
They’re also smaller in size than proprietary word processing files, which makes them easier to email and share with others. And it’s easier for operating systems to index plain text files, which means they appear quicker in system-wide searches.
3. It’s Quicker to Write Something Short in a Plain Text Editor
Word, Pages and the various other word processors feature a wealth of templates, options, tools and menus designed for complex jobs.
Sometimes all a writer needs is somewhere to type, a spell checker and some basic formatting options.
All of those menus, ribbons and inspectors can be distracting. And they slow writing down. TextEdit, Notepad and Vim deserve some love.
And there are plenty of other plain text editors that are just as good looking as their proprietary big brothers.
4. Plain Text Files are Flexible
You can easily copy and paste the contents of a plain text file into any document or application. It’s not possible to say the same about specialist applications that use proprietary databases or formats.
In other words, if it’s in plain text to begin with, it’s easy to migrate to a more complex application. If it’s in a complex application to begin with, it’s a lot more time-consuming to go back to plain text.
5. Plain Text Always Looks the Same
You can spend hours formatting a document in a word processor, only for someone else to open it and find that it looks slightly different on their machine.
Plain text files, on the other hand, look the same on any system.
Granted plain text editors lack complex formatting options but these are often features that aren’t needed until the document is near completion.
When you’re at this stage, you should consider exporting the document to a PDF, but that’s a post for another day.
Please let me know what you think about plain text files in the comments section below.
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