I really like writing in plaintext. Whenever I write in Word, I am always stopping to fix formatting problems or tweak the styles. With plaintext, there are no styles or formatting. It helps me to stay focused.

All I need is a little Markdown (or HTML) to designate emphasis, headings, lists, and blockquotes, and I can plow through blog posts and memorandum drafts.

Text files are also my favorite answer to the problem of compatibility. If you have ever tried to create or edit a Word document on an iPad, you have probably experienced small formatting problems. Since plaintext files don’t have formatting, this is not a problem.

For these and other reasons, plaintext has been growing in popularity with non-programmers in recent years. This seems to be especially true among Apple users, for some reason. The App Store is overflowing with text editors, while last time I checked, there were virtually none in the Google Play Store, and only a few options for Windows users.

I have tried a lot of text editors, and I like a lot of them, but Byword, Nebulous Notes, and Drafts have consistently been my favorites. Here is why.

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  1. James Miller says:

    Have you considered using Emacs or Vim? Almost all of my complex documents start in Emacs using “org-mode”. You should check it out.

    And when it’s done, a few keystrokes exports the document to Libre Office format (or pdf, or markdown, or latex, or ascii etc..). It’s a piece of cake to then get it into Word or Wordperfect or whatever your document’s final form needs to be.

    The freedom to never need to touch the mouse while drafting has made me so much more productive for complex documents. And the find and replace, rectangle edits, ease of numbering and bullets, section headings etc. all just *work*.

    For the truly nerdy, you can use a version control system like Mercurial or Git to then be able to see line-by-line changes between any versions of your document.

  2. James Miller says:

    Oops. Just realized it was for iDevices. My apologies.

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