Computers created a unique challenge for anyone wanting to keep archives of old information. While a book is always “compatible” with any reader, file formats are not. The sustainability of digital information can be a problem.
Plain text is one of the best formats to use if you want something to be readable on any computer. Text editors can open a plain text file created 50 years ago and will most likely be able to do it 50 years from now.
There are other advantages beyond compatibility though. Let’s look at some reasons you should use a text editor.
Text files use a format called ASCII or American Standard Code for Information Interchange. One of its biggest advantages is that it is compatible with any operating system. Whether you create a file in text editors for Mac or Windows, the other system will still be able to read it. As will Linux, Android, iOS, and every other operating system.
A text file created on the most modern PC could even open on a computer that’s 30 or 40 years old. As long as you can save it on a disk or some type of storage device that’s compatible with that machine, it will work fine.
Ideal for Writing Code
If you’re writing code of any kind, a text editor will give you the best results. One of the biggest problems with using a word processor like Microsoft Word for this work is all the extra code it adds to the document.
You only see the text you’ve written but behind the scenes, the font details, text formatting, layout information, and various other things get saved in the file. If you use this application to write code, all that cruft will lead to problems.
Not only that, a good text editor will “understand” the code so it can help you format it properly, use colors to identify different parts of the file, and even automatically complete things as you type. And it can do all this automatically.
Another side-effect of word processors adding all the formatting and layout information to your file shows up in the file size. Those types of files will be much larger than plain text for the same content.
Using plain text can save storage space. The difference in a file or two isn’t much but if you have a lot of files, it can be significant.
Choosing the Best Text Editors
There are a lot of text editing applications on every platform. If you use Windows, it comes with Notepad built-in but there are lots of others that are much more powerful.
Macs come with a program called TextEdit built-in. It’s more capable than Notepad on Windows but there are still lots of other choices that are more capable. You can get more information about some of the best Mac options at https://setapp.com/how-to/best-text-editor-for-mac.
Is Plain Text Right for You?
The bottom line is you should use whatever format works best for your needs. But if you haven’t tried writing in plain text, get yourself one of the many good text editors and give it a shot.
You might find the lack of formatting and layout options even helps you focus on the actual words you’re putting on the screen instead of thinking about how you want it to look.
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