Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Text Me

For a long time, I wondered: what's all the fuss about text files? Reading Lifehacker, I would occasionally come across mysterious tales of "txt" devotion—the Google VP who organizes her life in text comes to mind—and think, what's the big deal? Text files felt like a giant technological leap backward, after the formatted majesty that is Word.

Now I get it. Formatted majesty is painfully slow.
And definitely, definitely not instantly resizable.

After installing Leopard two weeks ago and playing around with Spaces (the virtual desktop feature) for a while, I, too, have become a txt addict. I wouldn't write a term paper in TextEdit or anything, but there are all sorts of things I DO write down now that I never did before, for lack of a good place to stash those text fragments. The beauty of Spaces is that I can have a separate TextEdit window permanently parked along the right-hand side of each virtual desktop, ready and waiting for context-relevant text input. When I'm taking notes on class readings in PDF, I park a TextEdit window beside Preview, and can move effortlessly between the two. (Which means that I actually take notes on PDF readings now, which, um...wasn't always the case.) When I'm making a ginormo library list for paper research, I can keep the potential book list, the library catalog, and the "grocery list" of books to pick up all open simultaneously. (Pictured below.)

Book research for my internship at the Berkman Center, in all its txty glory!

Seriously, the list goes on and on. I mean, who couldn't use ubiquitous text capture in all the workspaces of their lives? And when almost all those spaces exist on the computer? Ideal. Txt to the rescue.


spork said...

re: writing papers in textedit... I do that all the time! For some reason, Word has too many distractions for me to handle. Until very recently, I *always* started and drafted the majority of the text of any serious writing in textedit, and then moved to word to format and print. the only thing that's a pain about that is textedit is real bad at smart quotes, even in rtf mode. So I've started to try to compose in word, and with the help of your minuteur+spaces hack, it's working!

aurora said...

Yay text! Have you seen xPad? I'm in love with this app. I used to keep lots of text files (notes, todos, etc.) saved on my desktop, but this is a lot cleaner. It keeps all the docs open in tabs and quietly sits in the dock when you don't need it, and it's really lightweight.


Christina said...

I LOVE TXT! It's sort of the digital equivalent of post-it notes--it *feels* really informal, so I feel okay typing whatever.

I don't know if you guys have something like this for Mac, but Tomboy Notes for Ubuntu runs my life. Think Wiki + Notepad. Yeah, they link to each other. I use it to take notes for PDF (like you), but also for to-do lists and brainstorming and keeping track of awesome things my friends say. And it C+Ps so well.