Sunday, August 21, 2005

Windows vs. Linux on Slashdot; plain text

I have a little free time before a friend's (who has a picture of himself on stage at Woodstock with Hendrix :-) birthday party tonight - so, I treated myself to some low productivity time on Slashdot.

Another re-hashing of problems with Linux and Windows, but there was something interesting to me: the standard complaints about Microsoft's technically weak, but money making shifting file formats.

Time to step back: why do we write down information? Mostly to record thoughts and information we or other people will need later. I think that formatted text is way overrated.

Notes, memos, short users' guides, email, source code, design notes, requirements, use cases, etc. can all be expressed quite well as plain text files.

Plain text files are easier to store in CVS (even with subversion's binary diff'ing, plain text works best in subversion also).

I have never had problems reading a ten year old plain text file.

Sometimes a little formatting is good - XHTML (or HTML) with limited markup is easy to edit and can be presented nicely with CSS.

I am not just bashing Microsoft Office here: how many people or organizations really need things like DocBook?

If you must write formatted text artifacts, at least use OpenOffice.org for the transparent file formats.

If someone sends you memos as Word documents, try asking for plain text - convert someone to a better way of working.

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