Welcome to another edition of Eight Questions For …, where I pick the brains of plain text enthusiasts from around the world and around the web.
This time around, I chat with Wyoming resident Nathaniel Leveck. Nathan’s had a varied career: over the last 14 years, working for an oilfield services company as lead in the electronic maintenance department. Before that, he was a computer programmer.
What I find interesting about Nathan’s use of plain text is that he goes portable with a device running Palm OS (I used to do the same; ah, memories). Nathan’s use of plain text is also cross platform, and he’s adept at using UNIX text utilities.
Let’s hear from Nathan:
When did you start using plain text?
As a child in the 1980s. I wrote programs in BASICA and QB45, which are of course text. I also favored using DOS edit instead of WordStar or any of the other word processing programs of the day. I have always been leery of being locked into a format that could potentially orphan my files.
Why did you start using plain text?
Text files are ubiquitous. Opening edit in DOS, Notepad in Windows, or vim in *nix is simple and effective.
What do you use plain text for?
Everything. I keep a journal in plain text on a Palm OS device and sync this with a wiki in vim on a Raspberry Pi. I also have running files listing my reading habits, lists, the many things I am researching in my off time, etc.
I also have a phlog (a gopher log, at gopher://1436.ninja) and that is also plain text. I also wrote the official gopher front end to Project Gutenberg, an iconic organization that provides tens of thousands of pieces of literature in plain text.
What keeps you using plain text?
It is future proof. UTF8 can express most of the written languages on the planet without vendor lock in. File size is tiny in comparison to most that you’ll find these days. You can carry around a large number of text files on any device.
Do you use any markup or formatting languages? If so, which ones and why?
I use Markdown primarily, because it makes sense to me as is. I do not convert to HTML; Markdown itself is sufficient.
What are your favourite plain text tools or applications?
My editor of choice is vim. On Palm OS, I like TealDoc, but also use tejpWriter to make sure the files are saved with a UNIX EOL (end of line). I also use sed, awk, grep, cut, etc. to manipulate text.
Is there one tool that you can’t do without?
That would be vim and my Palm devices. Vim for when I am at a PC, and Palm OS devices allow me to produce and edit text where ever I may find myself.
Is there anything you can’t do with plain text?
Correctly reproduce images. I am just not that good at ASCII art :^)
Nathan generally doesn’t speak publicly about his vocation. He does, however, have a couple of places where he puts personal information: on gopher at gopher://1436.ninja and for his music on the web (it’s primarily extreme metal).