Working with Templates


Like me and many others, you probably do a lot of different jobs with plain text. That could include writing, keeping a journal, tracking your tasks, maintaining a schedule, and more.

If that’s you, there’s one tool that can make all those jobs a bit faster and more efficient. That tool isn’t an editor or an app or a utility. It’s a template.

Why a Template?

I’m sure that you’re familiar with what a template is. The what isn’t important. The why is.

So, why use a template? Two reasons: consistency and efficiency. Regardless of what you’re doing, your text file probably has a set structure. A template offers a consistent feel and flow. You don’t need to type, for example, a header or a list or two. Those elements are in the template. All you have to do is fill in the blanks.

Using a template can save you time. With a bit of practice, you’ll be able to open a template, fill in what you need to fill in, and the move on.

Using a template doesn’t mean you’ll be painting by numbers. Remember that a template is a guide. It acts as container with compartments. You fill the compartments with your notes, words, tasks, and ideas.

What to Include in a Template

You can include whatever you need to include. That will, of course, depend on what you’re doing. Most templates will include placeholders and, if necessary, a sentence or two of instructions or a description.

Here’s an example of the template that I use when putting together editions of my weekly curation project The Monday Kickoff:

A template that I use

As you can see, there are placeholders for headings and for the items that I link to. There is also something resembling a footer, which doesn’t change from week to week.

A task list or journal will look different, obviously. Again, put the bare minimum of information that you need in the template file. Once you start using templates, they’ll quickly become second nature.

Other Examples

As you might know, you can download several templates from this site. You can modify those templates in any way that you want.

But those templates aren’t the only source of plain text truth. Here are a few more useful plain text templates: