Eight Questions for Melyanna

Welcome to another edition of Eight Questions For …, where I where I pick the brains of plain text enthusiasts from around the world and around the web.

In this edition, I talk to Chiara Pasquini, who’s been going by the nickname Melyanna on the internet for a long time now. She works for a video games publisher and, in addition to her spare time activities (like drawing, writing, reading about science, and fiddling with software and technology), Melyanna also volunteers “for a non-profit, sceptic educational organization, which aims to spread the scientific mindset and critical thinking”.

To be honest, I was a bit flattered to find out that The Plain Text Project helped Melyanna get back into using plain text. So, I had to interview her.

Let’s hear from Melyanna.

When did you start using plain text?

Given my long relationship with computers, it is probably more accurate to say that I went back to using plain text, rather starting from scratch.

Over the years I have experimented with various tools for writing both offline and online, but I slowly moved back to plain text after finding the blogging platform Write.as. That led me to enjoying simple text editors more and to finding The Monday Kickoff. Through that, I found The Plain Text Project.

The Plain Text Project made me realise how flexible plain text can be and how much more mind space I could free up if I adopted plain text more extensively.

Why did you start using plain text?

I always had a website and a blog, and at some point I realised I was spending more time playing around with WordPress plug-ins than actually putting content on them.

I also got annoyed at how bloated websites got with all the JavaScript and other unnecessary junk added by WYSIWYG generators. So I moved to Write.as for my blog, and re-wrote my website with just plain text and good old HTML.

What do you use plain text for?

In addition to my blog and a couple of web pages, I use plain text for all my personal notes.

Recently, I have started using it for taking minutes of meetings at work, and it is amazing how fast it is to take those minutes. They are also easy to read, share, and archive.

I also like making small games and interactive text adventures with Twee which, ultimately, is an engine based on plain text.

Recently, I set up a twtxt instance, which lets me tweet in plain text.

What keeps you using plain text?

I find using plain text to be more convenient: files are smaller and work almost everywhere. It also helps keeping me focused on content.

Do you use any markup or formatting languages? If so, which ones and why?

I use Markdown. I went from not understating why so many users would prefer it over using a WYSIWYG editor or HTML, to using it to format even my personal notes or work notes.

It is very easy to read even as plain text, before you parse it into HTML.

What are your favourite plain text tools or applications?

The beauty of plain text is that you don’t really need a special tool to write.

When I am using Windows, Notepad++ is definitely my favourite text editor. On Linux, I just go with GNU nano or whatever text editor that is built-in with the distribution I am using.

I do like Joplin for its Markdown-to-HTML preview feature, for backups and synchronisation, and to keep notes organised.

Is there one tool that you can’t do without?

As long as I have a device, I can write!

But setting up good backup and synchronisation tools made my life a lot easier, and I love being able to access my notes everywhere at any time. Joplin and Nextcloud are free, open source, and get the job done really well.

Is there anything you can’t do with plain text?

Work and my volunteering activity often require that my documents and presentations look fancy, with added visuals and data. I also often need to make sure documents are read-only and get distributed and printed without any change.

But even in these situations, plain text is always a good option for creating the bulk of the content I need.

You can fine Melyanna's plain text tweets here.