Cory Doctorow on Word Processors and Text Editors

Via Mogadalai, I came upon a piece by Cory Doctorow on writing. This point of his particularly appealed to me:

  • Kill your word-processor
  • Word, Google Office and OpenOffice all come with a bewildering array of typesetting and automation settings that you can play with forever. Forget it. All that stuff is distraction, and the last thing you want is your tool second-guessing you, “correcting” your spelling, criticizing your sentence structure, and so on. The programmers who wrote your word processor type all day long, every day, and they have the power to buy or acquire any tool they can imagine for entering text into a computer. They don’t write their software with Word. They use a text-editor, like vi, Emacs, TextPad, BBEdit, Gedit, or any of a host of editors. These are some of the most venerable, reliable, powerful tools in the history of software (since they’re at the core of all other software) and they have almost no distracting features — but they do have powerful search-and-replace functions. Best of all, the humble .txt file can be read by practically every application on your computer, can be pasted directly into an email, and can’t transmit a virus.

    Spot on! This particularly appeals to me because I spent over 20 minutes yesterday trying to format a 5-page Word document that had been created piecemeal by several authors, each with their own style of headings, figure captions, and personal quirks that did not flow together. That was 20 minutes spent on not creating content. I have no objection to markup, but I have every objection to using presentational markup as a proxy for structural markup.