The very first issue of this newsletter was about Fancynote, "a silly editor". It was to be my tool for thought. A general purpose space for writing and thinking in, that I could program to do whatever I want. Recently I've been thinking about it again. To those who are starting to worry reading that, I promise I'll still be getting my actual work done.
Anyways, I think my mistake with the first attempt at fancynote was trying to go all the way to building an editor. Turns out, making a nice text-editing experience (especially when you're used to one) is painful. I should've started smaller. And where better to start small than with plaintext1?
It's has got a certain aesthetic to it that makes it extremely approachable. It's trustworthy and dependable. It's not going to go out of business, or disappear on you. It can live on a website but it's right at home on your computer. It's simple and universal. Most importantly plaintext works everywhere.
To illustrate, here's a little script I wrote for myself earlier this week:
tempfile=$(mktemp --suffix=.md) # Create a temporary fileemacsclient -c "$tempfile" # Open it in a new window in emacsxclip -rmlastnl -i -selection clipboard "$tempfile" # On exit copy it to the clipboardxdotool key ctrl+v # Press Ctrl+V to paste
I use it like this:
1. I'm in a textbox, in a web-browser, or my email client
2. I hit a shortcut (
Super+Shift+i) to run this script
3. It opens emacs
4. I edit in emacs, and when I exit, it's pasted into the textbox!
It sounds trivial, but on a closer look, it's magical. Each tool in the chain, from my web-browser, to my text-editor, to this wierd thing called the clipboard2, all speak the same language!
_Another neat thing about plaintext is it's very easy to experiment with. I can just start with a text file in some format and evolve the structure as I go along, and the tools for manipulating it too.
Instead of starting with fancynote as an editor why don't I start with it as a language? Specifically one that compiles to html, so I can share my work online. As I go along I can write other programs for more complex features, and experiment with different interactions. Eventually, they can compose together to form Fancynote!
A goal that got a little lost along the way was using this newsletter to drive my experiments. So, now that we've hit 20 weeks in, let's get back to that!
By my newsletter next week I will:
.txtfiles, and you edit with Notepad or TextEdit. _Rich_text is the kind of stuff that lives in Google Docs or Word, with formatting and layout.↩