Sunday, May 8, 2011

"Al3x's rules for computing happiness," Alex Payne

Via Marco Arment, an incredibly useful and relatively short list of rules to make you happy about using your computer.

Well, let's back up: I interpret Alex Payne's rules as mostly being applicable to tech-savvy people. Why? It boils down to this one rule of what software to use:
Use a plain text editor that you know well. Not a word processor, a plain text editor.
Now, this one makes total sense to me. I compose these little blatherings as plain text files on my own computer in vi (or, to be precise, vim) before copying and pasting them into Blogger's text fields. It might strike you as a suboptimal work flow, but it's serviceable and it allows me to keep my own personal archive of my posts. Considering that a blog in its essentials is HTML, and HTML is plain text data, using vi to create my posts makes perfect sense to me.

But then, I know the difference between "plain text" and whatever MS Word does.

I haven't used a Windows system in years so I don't know what ships with Windows as the default plain-text editor. I very much doubt that default text "editor" is either easy to use or powerful, though, because Microsoft has a huge vested interest in steering people toward Word. As far as most Windows users are concerned, Word is the default text editor. They have no idea that Word doesn't save "plain text."

So telling Windows users to use a plain text editor is meaningless. That tells me Payne wasn't thinking about ordinary users when he put his list of rules together.

Having said all that -- boy, are Payne's rules sensible. They're two and a half years old, and they're still good advice.

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