notepad-logoMy dad always told me “always use the right tool for the job.”  And so it is with writing a first draft of any text document.  You don’t need a full-featured word processor, like Microsoft Word.  You want an application that launches quickly, and just puts the words on a page.  If you’re a Windows user you could use two simple text editors that come with your system software, Notepad, which is really simple and quick; or WordPad, which has a few formatting features but is still not a full fledged word processor.  I like the free download, Notepad ++, which is a middle choice between the two.

Besides using a text editor for quick wordsmithing, why else use one?  Well, let’s say you’re in charge of posting information on a website, and you ask for event information from the members of your organization.  If they give you a pure text document, one with no formatting whatsoever, it’s very easy to copy and paste that text into a web page editor, like the editing window of a WordPress blog, and have it do the things you want it to.  On the other hand, if the document you receive is already formatted, for instance, contains indentations, italicized portions, tables, highlighted portions, etc., then it’s much less likely that you will be able simply to copy and paste that content directly into your web page editor and have it look the same as the original document, after you save it.  You’re better off adding a middle step, thus:

  • Copy the content of the pre-formatted document to your clipboard.
  • Paste that content into a simple text editor like Notepad(which saves documents in the .txt format).
  • Copy and paste the content of that .txt document into the edit window of your what-you-see-is-what-you-get web page editor.
  • Reformat the page there the way you want it.  Then save it.

This sounds unnecessarily cumbersome, adding the middle step, but believe me, it saves you the headache of trying to make pre-formatted content behave properly in a WYSIWYG editor.

Finally, there’s another reason to use a nimble text editor for your first draft work:   to compose lengthy emails that might get corrupted when working with an online email client, like Gmail.  Have you ever been composing a long email note online and something goes wrong and you lose your entire twenty minutes’ labor?  Well next time, compose your note in a text editor, save it every three minutes or so, and you’ll be safe.

There are scads and scads of free text editors.  Have a look at Wikipedia for an index of many.

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