Why plain text notes?

I’m a fan of notes. On my first day at my new job nine months ago, I started from scratch with my notes. Since then, I’ve typed 271,976 words in Obsidian. That’s roughly a 700 page book (making it longer than the epic East of Eden by John Steinbeck, which I just finished reading).

After spending a decade bouncing around from note app to note app, I’ve settled on plain text notes (i.e., .txt or .md files on my computer). I like that I can use whatever app makes the most sense for the thing I’m doing at the moment because there’s no difference between the internal and external representation of the data.

If my notes are just a pile of text files, then:

  • I can mass rename them
  • I can do a search/replace through everything all at once
  • I can search through them with regex or wildcards
  • I can can stick them in a public Github repo to open source them
  • I can sync them to a website (lots of people run their blogs this way)
  • I can switch editors if a better one comes out
  • I can run a word count on them (which I did for the first paragraph of this post)

Most of those things are flat out impossible in a hosted notes app like Notion, Roam, Evernote, Google Docs, Google Keep, etc.

Plus, my notes will still be readable decades from now, long after Notion and Roam and friends have shut down. Plain text for life.

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