I’ve written before about my wish for semantic word processing tools, and two years on I still haven’t found something that suits me. I think that WYMeditor has definite promise, but unfortunately the authors are aiming that at browser-to-server functionality, rather than in-browser standalone functionality. This isn’t such a major obstacle for me, but it is one of the reasons why I’m hesitant to move over to using a project that hasn’t reached version 0.5 yet.
I’ve been aware of reStructuredText for a little under two years, and have used it on and off—more off than on, mainly. This morning, however, while talking to a friend about the desirability of moving away from not merely proprietary formats but formats that weren’t text-based, I finally hit the point where I no longer want to use RTF.
RTF has been my file format for most personal and creative writing since I stopped using Microsoft Word format about seven years ago. I experimented with other formats and decided on RTF as the least-bad one. I’ve thought about alternatives more or less ever since, but never found any that worked.
This is partly due to my wanting something that supports semantic meaning while also not requiring me to use heavyweight markup. I don’t want to be distracted by the markup issues while writing, so I want something as close to plain text as possible. Furthermore, I’m simply used to the word processing environment, having written in it for decades.
I didn’t want to give up visible italics and bold, and I didn’t want to give up the feel of the serif font face and the overall “softer” environment.
However, I’ve always done my blog writing in a text editor, and since I’ve written a fair amount of fiction for the blog, I’ve gradually become more used to the text editing environment for more creative and personal work.
One of the things that kept me from making the shift away from the word processor was the hope that eventually I’d find one that was just right. It might still happen, but today it occurred to me that in the interim, it would be best for me to have my files in a rational format. That rational format is not RTF, but I’m hoping it’s reStructuredText.
The shift is both about moving from RTF to reStructuredText and about moving from a word processor to a text editor. In theory I could write reStructuredText in a word processor, but that doesn’t make much sense to me.
This also means that I’m going to gradually shift all of my files over to reStructuredText. I’ve been converting old .doc files to .rtf, and now will both move files from .doc to reStructuredText and move the converted .rtf files to reStructuredText… making me wish I’d made this decision quite some time ago, but that’s all right.
I recommend reStructuredText pretty highly. You can go from it to more or less any other format, and it suports rather a lot of functionality. I’ll probably try to write a quick primer on it at some point, as most of its documentation is aimed at programmers rather than general users, but I think anyone who deals with text could probably benefit by using it. (Well, it, and a decent text editor, and a decent version control system…)