IN THIS CHAPTER
The politics of text editors
Choosing a text editor
Plain text is our favorite file format. It is readable everywhere and depends only on the universally understood ASCII (and these days, possibly Unicode) format. You are not limited to a specific program to read or create plain text, or to view it.
In the world of Windows, the naive user thinks (and this is what the application vendor wants him to think) that just to write a shopping list, he should use a proprietary word processing application. When he sends that shopping list to his friend by e-mail, he attaches the binary file (which requires a copy of the original application or a filter built into another one) to read it.
The Windows registry consists of binary files (which again require special tools for manipulation). Most Windows applications store their files in binary formats.
In Linux, almost all configuration files, log files, and other system information are held in plain text. The only exceptions are one or two databases (for example, the file
/var/log/wtmp, which holds the history of logins that can be accessed by the command
last). In the case of applications, most native Linux applications that have their own file formats use a form of modified text, rather than a binary format. For example, the Gnumeric spreadsheet uses an Extensible Markup Language (XML) format (gzipped to reduce the file size). So does the GNOME diagram editor, Dia.
OpenOffice.org documents ...