Windows software for handling plain text, useful for writers and students
I’ve gathered a bunch of software that help me write and manipulate plain text as a student, programmer, and web developer.
I’ve gathered a bunch of software that help me work in plain text, because there are a lot of good reasons to write in plain text rather than in rich text. it’s also because I do a lot of my writing on AlphaSmart word processors like the Neo and the Dana (for what it’s worth, I prefer the Neo despite its limitations, since its pipeline is much more efficient on modern 64-bit Windows PCs). This list is mostly for my benefit, but others may find use for it also.
The corner stone of all of my writing. Write a plain text document using Pandoc’s extended Markdown formatting tags, then watch in quiet awe as Pandoc converts your .txt file into all manner of fancypants file formats, from MS Word documents to PDFs to webpages to slideshows.
Super-duper handy for writing Markdown, since it automatically applies the relevant text formatting to your source text as you write. The live preview is nice for re-reading your work, but it can scroll out of sync with the source if you insert figures or images. At the time of writing there’s no support for some Pandoc-specific markup, like super/subscripts and some others, but it helps a lot more than it hinders.
My favourite desktop text editor. Bought it when I was fresh out of high school, made all of my websites with it, been using it for almost a decade now. Has lots of super cool features that make it easy to handle plain text. When I was making the Great Noun List, for example, I pulled lists of words from all over the internet, in myriad different formats, layouts, capitalisations, pluralisations, and so on. EditPad Pro let me use regex and the built-in tools to convert everything into a linebreak-delimited list, eliminate pluralisations and hyphenated words, eliminate duplicate words, and then sort it all in alphabetical order in about fifteen minutes. You can also set a Markdown syntax coloriser and skip MarkdownPad if you’d prefer to do everything in the one editor.
Regex (‘regular expressions’) is a space-age tool that lets you get your work done fast. it’s the difference between half an hour of Find-Replace and playing video games 29.5 minutes early. However, it’s tough to write a Regex for a complex string, especially a string thats in the middle of another string. RegExr is really good at helping you work through it. You can do your replacing in RegExr itself, or grab the working needle and use it in EditPad Pro for doing batch processing.
Sometimes websites (like academic sites) distribute an ebook as individual chapter PDFs. Or sometimes you have a bunch of lecture slides that you want to be able to search all at once. PDF Toolkit can merge them into a single PDF document. Can do lots of other stuff too, like exploding a PDF into individual pages. So handy.
Some websites (again, like academic sites) distribute PDFs that are protected to prevent editing or copying. This really sucks because my reading/study technique hinges on being able to copy excerpts from the document and paste them into a text file! PDF Unlock can get around this.
I wrote this software, and it’s one of the most-used tools on my computer. I use it to automate repetitive tasks and to create shortcut keys that don’t exist. Inputting a standard scale bar of 10mm in ImageJ is an operation that takes 14 separate clicks or inputs, for example. When I needed to do it for twenty different petri dish photographs, I automated it to be done with a single keypress in about 2 seconds.