Jan 05 2019

A case for text files: Encoding & Organization

Text files can be a great choice for organizing and analyzing your data. It tends to be more free-form than a proprietary application, allowing you to adapt with ease.

The first concern for your data should be the longevity. I’ve already made this case for text files.

The next common concern is data categorization. Using separate files for each category can be very powerful. Placing each bit of data in its rightful place unlocks modularity, sortability, analysis, and expansion.

So while the CLI typically enjoys the input of a text file, a modern-day app with a GUI relies on the input of a datastore. The datastore, while usually open sourced, requires a layer of configuration (creating databases, tables, and connecting with the app). This incurs an overhead that can be unnecessary when solving most problems.

In the case of a GUI application using files (i.e. a Word document), the document is either proprietary or non-interoperable at the very least. Modularity, sortability, and analysis suddenly becomes much more difficult.

With all of this being said, the primary constraint of the text file is the inability to use mobile devices. This can be a real deal breaker depending on the situation.

This is all to say that the use of the CLI requires a substantial learning investment. The payoff is certainly worthwhile – however if a user is unwilling to learn the ins and outs of of the CLI, then there’s not much of a point to using one. In this case, an unwilling user is better off pointing and clicking in a GUI.