Thursday, May 10, 2007

Creating text productively

Most of us spend a fair amount of time creating or dealing with text: email, reports, evaluations, proposals, and the like. Over the years, I've found one tool that consistently has helped me to be more productive at generating text in any format: Emacs (check out their quick guided tour—I learned something new there). It may look like an editor for software engineers, but it's really much more general than that.

I'm not interested in starting an "editor war" with those who prefer other editors (or word processors, for that matter), for it's to some degree a matter of personal fit. I did want to point out that IBM has a tutorial on learning Emacs, for those starting out. So does Emacs, for that matter (it starts automatically the first time you run Emacs); the IBM version has the potential advantage that you can read through it before you install the software, although you will learn more by actually using it.

For those of you who would like to walk through the IBM tutorial (it requires free registration), check out these, or search on their site for more specialized material:


  1. Living in Emacs
  2. Learn the basics of Emacs
  3. Learn the essential modes and editing features of Emacs
  4. Advanced Emacs text operations


Emacs does run on pretty much any computer platform you might have.

For those of you saying, "But I want nicely formatted documents, not pure text," see Business writing made easier. And for any of you really into text, check out Antiword as a tool to convert a Word document back into text. It's usually faster to open a document in Antiword than in Word.

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