Wandering words on text editors

Early in my time with computers, I relied heavily on vi because it was what was on the system and the manual told me to use it. I knew that pico was available when pine was installed but I found it to be more annoying to navigate than vi. Fast forward to when my tinkering became a job and I picked up vim.

I was seriously attached to that editor for a very long time, dragging dotfiles with me everywhere I went. Sometime in the middle 2000s I was introduced to the use of screen and eventually tmux. Combined with vim, those three tools felt very powerful.

I've waffled back and forth between physical and digital journals most of my adult life. While keeping a digital journal, I wanted something easily organized so I reached for vim-outliner. I found it to be pretty clunky and it was suggested that I try org-mode so I made the leap to emacs.

Emacs became my editor for all things not-code for many years. When it came to matters of code, I tended to go back to vim. If I strayed from it, typically I'd find myself using Sublime Text or Geany. Generally I liked my editors to be quite spartan. I never did care for IDEs short of my brief time with Bloodshed Dev C++ or Acme (if the latter can be said to be an IDE). I've even been known to disable things like syntax highlighting.

In the last couple of years, I've been searching for an org-mode replacement that was much lighter weight in order to support my personal journaling and note taking progress. I've seen the proliferation of Markdown and discovered the todo.txt format for laundry lists. It seemed like the perfect combo and I thought it might provide a way out of the kitchen sink that is emacs.

I started shifting my journaling to markdown files and I began to use the todo.txt format for my tasks. Somewhere during this process, I discovered Markor Notes for Android and fell in love with it. Plain text notes on the go and I can keep them synced with syncthing. I found this far less cumbersome than things like Joplin or Obsidian.

In recent years VSCode has become all the rage in my professional circles, especially due to its Copilot integration. In order to make my professional life a little easier, I started trying to adopt it myself. This could be its own post if I were to dive into all the details but to summarize that experience: I don't like it but I don't hate it. It's got a mess of features I don't need but it's relatively light and it stays out of my way.

That usage has bled into my personal computing time. I now tend to use VSCode when working on coding or sysadmin projects at home and for taking stray notes. If I'm making short lists, I tend to lean on Xed (or MousePad if I happen to be using XFCE). For longer-form journal entries I gravitate back to a windowless emacs. It's just more comfortable, especially with writeroom-mode.

I use, and have used, a lot of different text editors for work and personal tasks. My life is full of text and I often reason through text. I learn well by reading. I've come to understand through this little journey that there are only a few features I actually need. As long as those are there, I can tolerate a lot of extras that I never use.