OPINION: Why plain text files shall prevail

This is an opinionated post on my belief how the future of text editing should be.

I have been editing my CV recently. The purpose of a CV is to illustrate a person’s relevant professional experience in a field and basically to sell someone out. Since it is about selling, then some customization is required for each post to achieve the best impression. The basic content across all documents is likely to be similar or the same, but the sequence may need to be rearranged to highlight different expertise for different audience.

I believe this problem can be best solved with programming instead of a WYSIWYG software like Microsoft Word. The content should be left as plain text in separate chunks and settings can be made to determine what is the sequence of the chunks and whether some chunks should be replaced by others. When one needs to update their CV, all they need to do is to update the basic content and choose the category they want. This will save tons of effort to edit across different CVs and worry that some content may be missed out.

Yihui Xie has put some effort to produce a R package named pagedown and I look forward to its development. For any heavy user of docx, ppt and xls editors, it will be far better and efficient to learn to use programming alternatives (namely R) instead for its reproducibility.

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Timing Liu
Bioinformatician & Medical Student

Personalizing medicine