One big ass text file

Recently I successfully migrated most of my personal information apps (calendar, mail, addresses) to a new system. The only thing the new setup lacked was a way to keep track of the hundreds of scraps of information (password, registration codes, etc.) that I had previously kept in Outlook’s cumbersome Notes. Like the other aspects of my personal info I wanted local access with complete online redundancy. Nothing seemed to fit the bill. Then I came across this post at 43 Folders describing über-geeks who actually put all their information into a single, gigantic text file. I laughed at this as completely impractical and moved on.

But I kept thinking about it, specifically about the actual difference between hundreds of tiny files and one huge file. In both cases search is the only practical way to find anything. But a single file reduces redundancy to the act of merely uploading the file ocassionally. And ASCII is the ultimate cross-platform, app-neutral, read-anywhere format. As long as you have a good text editor, you’ll be fine. But even if you don’t you can always at least open the file and roam around. Call it the toilet paper roll method of info management.

Mark thinks Tinderbox is a better solution. I’ll give that a spin when the Windows version is released. But, for now, my life happens inside a single unnavigable-except-for-search text file. Restaurant notes, aborted blog posts, credit card info, SMTP server information from seven years ago, words I like, a Blackjack cheat sheet, domains I’d like to own one day, hundreds of pairs of login info, and on and on. It is stranegly comforting to know that it is all in there, including stuff I will never see again because I don’t know the keywords for it. But it is there.