Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The Power of Plain Text

Like it or not, email is still a common way to communicate. I get all sorts of emails, from newsletters to personal mail to diatribes (those are fun) to emails from clients or people I'm working with. Because I work with software, a decent amount of that email contains code of some sort: a method; a stack trace; an error message; a soap or json object serialized and printed. So what do I do with it? Frequently, I copy it. For example:

  • copy an id into a command prompt so I can find it in a log
  • copy a method into a class so I can try to run it
  • copy a serialized object to a buffer so I can diff it with something else

Now, we can argue about whether email is the most appropriate form for all of this, but that's a bit academic; I don't really control what other people do or send. Rather, let's look at one useful point:

This is all a lot easier if the email is plain text.

With plain text email, I don't get weird formatting issues. I don't accidentally grep for HTML. I copy-paste instead of copy-paste-delete. I can get you whatever information you need a whole lot faster.

So go ahead and send whatever you want in email. Just send it in plain text, please.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Catherine,

    I couldn't agree more but I go a little further too: