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Document Formats

By • Apr 3rd, 2008 • Category: Database, MySQL, Opinion, WordPress

Documents

In FLOSS circles, March 26 is celebrated as the Document Freedom Day.

Document Freedom Day (DFD) is a global day for document liberation. It will be a day of grassroots effort to educate the public about the importance of Free Document Formats and Open Standards in general.

This is when I realized that people actually use the office packages daily. I almost never use it. According to me there are three options to store text data.

  • Plain Text
  • HTML
  • Database

Plain Text

The simplest format there is. If there is something I should remember, I just put it in a text file and save it to the desktop. I used to use it a lot earlier – but I don’t use it much nowadays due to searchability issues. There are quite a few advantages in using the text format

HTML

If I need any formatting in the text, I create the document in HTML. It is easier for me to create the formatting using HTML code that using WYSIWYG Word Processors(like MS Word). I write all my blog posts in HTML – perhaps the only occasion where I need formatting.

Database

My favorite method to store text data is in a database. I am a web developer – so I always have a Web Server and Database server running on my system – so this system is perfect for me.

Interface

Remove that scared look on your face – I don’t use phpMyAdmin or any Database Administration tools as the interface to save/view the data. I use my own custom scripts or WordPress.

The best example of this is txt. Txt is my code snippets/commands repository. You can view the full story in the Saving Code Snippets post.

That’s an online example – I also have a personal wordpress blog running in my local server. I use it to record events, purchases, store receipts etc.

Advantages

Tagging
Tagging is heaven-sent to make information more findable – any del.icio.us user should know that. I used to install Ultimate Tag Warrior to get this feature – but WordPress now supports tags natively.
Searching
Searching for data within a database is much more easier, faster and provides more relevent results than searching for the data in a collection of file. Even if you are using a file indexing software like Google Desktop Search or Beagle/Recoll(for linux users), I find database searching more easier. Another advantage of using database to search is that you can create complex queries if you know SQL.

Disadvantages

Not for everyone
Let’s face it – installing and maintaining a web/database server is a tad in the geek zone. An average Joe will find it just a little bit out of their league.
Overhead
Running a web server and a database server is a bit demanding on the RAM.
Backing up a little more complicated – but easier
Backing up the data in a Database is not as straight forward as backing up files – but its actually easier if you know how.

Online

One extra method to store the data – online. This data is stored in a database – but you don’t have the disadvantages associated with using a database. More and more people are turning to this method now. I did not include it in the initial list because its not a data format – its more of a data storing method.


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