Carlos Sosa

sync with text files

One of the advantages of Unix applications and services are the OS configuration files. Most of them are flat text files. A portable solution for any synchronization task.

Storing Data in text files is a unique style originated by the Unix philosophy. Those familiar with this can always recall the Unix motto: “In Unix everything is a file.”

To emphasize on this, here are several principles of the Unix Philosophy:

  1. Small is beautiful.
  2. Write programs to handle text streams.
  3. Choose portability over efficiency.
  4. Store data in flat text files.

In comparison with other bulky encoded solutions to store Data, there is always a medium or an interpreter in the process to obtain a readable output, for this text files are an open, manegable, lean, and light solution.

With the emerging scene of gadgets, specially smart-phones, people in the IT and Design industry moved to a complex handle of notes, contacts, and files. The need to sync between devices became eminent. However, this imploded into a mess of different encodings and file schemes. Users went back to a minimalist handle of files. Then came the services like Dropbox and, which became the main topic of the IT blogosphere of that time. By now, there is a whole market for backup and sync solutions, but the last mentioned have maintained a notable position among the paid and the free services.

Instapaper is the name of the new contender. In the same field, but with different goal. Instapaper was made as a quick bookmark solution, like storing a magazine article for reading later.

I use Dropbox on a daily basis, but I use for storing my address book along with my calendar file. Instapaper was my handy tool for the reading weekends, and became my new companion in traffic and long trips.

On Dropbox:

  • Config Files: .bashrc - .vimrc - /etc/
  • Recent Code: files, scripts and snippets I haven’t finished.
  • Recent Images: Photos and graphics to be uploaded to my flickr account.
  • School Work: Essays, research papers and other reports. Basically, homework.


  • Address Book: Phones, email address and contact information.
  • Personal Finance Spreadsheet: Believe it or not, CSV files can be used as spreadsheets.
  • Calendar File: With the use of iCal::Parser and iCal::Parser::HTML, I can generate XML and HTML files of my calendar.
  • Grocery List: Most important thing of the day.
  • TODO: To-do list

Just to make a point, each service has it own purpose. On another note, never upload important information like passwords list, your savings spreadsheets and such. Always revise and review what is stored in your sync service. Keep an eye on the export option that your favorite applications use, look for a flat text file export.

A good example is the .odt format from .odt file format like others share a common goal, to be edited by any text editor.