Text isn't the most glamorous type of media on your computer, but it's one that everyone creates and consumes frequently and it's not as boring as it sounds. To make the best use of the text you encounter and generate on your own, there some tips and tricks you should know. Ten, to be exact.
10. Clean Up Unwanted Formatting
Copying and pasting text gets to be problematic when that text is styled even slightly. You copy a quote from a web site and suddenly it's twice the size of the text in the document you're writing. While you may want to copy the style from time to time, this is often annoying. Text cleaners can remedy that problem. Text Scrubber is a good option for Windows, and PlainClip will get the job done on Mac (although there are more expensive, more robust options like CleanText and TextSoap).
9. Batch-Rename Files
You may not have to do it often, but when the time comes when you need to rename a whole bunch of files you don't want to be doing it manually. While there are plenty of downloadable tools that are designed for batch-renaming of files, Whitson's automation guides for Mac and Windows will get you up and renaming without writing a single line of code. (And you might pick up a couple of other handy tricks along the way, too.)
8. Easily Pull Text From PDFs
PDFs generally have text you can copy, but it ends up in your clipboard a little bit mangled (which is probably not what you were hoping for). PDFTextOnline will just give you the plain text you're looking for. All you need to do is upload a file and wait. Alternatively, Windows users can try Text Mining Tool.
7. Make Quick Formatting Changes And Alterations Via The Command Line
Standard desktop applications and webapps are all well and good for basic text operations, but when it comes to making serious, more complex changes on a large scale you're going to want to turn to the command line. Finding and replacing text across multiple documents (or just one), managing your to-do list, taking notes, are just a few of the many ways the command line can help you work better and faster with text. If you want to find more, take a look around Snipt, a public repository of handy coding and command line text snippets.
6. Identify Unknown Fonts
Text is sometimes just text, but with the right font it can be beautiful. The problem is, unless you have a database of fonts in your head you're not going to know what's what. Tools like WhatFontIs, Identifont, and WhatTheFont can help you find an answer when your text in question is an image, but if you're just looking for a font used for text on a web page you should grab a handy bookmarklet called WhatFont.
5. Recognise Text That Isn't Exactly Text
Not all text comes in an easily copy-able format, making manipulation difficult. Sometimes you find text in an image, and that's where optical character recognition can help. There are plenty of options out there from translating image-based text into actual text, but last year we took a look at the five best text-recognition tools. Alternatively, if you just need to be able to search text in an image you can do that and manage all your notes with Evernote.
4. Add Some Security And Have A Little Fun With ASCII
ASCII is a type of text character encoding, but you're probably more used to hearing about it in terms of ASCII Art, or art made out of plain ASCII text. If you want to get in on the fun, there are plenty of online tools to make an ASCII portrait or image. If you want to be somewhat practical you can also make an ASCII flow chart. But ASCII isn't just for fun. You can also use it to hide your email address from spam bots or even beef up your passwords.
3. Make Web Page Text More Readable
You may like the content on a particular web site but not all the images and ads. When all you're really after is the text, there are plenty of tools to help you out. Readability can simplify just about any page to make it more readable, and it's even built in to some RSS readers (like Reeder). Services like Instapaper and ReadItLater provide similar functionality. Whatever you use, if all you want to do is read you'll want to start using one of these services.
2. Keep Your Notes In Sync Across Multiple Machines And Devices
You have a laptop, a desktop, a tablet, and a smartphone. Well, maybe you don't have all of those or maybe you have more, but it's not uncommon these days to use multiple machines and devices productively. That poses a data problem, in that you have to keep said data in sync on everything you use. As far as your text goes, we're particularly fond of Simplenote as it makes text capture and synchronisation really easy. Of course, there are several syncing note-takers for Windows, Mac, iPhone and Android. However you go about it, syncing your text files ensures you always have them and they're backed up by virtue of being in the cloud and on several of your devices.
1. Text Expansion
Text expansion is a simple concept: you type something small, like ",lh" and it automatically expands to something larger, like "Lifehacker". There's pretty much no other trick that'll save you more time or from more mistakes. Whether you type a lot or a little, implementing text expansion is an enormous productivity booster that you won't be able to believe you ever lived without. If you're new to the concept, or just want some really good tips, be sure to read our comprehensive text expansion guide.
Got any other awesome text manipulation tips and tricks? Share 'em in the comments!