Plain Information Book - Part 1

  • 2013-05-15
  • Overview of the Plain Information System
  • #minimal
  • #plaintext
  • #productivity
  • #wiki

How to efficiently handle the information flood

Let’s talk about how one can handle the process of information and knowledge creation. Over the time I figured out some extremely fast, simple, minimalistic workflows to edit and serve my personal information. At the moment the efficiency of the personal information system is pushed to its boundaries and there’s nothing left to take away.

CAUTION: It may happen that after you have read and implemented a system of your own you will trash a carload of apps on your desktop and mobile devices and feel quite a bit of relief.


  • Use 1 solid source folder (permanently backed up and securely versioned) – to rule them all – to easily edit, fast navigate and automatically serve all blogs, websites, wikis, journals, repositories no matter if used online, at localhost (intranet) or without a server (as full html files).
  • Setup has to be done in under 1 pomodoro (25 min) after you read and understood the concepts.
  • Updates and recreation of all your online and offline blogs, websites, wikis, journals, repos has to be achieved with 1 easy and automated workflow that takes less than 1 min and requires less than 10 keystrokes or mouse clicks.


  • Use plain files only
  • Use fast tools only
  • Automate as far as possible
  • Optimize the user experience for the writer
  • Optimize the user experience for the reader
  • Simplify the creation process

Use Cases

Quick outline of some possible use cases and types of information that can be created, handled and served.

  • Blog (Blog Posts)
  • Wiki (Wiki Entries)
  • Cheatsheet Repository
  • Project Websites
  • Personal Diary
  • Fitness Logbook
  • Scientific Thesis
  • Book (Chapters)
  • Recipe Repository (Cook Book)
  • (Code Snippet Repository)

Basic Process

  1. Information Creation: Write all (created) information on plain files in one notes folder
  2. Information Handling: Implement a file naming structure (with a simple yet readable and powerful syntax)
  3. Information Serving: Run Scripts to automate preparation of file sets to be served on local or public websites

Solution Parts

In the following article series I will walk through all steps to setup a complete personal information system. I will explain some of the decisions I made and also give hints to other possibilities and point out some of the pit falls when using the systems.

Just to give some short teasers:

Part 2: Writing Setup

The decision for the right tools should be made very carefully. Thus I will evaluate a set of tools and point you in the right direction.

Part 3: Structuring Setup

The trickiest part is to fiddle out a structure that can serve all your planned purposes. A lot of research and testing went into this setup. After reading dozens of productivity blogs and testing various structure approaches I figured out that the best solution for myself was a simplification of an universal information structure I created at the age of 15 but abandoned when switching away from the windows operation system and depositing the use of physical folders and ring binders (going paperless) - even though the structure was solid and refined enough to have served well for 3 full years.

Part 4: Serving Setup

This part covers again aspects of tool evaluation and shows some software solutions that can be enriched by scripting and are capable of pushing your information towards them.

Part 5: Outtakes

A sad list of all trial and errors, pitfalls and all too slow tools (from now on) until I finally achieved the goals for all my personal information systems.

Plain System Cheatsheet

A quick reference sheet.