And God said Let there be text, and there was text

Mar 7 2016 by Satyajit

** Update 2021: I stopped working on this project and saola no longer is what I built. **

And God said “Let there be text, and there was text”. This would be the start of the bible if the historians of UNIX wrote one. /etc/passwd, /var/log/messages, ~/.bashrc etc, all these wonderful ways of storing information in a very simple and importantly easily accessible format of file. It was all text.

In this age we are so concerned about speed and scalability that we forget a lot of what is essential. Sometimes storing my personal finances, a list of my contacts or my task, all it needs is a text file. I can always use grep sed and awk to manipulate them. I can fire up my favourite editor1 and modify it. I can store my files in my local harddisk, sync it with Dropbox or put them in some remote server that I can access. If one of these services die I always have my text files and not have to worry if I can open them.

A while back I wanted to create a simple application for my iPhone. All I wanted was to store information as plain text, write small scripts that would generate reports. It turned out to be quite a task. This got me thinking about how we do things in the UNIX world. User details are stored in /etc/passwd. Logs, configurations, startup scripts2 all of them are stored as plain text and I could use any language to manipulate them. And thus started my process of developing Saola.

Saola is something that has come out of a need in the mobile platform. It is a place to store your text. But it does something important where the likes of Evernote or Simplenote fail. It provides a scriptable environment3. Your content is stored as plain text4. With the JavaScript environment provided you can write tools to manipulate your text. You can integrate with external tools by POSTing to the script that you have written.

Even though a lot of work has gone on developing it is still in a very early stage. There are features that we haven’t implemented yet, there are things that would definitely break. But this is the beginning of a new era. It is like one said on HN: A note platform for the web 3.0.

Here are a few plans that we have in mind: - Provide a nice sync feature. I really would like to use existing tools like rsync or scp - Be able to render various text formats like csv, org, rst etc. - Make it more like the UNIX filesystem - More language support, may be a lisp?

Spread the word, give it a shot and let me know what you think. Register at Saola.

  1. Emacs for me and vi for the evil ones ;)
  2. Sadly systemd is taking it away from me
  3. Currenly JavaScript, as much as I complain about it, it was something that was easy to integrate
  4. UTF-8