Break up your text documents

[Tweet : ADN : nvALT]

Stackofpapers

I’ve heard complaints over the last year that apps such as nvALT and Marked slow down when handling large documents. I’m constantly working to optimize the code and the preview processes, but here’s a tip that I hope will be taken to heart: split your longer text documents into manageable portions.

Working with one large document is less than ideal from many standpoints. I personally can’t imagine navigating a twenty-thousand-word document for any practical purpose. The OS X filesystem, Spotlight and other tools are brilliant for searching and dealing with multiple documents within a folder. Less so for huge documents. The likelihood of a document showing up in a specific search is significantly greater if it has 20,000 words to match, but the chances that the document will actually be what you’re looking for is greatly reduced. From an editing perspective, navigating to a certain chapter or section within a document that large is simply impractical.

Tools like nvALT make it easy to break a document into pieces, associate them with matching tags and have them show up in your notes search as a navigable list of sections. Name them with numerical prefixes and sort by name to order chapters as needed. nvALT is meant for this kind of separation, not for housing a word-processor style document.

Scrivener is an amazing tool for organizing large documents. It can also sync the parts of a document out to Dropbox or Simplenote and can thus work directly with nvALT. Even without Scrivener, it’s a simple task to load up a folder of related documents as a project in most text editors.

The ideal workflow for me is to break up documents into multiple files within a folder. I use OpenMeta tags to associate them in general, but a folder is universally accepted as a container for related files. Scrivener is my tool of choice for large-scale projects, but I frequently load folders of related text up as TextMate projects, too. Actions such as search-and-replace, compiling output, etc. are just as easy with a folder, and navigating the document as I’m editing is much, much easier.