Better "read me" files with TextEdit

Many products come with "read me" files. Originally, in the dawn of personal computing, these on-disk text documents were how documentation was distributed -- often quick notes from the programmers. Eventually they evolved into more professional documents, but often retain their playful, "hackerish" name. (It's said that "read me" is a play on the infamous "drink me" label in Alice In Wonderland.)

On the Macintosh, read me files were often provided using TeachText, then later using SimpleText. The latter adding a special "read-only" type of document that allowed the document to locked. This prevented accidental changes, or deletion of key information, by the customer. Setting the "read only" status was accomplished using the programmer's tool, ResEdit.

On Windows, the built-in NotePad or WordPad utilities are the preferred read me delivery mechanisms. The latter, like SimpleText, offering more sophisticated options for text display and control.

For Mac OS X, the TextEdit application is your best choice. Although read mes are often, appropriately, "throw away" documents with late-breaking information, you can easily make them more attractive and readable by taking advantage of the advanced typography available in the OS. (See Better Fonts For Apple Help.)

And, little noted, is the ability to lock a TexEdit document.

Finally, note that TextEdit's universal RTF format allows you to re-use the read me file inside your package installer, if you have one.

Posted: September 12, 2002 link to this item, Tweet this item, respond to this item