i've long been looking for a solution for storing structured information (such as for example contacts) that is:

  • future safe (saves to a .txt file or other future safe format or can export to a .txt file)
  • viewable with a standard text editor
    • even better: editable with a standard text editor
  • Free open source software

What i've tried so far is using:

  • LibreOffice Base. Downsides: Seems a bit complicated for this and doesn't store info in .txt files
  • A simple text editor like leafpad. Downside: Has no way to store name of columns like "mobile number: " or "first name: ", in other words is not so good at structuring information

So i'm looking for something else with preferrable none of these downsides. Any help is greatly appreciated!

Kind Regards, Tord

  • I think you'd be good with a CSV table, like Jon S.'s answer
    – kiri
    Commented Apr 26, 2015 at 10:57
  • @minerz029: good to provide that comment, so I could upvote.
    – Fabby
    Commented Apr 26, 2015 at 14:26

4 Answers 4


Libreoffice calc and most other spreadsheet software can save and read .csv files which can be saved as a .txt and can be opened in any text editor.

From the Wikipedia page on CSV files:

A comma-separated values (CSV) (also sometimes called character-separated values) file stores tabular data (numbers and text) in plain-text form. Plain text means that the file is a sequence of characters, with no data that has to be interpreted as binary numbers. A CSV file consists of any number of records, separated by line breaks of some kind; each record consists of fields, separated by some other character or string, most commonly a literal comma or tab. Usually, all records have an identical sequence of fields.

.csv files actually predate computers so that's your best bet given all your requirements.

  • :D Good answer to a very difficult question! ;-) Upvoted!
    – Fabby
    Commented Apr 26, 2015 at 14:25
  • In the wiki it mentioned that technically CSV predates computers, I meant to quote that in my answer as well to illustrate how future proof it is, but it didnt get in there after edits.
    – Jon S.
    Commented Apr 26, 2015 at 16:47
  • Can a CSV file store structured information as sunyata requested? Commented Apr 30, 2015 at 8:28
  • The CSV file stores information in cells rows and columns exactly like a spreadsheet would but it can be edited through Notepad or other basic text editors. There will be features missing out of regular spreadsheets. It can only handle unformated basic information on a single page, but can be viewed in a structured spreadsheet. Here is a sample from inside a CSV: Contact Information,,,,,,,,,,, Name,,,Phone Numbers,,,,,,,, Last,First,Salutation,Work Phone,Cell Phone,Home Phone,Fax Number,Email,Street Address,City,State,Zipcode
    – Jon S.
    Commented May 2, 2015 at 12:53

Use a desktop wiki, e.g. Zim:

sudo apt-get install zim

enter image description here

You can export human readable text files, for example, if you using "markdown" as export format.

Alternatively, you can export as HTML (via GUI or terminal) and convert into text with html2text.


zim --export --output=./html --format=html ~/<your_notebooks_path>
find ./html -type f -name "*.html" | xargs html2text  > output.txt

i would recommend a database like mysql for storing structured information. It's a little bit more work at the beginning, but for future use, i think, you'll be really glad ;)

For viewing/editing you could use something like phpmyadmin or HeidiSQL (Windows).




I use Tomboy (available for the Software Centre). It is primarily meant as a quick note taking / note store programme, but also creates automatic links between notes and they can be organised in notebooks.

Tomboy integrates tightly with Ubuntu, creating its own dash widget and making available a set of hot-keys for fast keyboard management.

Tomboy stores its data natively as XML that is pretty editable directly by hand. It can also export the notes to HTML, if you prefer that format.

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