Sort, Shuffle, And Organize Your Plain Text Lists With These 3 Web Tools

Joel Lee 26-07-2013

I’ve used my fair share of lists to keep myself productive. In fact, when it comes to organization and motivation, there are plenty of apps designed to make you more productive 7 Apps That Will Help Motivate You To Write More [Android] Writing is tough. As a writer, I know how much of a struggle it can be. Blank pages are terrifying. New assignments even more so. Procrastination is an activity I know all too well. Yet... Read More , and that’s what lists are ultimately meant to do, right? I’m not just talking about to-do lists either. My beloved Catch Notes Catch Notes: A Full-Featured App for Portable Note-Taking [Android] Portable notes have saved my life on more than one occasion. Not in the literal sense - thank God! - but in this day and age, when information is being thrown around at such high... Read More and Any.DO both have to-do list functionality, and I love them for it, but sometimes apps just get in the way. Sometimes, plain text is the way to go.


I use plain text lists for pretty much everything. For example, I keep track of potential character names for my fiction writing 6 Must-Listen Podcasts For Novelists, Screenwriters & Storytellers Are you stuck in a writing slump? Have you ran out of story ideas? Are you puzzled and confused over the publishing industry? Do you need guidance on becoming a professional wordsmith? There are lots... Read More in a TXT file. I run local tournaments and use plain text lists to manage and organize registered teams. And, of course, I use plain text for to-do lists too. Plain text can become messy, but thankfully there are some tools I’ve found online that will lend you a helping hand.



If you’ve got a list of text lines, then the most obvious organizational tool you need is a method to sort those lines. Alphabetizer, as its name so plainly suggests, will take a block of text lines and rearrange them in alphabetical order. You are then free to select some or all of the rearranged text, copy it, and use it elsewhere however you need.

Alphabetizer is a little more sophisticated than that, though – not a lot, but still more sophisticated. Yes, you can sort your text lines by alphabet (forward and backward), but it can also sort by line length (short to long, long to short) as well as remove duplicate lines. I think it’s a great tool with an easy-to-remember URL and it has come in handy for me on multiple occasions.

Text Mechanic



Text Mechanic has a whole suite of web tools that will take line-based text input and manipulate it in intriguing ways. Each tool is a separate page for maximum flexibility. As far as I know, all of these tools are built with client-side JavaScript so the servers never receive the inputted data. Here is an overview of its features:

  • Line Breaks. If you have a block of text and want to convert it into separate lines, this tool will do just that. It can create line breaks at every instance of a letter or word, or it can do it every after X number of characters.
  • Sorting. The sorting tool is pretty powerful. It can sort alphabetically, as well as allowing for reversals, case sensitivity or insensitivity. Plus, you can set a delimiter and a column number, and the sort will use that as the basis for how to sort each line. Or if you want to mix it up, you can randomize the line order.
  • Prefix and Suffix. After you add your lines into the text box, you can specify a prefix and a suffix. The tool will prepend the prefix to each line and append the suffix to each line.
  • Line Number. This tool is similar to the tool above, except instead of adding a static text to the beginning or end of each line, it will add the current line number.
  • Removal. There are a few different tools that will remove content according to matched criteria: duplicate lines, empty lines, extra spaces, and lines containing certain characters or words or phrases.
  • Counter. After inputting your text, you can click anywhere and this tool will tell you which line, which word in that line, and which character in the whole body of text you’re on.

Team Maker


Like I mentioned before, I used to run local team-based tournaments and events that allowed participants to register, then I would separate them into randomized teams. For the first couple of iterations, I did the randomizations by hand and, boy, it turned out messy. That’s when I found Team Maker, which was fast, easy to use, and effective.

It works like this: you input a plain text list of names, one name per line. You then input a separate list of potential team names. Finally, you select how many teams you want to generate the names for. Based on all of your inputs, Team Maker will generate your teams for you. The default result is an HTML output directly on the site, but you can export to an Excel CSV file if you’d like.


Team Maker doesn’t have to be for tournament-based teams only. It can be used for office events or team-building icebreaker exercises. Or on a more abstract level, if you ever have a list of items that need to be randomly split into specific-sized groups, Team Maker would work for that too.


I realize that this is a pretty niche topic, but the fact that these tools exist and the fact that they’ve been helpful to me stand as proof that some of you readers will find them useful too. That’s the hope, anyway. At the very least, I would implore you to reconsider the efficacy of plain text lists for organization (that is, if you aren’t a believer).

Know of any other list-based organizational tools similar to the ones above? I’d love to hear about them, so please share in the comments!

Image Credits: Notepad Via Shutterstock [Broken URL Removed]


Related topics: Text Editor, To-Do List.

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  1. Deezy
    August 6, 2013 at 12:03 am

    Similar to Text Mechanic. You guys did an article on it in 2008. I only discovered it a few months ago, but it looks like a lot has changed. Sort, Replace, Change Case, Clean, Label, and Separators are the menu tabs. LOTS of options. Cookies stored (?) work like an autosave feature, so whatever you had been working on last time will be there when you get back. Very niche tools, as you've said, but damn do they come in handy when you need 'em!

    • Joel Lee
      August 6, 2013 at 6:24 am

      Good catch! SortMyList definitely belongs on this list. :)

  2. Lisa O
    July 26, 2013 at 3:59 am

    My notepad replacement. MetaPad, has enough features for me working on plaintexts. Of course, it doesn't have randomization, but I don't really need it anyway. I like plaintext because it's ubiquitous (opens practically anywhere), simple, and can be synced easily.

    • Joel L
      July 31, 2013 at 3:53 am

      MetaPad looks nice but I'm put off by the fact that it hasn't been updated since 2011. But hey, if it works for you, great. :)

      • Lisa O
        July 31, 2013 at 5:25 pm

        I meant to say TED Notepad. I replaced MetaPad with it last year. The feature sets are quite similar, but MetaPad doesn't have Unicode support which is a dealbreaker for me (I use Japanese charsets. My brother uses Koreans).
        If you look at MetaPad site, the author actually said he considered the software as 'complete'. I must say, if you don't need Unicode, it's a very solid notepad replacement.

        • Lisa O
          July 31, 2013 at 5:32 pm

          Because there's no way to edit accidentally posted comment, I'll add here: TED Notepad hasn't been updated since 2011 as well, but notepad isn't something I want to be up-to-date anyway. As long as it works smoothly then it's alright. There's enough features as of now anyway.