Dr. Randby's Home Page

Current Courses

Cryptology Course Outlines

Contact Information

Scott Randby, Ph.D. (Mathematics)
Associate Professor of Technical Mathematics
Faculty Fellow of the Center for Intelligence and Security Studies
Department of Mathematics
College of Engineering and Polymer Science
The University of Akron
Akron, OH 44325-4002

Office: College of Arts and Sciences 263 (CAS 263)
Phone: 330-972-6094
Email: srandby@uakron.edu

Pronouns: he/him/his/himself

Public Encryption Key

Click on the link below to obtain the public encryption key that can be used to send encrypted messages to Dr. Randby.

Dr. Randby's Public Encryption Key page


Plain Text

There are many benefits to using a plain text file-based workflow.

  1. Plain text files are portable. They may be stored and used on any device.
  2. A plain text file is not dependent on a specific tool. There are hundreds of programs that can open and work with plain text files. Preserving the data contained in a plain text file requires only the preservation of the file, it does not require a special program that may not be available in the future. Plain text files are free in every sense.
  3. Plain text files can be used to produce presentations, articles and books as well as spreadsheets and human-readable databases.
  4. Plain text files don't hide essential information from the user.
  5. Highly advanced version control and collaboration tools may be used with plain text file—tools which cannot be used with other types of files such as those in a word processing format.
  6. Many sophisticated tools are available for searching, manipulating, and processing plain text files.

Below are some good software tools that can be used to open, edit, and convert plain text files to other formats.


What is Emacs?

Emacs stands for Editing Macros which means that Emacs is an editor. The primary function of Emacs is the editing of text files. Emacs contains numerous features that allow one to effectively and efficiently create and edit any type of text file. However, Emacs is really much more than a basic text editor. Unlike most software, Emacs is extensible and completely customizable. Emacs may be customized so that it operates exactly as a user wishes: key bindings may be changed or added, syntax coloring may be customized for any language, window behavior may be specified, and almost anything else a user can envision may be done. Emacs may be extended to operate as a mail reader, file browser, calculator, chat client, shell emulator, personal information manager, web browser, and numerous other things. Further, Emacs is free, meaning free as in liberty, meaning a user has the freedom to alter and use Emacs in any way the user chooses and the freedom to distribute those alterations to others.

This web site was made using GNU Emacs and Org, one of the many modes of GNU Emacs.


What is Org?

Org is a mode of Emacs which functions as an organizer. Org provides an efficient system for the taking and organization of notes. A file in org format contains sections, subsections, etc., each of which may be hidden from view if desired. The ability to hide sections and Org's simple commands create an environment in which large files are easy to edit and maintain.

It is easy to create and edit tables in Org. Mathematical formulas may be assigned to tables allowing them to be used as spreadsheets. I have tables set up in my grade files that automatically compute the grades of my students. I also have tags in these files that allow me to search for and display the grades of an individual student while not displaying anything else.

Org files may be exported to other formats such as HTML. This website was made using this export ability. I have one file which contains all of the HTML code for this site. When I edit the file, I hide all of the sections except the one on which I'm working. Once I'm done editing, I export the file and org-mode's exporting facility generates all of the section links, the table of contents, and many other elements that would be difficult to generate myself.

There are many other features of Org. Tasks may be scheduled, deadlines may be specified, etc. Organization is easy with Org. Org is included in the latest versions of GNU Emacs. Download GNU Emacs to get started.


What is Git?

Git is a distributed version control system that is used to keep track of the changes made to documents (usually text files). Git is used by programmers, web developers, writers, academics and many others for solo projects and projects with numerous collaborators. See the Git features and documentation for more information.


Use LaTeX

A LaTeX file is a plain text file (usually with a .tex file extension) that contains formatting and styling information and text that uses LaTeX markup for mathematics, tables, lists, citations, quotes, and the other elements that appear in documents. Once a LaTeX file is written, it is used by a program called pdflatex to produce a beautiful typeset PDF document. Only three steps are required to produce your first document using LaTeX.

  1. Install a TeX distribution.
  2. Create a LaTeX file using a text editor.
  3. Use pdflatex (included in the TeX distribution) to create a PDF version of the LaTeX file.

Note: Steps 2 and 3 can be combined if you use one of the LaTeX editors given below.

Use LaTeX in web pages


What is Pandoc?

Pandoc is a file conversion program that is used to convert documents in a wide variety of formats to other formats. It is a great tool to use for joint projects in which participants use differing file formats for project documents.

More Plain Text Tools

GNU Recutils

GNU Recutils is a collection of tools used for accessing plain-text databases. GNU Recutils is free software with a GNU General Public License version 3 or later.


Ledger is a double-entry accounting system where all entries are stored in a plain-text file.

Ledger-mode is an Emacs mode that may be used for editing plain-text files in the format used by Ledger. The source code for Ledger-mode is included in the Ledger source code.


What is SageMath?

SageMath is a symbolic and numerical mathematics program. It is free software and it is available for all operating systems.

SageMath Online

CoCalc (Collaborative Calculation in the Cloud) is an online computing environment that uses SageMath and other open source mathematics software packages. CoCalc can be used with any web browser.

Audio and Video Recording and Editing


FFmpeg is a free software (GPL license) multimedia framework that may be used to record, convert, analyze, stream, and play audio and video files.


Audacity is a free software program (GPLv2 license) that may be used to professionally record, edit, and convert audio files.


Ardour is a free software (GPLv2 license) digital audio workstation (DAW) for recording, mixing, editing, mastering and exporting audio files.


Kid3 is a free software (GPLv2 or later) audio tagging program which makes it easy to tag audio files in many formats.


Shotcut is a free software program (GPLv3 license) that may be used to professionally edit and convert videos.


Kdenlive (KDE Non-LInear Video Editor) is professional non-linear video editing and production software. It is also free software (GPLv2 license)


Olive is professional non-linear video editing software. The project aims to become a replacement for proprietary professional video editing software. Olive is free software (GPLv3 license).

Author: Scott P. Randby

Email: srandby@uakron.edu

Made with GNU Emacs and Org Mode.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0) or later version license.

License summary

Updated: 2024-01-13 Sat 19:16

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