Human-editable yet computer-readable textual file formats

I like structured textual file formats, because they have zero vendor-lock in and are thus portable between systems, and will stand the test of time.

This note is a list of all human-editable textual files that I know of. For a textual file format to be included in this list, it needs to meet the following requirements:

See also

For prose, are Embedded plaintext metadata formats can be useful. Also see Lightweight markup languages are inadequate for technical writing.

The Microformats wiki has some relevant information, e.g. its list of sheet music formats.

The file formats wiki has a ton of information that I have not yet properly sifted through.

The complete guide to (external) Domain Specific Languages has a good list of examples. Here, these are called (external) DSLs, which is a good term that I probably should adopt as well.


Here’s the (incomplete) list.


Tabular data



Lightweight markup languages

Programming languages

Ha, this includes the vast majority of programming languages! This in particular excludes no-code environments.

Semantic web

Software delivery

Structured data



Note last edited January 2022.
Backlinks: Embedded plaintext metadata formats, Lightweight markup languages are inadequate for technical writing, Use structured writing to keep track of things, Weeknotes 2021 W50.