548: Jumping Into Markdown

As the podcast discussed, when you’re working with text files you’re future-proofed and don’t have to worry about accessing defunct, changed or deprecated file formats in the future, you don’t have to worry about losing or screwing up formatting when copy/pasting into other documents, it reduces dependency on a single piece of software to read or write with, it’s easy to share, and it lets you convert easily (or more easily) to different types of sources (blogs, ebooks, email, PDF, html).

And it’s already used everywhere - when you’re using this site you’re using a Markdown editor

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I always think of the [ and ] as the visual of a button and the ( ) as the note about what the button is (the link)


Thank you for that. What you said makes a lot of sense.

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Thank you. That is helpful.

RTFs are a relatively stable format, no? you can open them in TextEdit and such.

Personally i feel Markdown is a bit overrated. Besides writing online (for which Markdown is clearly the best tool), rich text isn’t bad either.

I’m not saying you should write in MS Word (which is totally “the cockpit of a fighter jet”:rofl:). That results in bloat and overwhelming numbers of options. But rich text writing environments like Scrivener (or even TextEdit. Books have been written in TextEdit.) are nice too, and shouldn’t automatically be discarded.


Try dragging-and-dropping rtf into different apps and see how well the formatting is preserved.

I realize this is a limitation of RTF; i have experienced it before.

Just write in the destination app, or use “copy and match formatting”.

I’m not saying MD is bad; I’m saying RTF is not bad either.

I’ve had so many problems with rtf compatibility over the years it’s a no-go for me.

For short, casual writing rtf is fine but for long-form writing that needs to be outputted it can be a mess. Markdown files will survive and be readable for practically ever and outlast every other format around.

Markdown is human-readable, and depending on the app used can be WYSIWYG. rtf format is not human-readable. Code-blocks are auto-recognized with Markdown, not easily with rtf. And Markdown offer such clarity that David (and Stephen?) said they use hashtags as headers when they write on paper. (I do too.)

There are always tradeoffs (tables are one pain-point) but overall I prefer a human-readable format I can write with in ANY app, and can be exported to anyone on any other computer system without worrying about formatting errors.

Stable? Yes.

Compatible? No.

IMO, RTF should basically die at this point. .doc files are probably a better choice for interoperability.


oh well. looks like I’m the only RTF lover here.

But I totally agree with what people have pointed out here, regarding Markdown. it’s a good syntax, but I do wish rtf was more… usable? for more people

Thanks for the suggestion.

I actually already use Marked 2 and agree that it’s a useful tool. My preferred Markdown editor is iA Writer and I use Marked 2 to give a side by side preview on the Mac.

As far as I’m aware, however, the only way to customise the output beyond the available templates is to write your own CSS (or at least adapt the example).

The other downside is that it’s not available on iPad where I find I’m doing more and more of my text creation these days.

I think what I’m ideally looking for is something with the simplicity and ease of use of the style inspector in Pages, but that can be used to create CSS to style the Markdown output.

I could obviously just use something like Pages or Word, but personally I prefer Markdown for a couple of reasons…

  • I find the “Markdown workflow” where you focus on the content first and worry about the presentation later to be far more productive.
  • If you need to use the same content in multiple settings (e.g. online and in printed materials) then using Markdown makes it easy to just have a single source and apply multiple output styles as required.
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It’s not too difficult. (I adapted the Github style for printouts at home, without too much trouble.) But most people can find something good from the styles gallery with styles uploaded by users.

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I do agree with @MotownDoc and @TimM, I am really struggling to see the point of Markdown.
I really want to like it and want to use it but I just cannot see how it would fit into any of my workflows… Is it just because I do not write blogs or stuff for the web?

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How long do you save files? Remember Stephen and David talking about how difficult it would be to open old MacWrite files? My old Word 5.1 files (the last rock solid version of Word I ever used, coded specifically for 68000 processors and before Microsoft decided to ribbonize like mad and make Mac development come late and ape Windows apps) are impossible to read right if they had complicated formatting, for example.

The several reasons for Markdown were laid out pretty clearly in the podcast one by one. A single reason might not be sufficient for some, but together it explains why everything from discussion forums to XCode documentation uses the format.


I think there was a mistake in the Discord/Discourse Discourse is the forum Software like is used here but Discord is the chat based app.

Yes, but both use Markdown!

As I have noted above, I write in Markdown all the time and love the advantages it has. However, the one disadvantage to me and the main reason that I cannot write in Markdown full time is its lack of collaboration tools. As an academic, I rarely author papers alone. This means I need to track document changes across time. Thus, I need features like track changes. So, I typically write the first draft of a manuscript in Markdown (in Ulysses) because I prefer the focus on content and distraction free writing environment and then have to export to Word for my co-authors.


Yes, we discussed this recently here. There are some apps which own specific features, and for those who need to track changes, nothing on the Mac matches Word.

could you not track changes for Markdown using Git?

Edit: here’s examples of what I mean for people that don’t know: