Markdown - the advantage and afterall why?



This article shows how to convert existing Ulysses sheets to a different Markup language.

The floating window with the Markup commands will also change to show the new syntax that will be available.


I am late on this discussion…sorry!
Not sure if anyone mentioned it, but blogging system can parse Markdown format without any special handling (plain text and files)…
And if your blogging system is file based (like Kirby or other States site generators), that’s even easier and easier, you throw the file, and it gets rendered.

For me, Markdown is an overkill, as you actually type more, but I learned to appreciate its power and beauty.


There are really a lot of good and interesting views on Markup and while some have a similar point of view, there is always another argument concerning Markdown - this is really a great forum, thanks!

So for me it comes down to the intended use of the text written - I have actually 4 areas of writing:

  • in my job: here I am destined to use MS Word as the whole company of 130K people is using MS Office :frowning:

  • a new business: I am helping out to get a restaurant up and running in the south of Germany and for this I am writing in two areas (1) for the online presence and all around Social Media - this is good opportunity for Markdown - and (2) for the menu cards, special offerings, etc. with a lot of design - here I am using Pages.

  • book project: I have started a book project recently and here I have a completely different workflow, but the actual writing happens in iA Writer and this for the only reason that I love the pure simpel interface; no distraction, no menu bar and a wonderful simple duo space font. I see here no need for Markdown.

I think I will use Markdown for the web publishing stuff, blogging, etc. - that seems to be the right area :wink:

Thanks a lot for all the feedback - really valuable!


Creating documents in a powerful editor like BBEdit (and its ilk) is generally faster than in Word. I’ve found MS Word since the early 1990s (when it became bloated) to be unstable and error prone (crashes, unpredictable changes of style, bugs in cross-referencing, etc.), and to have difficulty with long , complex documents. It’s difficult to recover from errors in Word and its kin.

As long as I just need what Markdown can provide (which is most of the time), it is the obvious choice for me. Powerful editors are,…, powerful tools. One of their major advantages is the ability to quickly search and replace text using regular expression over one or many documents. I normally have upward of 50 documents open at a time in BBEdit , many quite long, with never any performance problem…

Another major advantage of Markdown is how it handles inline comments.

There are simply too many advantages of editors/markdown to list here.

Yes, it is true that there are many dialects of markdown. But learning dialects is quite easy. For instance, my two Cognitive Productivity books are written in Markdown and published with Leanpub. Leanpub developed the Markua variant of Markdown, “a simple, coherent, open source, free, plain text format for a book manuscript”. If you’re not writing books, however, you don’t have to bother learning Markua.

I used FrameMaker in the 1990s, which overcame some of Word’s problems, but after acquiring its developer, Adobe canned the Mac version :(. I gave LibreOffice an honest try; but I had problems with it; and it constitutionally does not have the advantages of a powerful editor. Since 2010-2012, I’ve been using Markdown for

  • all internal technical documentation at CogZest and CogSci Apps Corp, (and my SFU projects),
  • writing books (per above)
  • most of my blogging, and
  • taking notes (though I still use OmniOutliner for reasons I mentioned elsewhere).

Many academics like LaTeX, but it’s complex and overkill for most books and articles. More recently, I have switched to writing academic papers in Markdown too.

I use Brett Terpstra’s Marked2 for previewing markdown on macOS.


I don’t use it lots but my email program (MailMate) which uses Markdown makes it OH SO EASY to put in a URL link. I love it for that alone.


This has been an interesting line of conversation. Since it started I have added a new use for Markdown.
I already use it in writing iThoughts HD on iPad and iThoughtsX on Mac. I write most of my daily journals and service and sermon notes - yes I am a church leader - using Markdown. Lately I have added to my workflow.
Simply write the following in a text editor like BBedit or Sublime or Atom, and open it in

# Hymn 630
## Blest are the pure in heart


have a **good** look
So you can *see* what we mean
^ this is a presenter note which is visible on the displaying computer, not on the screen.


![fit](/Volumes/Spare HD/deckset/word.png)


Rather than creating huge keynote files with big graphic and video files in them, and spending time moving text and graphics around on screens, everything is done in simple markdown text. I am enjoying using it and with three weeks experience I am able to have a ready to display presentation. I also use omnioutliner to create outlines, not using markdown, and then using a textfactory file turn it into a deckset ready format.

@mikeschmitz did a ScreenCastsOnline introduction, there is a free snippet

Sent from my iPad


Typora hasn’t gotten any love here yet. It has the ability to create flowcharts, Gannt Gantt charts, etc. all from plain text.


You might appreciate this set of scripts I cooked up for converting Keynote to Markdown.

I haven’t worked on them for a while but was thinking of moving to Deckset for lectures.


I still use GML / Bookmaster - which my mainframe code confects. SGML I definitely remember as being derivative of GML / Bookie, though the syntax is rather different.

Yes, Markdown does remind me of (X)HTML and XML and SGML and GML / Bookie. All the advantages of these apply to Markdown, though it is a simpler, almost invisible, format.


The purpose of Markdown is to make it much easier to write narrative text for the web - sentences and paragraphs. If you’ve ever had to write narrative text in HTML, you know that it is a pain. Just making a word bold or italic requires typing 7 characters, 5 of which are punctuation marks – here is what is needed for italics: <, i, > <, /, i, >. And if you mess up or forget one character, the rest of the text is messed up. For example, leave out the /, and all of the rest of the text will be italics. In Markdown this is super easy, just put asterisks around the word or phrase that you want to appear as italics.

Also in Markdown it’s much easier to just start a new paragraph, no messing with <p> or <br> tags. All those angle brackets!!! Ouch.

Markdown is also much easier to read than plain HTML, and this was a goal of the original Markdown design.

I decided to write this post tonight because today I needed to do some work on a web page directly in HTML. I usually work in Markdown and the contrast is nite and day. I had been following this thread, and the answer to the original question hit me over the head every time I typed an angle bracket!

@sven, I’m guessing you don’t usually create HTML content. If not, then you probably don’t need Markdown. When I want to print something or create a PDF file, I usually turn to something like Pages or Nisus Writer. But for creating web content that is primarily text (like the posts on this forum), Markdown can’t be beat.

In a way, you answered your own question by using Markdown to create your original post!

Note: Of course, if you need to do fancy web styling stuff then you need to drop into HTML/CSS/Javascript. But whenever possible, I try to isolate that stuff and set it up so that the main text content is created in Markdown – it is so much simpler and faster that way. For example, I’ve created several thousand pages of documentation for my current product all in Markdown (see link below), using a template that contains all of the CSS & Javascript needed. Virtually all of the content in this documentation is created in Markdown, it would have taken so much longer in straight HTML that I don’t know if it would even be finished yet!

Also since the documentation is written in a public format (Markdown) rather than something private like Word, I was able to set it up so that users could access the documentation source directly, and edit it and submit changes. This has been very successful with nearly a thousand changes submitted in the past 3 years. I suppose this could have been done with straight HTML, but that would have been more difficult for users to learn, and then we would have had to be more vigilant about possible malicious input. In fact, that is another reason why forum software like Discourse use Markdown – if they allow HTML input then there is the possibility of malicious forum users injecting JavaScript into the forum. So Markdown is not only easier, but safer.


Thanks Derick @dfay

The system works very nicely: certainly from my initial attempt to use it for keynte to markdown. It is rare that a script works first time so well!! Now to try md to kn . . .

I recommend others try your script too, and tweak it for particular needs of their lectures or talks.


When the modifier key (shift) is taken into account, the difference between writing HTML and markdown is all the greater.
I count 11 key presses in the above, 8 of which are simultaneous in pairs (chords).

Contrast this with typing two asterisks, which is four key presses in 2 pairs.

Eleven key presses, four chords, vs. four key presses, two chords.

From a motor-efficiency viewpoint, markdown wins.


Oh, good old times! Remember to struggle a lot with the syntax. Markdown is much more effortless.


I Use Markdown Because

  • Ulysses, Drafts, Discourse and other apps use it
  • It keeps my fingers on the keyboard
  • Enough commands to do basic formatting
  • Quickly learned
  • Fosters focus (when my fingers are trained)
  • Relaxing to use (my attention is on the text)

Others legitimately will dicuss portability… Others fall back on, it does this or does not, arguments. But to me it meets my usage requirements. Good enough.


David gives a very good number of reasons why Markdown is useful. One that I think is important is storage.
Write a short document in a text editor using Markdown. Copy it. Save it as a text file.Then, open a new document in Pages or Word, and paste it in. Save it. Compare the file sizes of the two files, and you’ll be amazed how much overhead goes into a word processing file. If you archive a lot of your work or are concerned about how much cloud storage you are using, keeping things in plain text makes a lot of sense.

Also, longevity. I’ve been writing on a Mac since 1987! I have a lot of files that just won’t open properly any more. I’ve found ways to open old Word v3 files, and in the worst cases, I can open them in BBEdit (it opens anything), and try to rescue the text, which I’ve done. But if all my documents were originally in plain text, I’d have no trouble opening them on my Mac, my iPad, or a Windows machine.


When I tried KN to MD script it errored out saying it could not get Document 1. Sure looks useful; wish I could get it to work.

I had six or seven .key files open in multiple tabs; could that be the problem?


One issue with Markdown, though, is standards. I’m not aware there is one - and I’d like to see a standards group that defines and evolves the spec.

But it doesn’t stop me using it; I’m just careful what I use (and what compatibility I claim for my own tools).


One issue with Markdown, though, is standards

Jeff Atwood from Coding Horror tried that a few years ago but it wasn’t really well received and not adopted by the community at large. Discussion was here and website here.


Hmm I just tested & had success with six presentations open in tabs - it just acts on whichever tab has focus. If you try a single presentation in its own window does it work for you?


John Gruber, Markdown’s creator, has been adamant about not establishing any official standard or standards body. He’s cool with clearly-named forks, like ‘Github-flavored Markdown’, but not anyone claiming - or aiming towards - a standard. @riamarch posted 2 relevant links above about that.