The State of Markdown

I have a hunch that Markdown will play a rather large role in the future of publishing.

Before recent times I would have said, “no way, it’s too nerdy. you have to be a geek to get it.”

But as I’m turning pro as a writer/editor I can see that this is no insubstantial thing in my life; it’s the tool.

(and it’s especially become clear as Corbett, Caleb and I have started using it as a team on TT and FZ).

One of the biggest challenges with MD comes with working with a team. Up to now I’ve been using TextMate to write and then pasting that into google docs for collaboration. It’s not pretty, but it works. Gdocs’ comments and revisions (and keeping things there as an archive) have proven to be essential in working with a team.

(N.B. I’m talking about doing this for a living here. This isn’t a hobby. Writing the best stuff I can right now and collaborating with my team to get more perspective and then getting it out into the world is how I afford my son’s gluten free crackers. MD is my plumber’s snake; it’s literally how I get the shit out.)

I’ve used two web apps recently to aid our team on the MD + collaboration problem:

  • Editorially: Write Better — made by a team of people i’ve looked up to for a long time.
  • Draft.in: Write Better — made by a guy who’s absolutely blowing me away with how fast he improves and iterates the product.
  • (weird that they both have the same HTML title tag :| )

I’ve just Editorially for the first time. Below is my first little doc in Editorially, a review of the product within the first 15 seconds.

It’s funny, I’m currently writing this using Brett Terpstra’s Markdown Quick Tags and it’s an absolute breeze. There’s no syntax highlighting (which would be nice), but he nails the necessaries (list auto-completion, bracket auto-completion).

Those little “I know what really matters here” things are the delight of the product. I mean, it’s the goddam wordpress text/html editor and I prefer writing here to either of these beautiful products I mentioned above.

It feels like the Editorially and Draft.in teams understand the importance MD will play, and Terpstra, a long-time practitioner and tool maker for MD+mac stuff, understands what it’s like to actually use MD day-in, day-out.

Regardless, I’m excited. Both these apps are going to be stellar in a short amount of time. They will help the pros get’r done and help the novices realize it’s not about the goddam tools. Get the words out and see what lives.


My first Editorially doc (a 15s review)

Yay Editorially! Made by more than one of the legends I’ve looked up to in my career. Here are my thoughts on the product as someone who lives in MD and text files and writing and publishing every day.

  • MD syntax highlighting: yes. This is great.
  • No list auto completion (This means it doesn’t add the hyphen to the next line automatically… a little thing but when you live in text files this is the first thing you look for. A real bummer).
  • no bracket auto complete at least we got greyed out syntax when everything’s completed in the MD link.
  • Collaboration tools seem great. Commenting and adding thoughts is the name of the game in how we currently use Gdocs.

A headline formatting nit-pick:

In traditional markdown h1 and h2 can have underlines (equals and hyphens respectively). This doesn’t do that. :|

In TextMate you simply type the line, hit enter, type a hyphen or an equals sign and hit tab.

It provides a great little visual separator no matter the app being used. But the bolding happening here at editorially will be fine.

State of the market:

I’ve used Draft.in which is right about at the same place of development. The comments feature is similar, but it lacks syntax highlighting.

Export Thoughts

I’m glad my mac “copy as html” services shortcut works.

It’s interesting that the export button just dl’s the zip. kinda nice and quick-like. Though a “copy as HTML” button wouldn’t be bad.

I can imagine my library and editing in Byword. Though I wouldn’t have comments. I can really imagine an Editorially app.

Some things to check out in time:

  1. Document Management: What will this be like when there are 10-50 blog posts and fizzle courses in here? Can we make folders?
  2. Archiving: what will it be like as an archive? right now throwing things in Gdocs into an archive folder means in a year from now I can find that script and update it and re-shoot it.