Using Markdown to improve your life

Writing in Markdown

Increasing mind to text bandwidth

I have had a focus recently on improving my efficiency in a number of aspects of my work and home life. I write a lot of content. For work, my blog and when I study. Whilst I prefer pen and paper notes for study I wanted to find a quicker way of dealing with formatting and presenting digital content. I have seen a number of posts about writing in Markdown1

What is Markdown?

Markdown is a writing language (technically a text to HTML conversion) that uses familiar syntax to provide consistent formatting. No longer do you require to lock horns with the formatting devils that are Apple Pages or Microsoft Word when you can know what your text will look like from the way you type it.

Here is an example of some text

To create an italicised text simply place * around a word.
To create a bolding of a word simple place two ** around a word.
This can be substituted with underscores (_)

Lists can be created with a simple number (1) followed by a period (.)

  1. This is number one
  2. This is number two
    Or a unnumbered list with *.
  • This is a list item
  • This is another list item

Screenshot 2014-07-30 21.00.05

It is also very easy to create footnotes, quotes, text blocks, link to images and websites. Once you get the hang of it, it is very comfortable to write without having to press Command B for bold, Right Click and Add Hyperlink to link something.

This isn’t something I’ve been doing just recently

I have been writing with Markdown for a couple of weeks now. I was initially exposed to it by a friend and now as my work processes mature I find it necessary to use daily. My recent Pomodoro blog was fully written in it. See the below image to get a feel of it.

Screenshot 2014-07-30 21.02.31

Writing a book in Markdown? Get out.

Many of my readers are followers of Greg Ferro over at Etherealmind. He writes with Leanpub. Leanpubs entire publishing system is worked off a combination of Markdown formatting and Dropbox shares. From that publishing and compiling a book is a matter of a simple file structure, interpretation of Markdown and referencing assets. It is easy to get the hang of Markdown. It is also not impossible to master.

Removing the distraction

I use Sublime Text edited to produce a bulk of my text. This is a built in plugin to highlight and color the Markdown that I use to ensure I am using the correct syntax. What is also beneficial, especially in conjunction with time management tools like the Pomodoro technique, is that Full screen mode allows you to focus on one thing. The writing. The writing can flow and you can get the idea out simply, with HTML formatting for conversion to PDF or publication to a website.

I subsequently view this in Marked to gain an insight to what my final product looks like. This can be then uploaded or saved into something like PDF.

What do you have to lose?

I have improved the amount of text I can get down onto keyboard and out of my head markedly. Whilst I cannot quantify a number I know I can see an increase in output of work. Most modern web applications support Markdown in some way too! Airmail, 10.10 Mail, Text applications, WordPress with JetPack2 and more. It is a great way to write. Try it. Liberate yourself from Office applications and its convoluted formatting systems and work with aesthetically pleasing text.

  1. This would be the ultimate source of truth for Markdown compatible syntax. Use this. 
  2. Wordpress does not support ALL Markdown listed on the project website. They have their own list of supported syntax. It is mostly the same. 

1 thought on “Using Markdown to improve your life”

  1. Great post Anthony! I have to admit, I’ve heard of Markdown prior to your post through Twitter but never took the time to learn what it was. This is a great introduction to it and how to harness its effectiveness. From someone who has written his fair share of HTML pages in notepad, this format is easy to remember and won’t take long to get used to using. I think I’ll give it a shot!

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