Markdown editor affordances

I’ve loved the recent updates around Markdown - thank you to all the team!

Recently I started using Obsidian for my daily notes and keeping track of various bits and pieces. I index the Obsidian folder in DevonThink, and it’s really made my database start to feel more and more like a home for my thoughts and notes.

About a week ago, it occurred to me to question why Obsidian seemed to be helping here. How much of it could I do in DevonThink with a little customisation.

So, I’ve done a few things:

I’m almost ready to delete Obsidian and do it all in DevonThink. It just remains one thing stopping me… markdown editing affordances.

There’s a lot of busywork when editing Markdown in DevonThink:

  • no auto bullets
  • I can’t highlight text and hit bold/italic etc
  • if I make a numbered list and insert or remove an item, I have to renumber them all…
  • I can’t add a link without typing it out manually…

All the kind of things you’d get in a fully-fledged markdown editor.

Anyway, for me, this would be the final nail to just use DevonThink. For now, I’m going to try and create some Keyboard Maestro text filter macros in a palette, but I’d love it if the application did this out of the box!

Any plans on the roadmap for this kind of functionality?

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Thank you for the suggestions, this is planned for upcoming releases.

What kind of link do you want to add?

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I can’t highlight text and hit bold/italic etc

In the source view, you certainly can.
The preview is a static representation of the rendered Markdown. It is not editable.
Select the desired text in the source and press the bold or italic button in the Editing bar, or press Command-B, Command-I.

if I make a numbered list and insert or remove an item, I have to renumber them all…

Not if you’re using a proper Markdown list, you don’t.

Markdown automatically takes care of the numbering, as shown here.

All the kind of things you’d get in a fully-fledged markdown editor.

Bear in mind, there is no agreement on what a " a fully-fledged markdown editor" is. Many apps add their own (often proprietary) features. I wouldn’t consider that “fully-fledged”. IMHO a fully-fledged editor is one that would adhere to as many standards as possible, even if such standards are loosely defined. For example, obeying the common control characters for bold and italic in a simple editor would be better than an app adding a tons of its own features and using its own different characters for formatting.

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That’s great to hear!

For example, selecting some text and then hitting ⌘+K. I’d expect the text to be wrapped in square braces and then empty parentheses added afterwards with the text cursor inside them.

This is a🤦🏻‍♂️ moment! I went straight to the more complex operations on the toolbar (like making something a link) and didn’t try the basic ones.

Yes… this is true but I’d be a bit pedantic and say you’re talking about a proper Markdown renderer. You’re absolutely right that the ordering of the numbers has no effect on the final rendered result. I spend most of my time in the editor view though so it pains me if the source numbering gets out of sync.

I 100% agree with this - however, I would separate the ideas of an editor vs. renderer. I wouldn’t want DevonThink to extend the markdown syntax with its own bells and whistles. The support for the Obsidian style inline content has been nice and made sense as it’s not breaking.

The kind of features I’m missing are more editor features whilst in source mode. It sounds like I’ve embarrassingly missed the fact some are there and others I’m hoping for are on the roadmap, so that’s great to hear :slight_smile:

Thanks for the replies both of you!

it pains me if the source numbering gets out of sync.

I’ve long ago learned to ignore any disorganized numbering as the end result in the renderer takes care of the cruft :wink:

You’re welcome.

Is there a list button/command that I can do the same? I mean highlight a few lines and hit list (button or command) to turn them into a list (not a numbered list).

AFAIK: no. You might want to use an external MD editor if you need this kind of functions often.

That works perfectly fine: Set your preferred MD editor as “Open with” application for Markdown documents in the Finder and set “double click opens in default app” in DT’s preferences. Then you can open any MD file from DT with a double click in your MD editor, and on saving the editor, it will be updated in DT.

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Now I’m going back to bed :sleeping:

Thanks. It works.

You’re welcome.

I know this is a pretty old thread, but I am reading it with interest. I use Obsidian as well and index the vault in Devonthink. In my use case Obsidian is pretty much a text editor to do markdown write up and design the flow of my documents, because all of my file storage and knowledge management is happening in Devonthink.

Yesterday @BLUEFROG highlighted to me some of the DT capabilities of using markdown and writing like a wiki with a blank page. This has caused me to wonder about how much I can optimise a Devonthink workspace layout to be more conducive to my writing style.

I am a big fan of when I write to have minimal distractions and a blank sheet of paper. With all due respect to the DT designers, the editing functions in DT have never clicked with me. I know everyone is different, so many would disagree. And it is not that I haven’t tried because I love DT, having owned it for over a decade pushing myself to use its editing capabilities and a few years ago I finally broke down and started using external editors, settling on Typora. So in the last year when I started playing with Obsidian, it was much more expandable than Typora and it was an easy transition particularly because I could continue to keep my writing synced in the DT database.

As I do experiment with DT replacing Obsidian completely with the new knowledge that @BLUEFROG imparted to me, I will need to see what it is that I will be leaving behind with Obsidian. There are some plugins that I know I really like and that will force me to look at scripts in DT to see if I can find equivalents.

For example, I have a ‘Home Page’ in Obsidian that uses dataview to call up pages based on metadata and tags. This gives me at a glance all my ‘active’ projects and evergreen notes. It is not as elaborate as some examples in the Obsidian community, because I don’t have the time or patience to work on it. The problem with these tools is that you can spend more time learning to use them and design your own stuff, and have little time for the actual work that you need to be doing! Regardless, creating a dynamic Home Page with a reasonably good workspace design in DT would be very helpful as a ‘dashboard’ for the various writings that I have in development at any one time.

If anyone has gone this route from Obsidian to DT, or has developed this kind of Home Page/Dashboard, I would be very open to any examples or ideas.

DT is a cool tool and as far as I can see, as long as it will be produced, I will keep it with or without external text editors. It is one of the few apps that has stood the test of time and is one of the main reasons I have no interest in leaving Apple OSX. I tell my friends that DT so good for knowledge management, that it is worth coming to OSX ecosystem for that alone.

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Have you tried iA Writer together with Devonthink? I believe they complement each other very well. The iA Writer for a super optimized and clean writing environment, and Devonthik for all the organizing and advanced features.

Here is a more minimal view, noting you can collapse the sections in the Navigate sidebar…

The global smart groups can be used for the dashboard or you could open a specific database in Open Databases and use local smart groups there.

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Great input! I had just set up something very similar before I saw your post, so I am on the right track!

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And don’t forget you have the favorite section at the top of the navigate side bar too!

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It’s funny that this thread has popped up, because I’ve had a vague feeling of unrest this week about whether to commit to some kind of external markdown editor. It’s been ticking over in the back of my mind but I was ignoring it, and assumed I was being lured by the temptation of Shiny New Apps. Then today my pondering seemed to merge into a fully-formed disgruntlement about something. I came here to see what wise words had been said about this before, and it turns out you’re already talking about the same topic!

I’ve been tinkering with Obsidian alongside DevonThink for the last month or so, and whilst I like it, I just don’t think it fits in the way I like to work. But I want it to fit into my workflow, so I’ve kept persevering. I’ve thought about it a bit and decided the reason I want to use Obsidian is because I like the Markdown editor. I decided that wasn’t very specific, and after playing in both DT and Obsidian a bit this afternoon I’ve decided what I really like is changing the colour of Obsidian’s editor at whim, and foldable headings. That’s it :joy:

So really, I either need an external editor that gives me foldable headings and customisable appearances, or I’d like DT to add foldable headings in Markdown :grimacing: Please can I add it to the wishlist?

and after playing in both DT and Obsidian a bit this afternoon I’ve decided what I really like is changing the colour of Obsidian’s editor at whim, and foldable headings. That’s it :joy:

There is no such thing as native foldable sections in Markdown. This is Obsidian doing custom things (similar to their custom transclusion syntax). For us, this would require converting the preview to be a full hybrid editor, i.e., WYSIWYG preview with editing.

Their foldable headings is also smoke and mirrors as the effect is seen nowhere else except Obsidian. Another proprietary mechanism. We try to stay away from such things.

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This is the very reason that, after trying it for a while, I deleted Obsidian. I really do not like apps that don’t comply with proper markdown standards (of whatever flavour of markdown). That, it seems to me, simply removes one of the great advantages of markdown—the ability to move files seamlessly between (compliant) applications.

Stephen

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Do you know about the dynamic outline / TOC feature in DT3? Ctl-4 brings up the Inspector > Table of Contents panel, which displays the various headings in a markdown (and RTF) document? Clicking on any of the headings scrolls you to that position in the editor.

Of course, this is not the same as foldable headings, but it does give you a quick way of navigating round the document, so it may be enough for your needs. It’s the same approach many other markdown editors use, and I find it quite helpful.

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