This isn’t meant to start any flames but I know there has been interest in better support for Markdown syntax. My question is: Why??

Can someone give me some sound reasons for using Markdown? (If the answer is web-based then I think you’ve lost the argument already as the world is much larger than web tech (though that’s fine for you if that’s your thing).)

What’s the issue with using RTF(D)?


I don’t believe DEVONthink needs to support Markdown “better”. There’s nothing to support. Plain text is plain text. For those who want to use them, there are plenty of Markdown editors available, and there is a free Markdown Quick Look plugin that works well with DEVONthink, etc. For my own writing I use Markdown exclusively – dozens of documents a week – working absolutely, perfectly well within the DEVONthink ecosystem – with no need for anything new (thank you very much).

For “why”, just remember Wordstar. Or Word Perfect. Just try today to use the work created in those proprietary formats not too many years ago. Or get an unreadable message from someone who uses Microsoft’s idiosyncratic RTF version in Outlook. In all those years, plain text has never stopped being readable. Probably never will.


A big plus 1 for everything that korm said-I agree completely. I will also add one additional reason for using plain text-it is easily the most portable document format out there. Just in the Apple-verse, not all editors/word processors do RTF(D) well (Mellel is one exception), and there are few options available for editing RTF(D) documents on iOS.

Umm, wow… hit a nerve there? I am not asking for justification for feature requests. I am asking why someone finds it useful.

Outside of web tech I just don’t understand what is really useful about a system that shows code instead of correct formatting unless its viewed within specific systems (ie. web or markdown enabled viewers). (Almost 30 years ago I did this on old Compugraphic systems in the pre-desktop publishing days.) If it’s just a matter of supporting plain text then why care about formatting at all?

Which reminds me of what I posted elsewhere:

I do care about formatting (and the people who pay me care a lot about it 8) ) – and with markup, pretty-printed documents can be generated on the fly – but I care more about longevity, accessibility, and future-proofing my work. The content of a text file will always, unambiguously, and without any loss of information, be obvious and available to any reader.

BTW, DEVONthink’s AI and search loves plain text better than anything else.

:confused: Are you implying everyone outside of “web tech” use WYSIWYG editors instead of writing plain text “code” with markup languages like HTML, TeX, nroff, BBCode, etc.?

According to John Gruber in Daring Fireball: Markdown, it’s intended for web writers. I don’t know if/why/how it has other purposes now.

:confused: Formatted text is often more desirable than plain text?

Surely I’m not comprehending what you’re really asking, Jim. :slight_smile:

I think it’s a bit of a stretch to see what I said as “asking for justification to get product support”. I mentioned the increase in Markdown requests here because it was the most immediate evidence of interest I had. Looking further at Markdown led me to the question: Why do people like it?

I honestly don’t personally see the usefulness and wondered if anyone other than people involved in web tech were using it and why. Just asking for opinions and reasoning. Nothing more implied.

I’m not in web tech but I am increasingly using Markdown. Future-proofing is the reason for me. The future arrived earlier than we thought when iOS came out and we found we could see but not touch our rtf documents. I wouldn’t describe the mark up as “code” in the usual sense. In many cases, the overall (but not precise) intent is clear enough from the extra symbols that are added, and they don’t detract from the intelligibility of the text. It works for me.

While not feature complete, this makes more sense to me. :smiley:

Jim, I’m curious about what makes more sense-your link is to an app that looks like just another plain text/Markdown editor.

The ones I am aware - which admittedly are few - have a split screen that previews the results of the “code” or some other mechanism for viewing. This looks like TextEdit and supports common formatting controls like Command-B for bold, etc. but is creating the Markdown under-the-hood.

See, for me, I have no desire to support Markdown as a technology. It just doesn’t fit into my scheme of things. But if there arises a future need for its use, I could see using an editor like this to write/format as I’m used to in TextEdit / Bean / etc. while having it do the conversion for me. I much prefer this approach to having to type *this #is a ###header, etc.

(If need be I can still open this file as plain text and hand adjust if need be but I’d prefer to not have to do it.) Does that make sense?

PS: I am just now starting to look at this. Are you aware of other editors that do this too? Thanks.

Perhaps. :slight_smile:

Sounds like you prefer (at least in this context) WYSIWYG(ish) “rich/visual editing” that can generate different plain text markup, more than raw markup editing (except for hand tuning). Similar to how some web designers prefer apps that normally hide HTML (e.g. Sandvox) and others prefer apps intended for coding directly in HTML (e.g. Coda).

Looking at Texts? Aware of other rich/visual editors with Markdown support similar to Texts’? Maybe Byword?

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Yes, makes sense to me. Although I will add that after I used Markdown for a while, for the most part I no longer needed to think about the syntax when writing nor did I need the preview to see the formatting. Sort of like Neo being able to view the Matrix when in code.

There are many text editors available today that really make using Markdown easy. I know because I’ve purchased most of them, especially on iOS! I’ve become a bit of a text editor junkie, even though I am really not a prolific writer. Many of the OS X editors (Byword, Ulysses III, iA Writer) will bold the text or add emphasis with command-b and command-i and the text will appear on screen as bold and italic text. Folding Text has some interesting Markdown features in that it will format the text and hide the code, so the text will look like the bold and/or italic text in a RTF document (no visible ‘*’). When these documents are opened in another text editor, all the Markdown code is visible.

There are also some TextExpander snippets and Keyboard Maestro shortcuts out there to assist writing Markdown in a plain text editor that doesn’t support the syntax (command-b, command-i, etc.) directly, such as is the case with DEVONthink. Personally, I’ve found that it is more troublesome to remember these TE/KM shortcuts than it is to add the code manually, so I just do that. If I have extensive writing/edits, I just open the document in my preferred Markdown editor.

  • As a note, there is a lot more to Markdown and MultiMarkdown than just bold and italic text, but you get the idea.

Long ago, in Apple II days, I used a text editor named Gutenberg. Relatively sophisticated formatting and layouts could be entered using markups much like the current ones, and graphics could be created as well. For example, I included benzene ring structures in a report about dioxins, that was written in Gutenberg.

ImageWriter printouts honored the Gutenberg commands, and a few print shops were set up to print books directly from the marked up text. The Gutenberg manual was a hard bound book printed in this way.

Confession: I really, really like seeing formatting, images, etc. directly as I’m writing, and do my drafting in rich text and most final editing in Pages. I don’t often include complex math equations. When I do, I’ll set them up in something like LaTex and then copy/paste the image into my rich text or Pages document. :slight_smile:

Generally my final output of a project is PDF exported from Pages. That’s probably the most ‘durable’ digital format available today, in terms of file obsolescence over time. My guess is that future computers will be able to interpret/display PDFs for a long time to come.

However, in my DEVONthink Pro Office databases, I rarely capture content as PDF, preferring rich text captures of Web content as more editable and file-size efficient.

Something I hadn’t considered:

TidBITS: With Markdown, Even the Blind Can Write

Thanks for the link, sjk. A good read and a good reminder that others may struggle in ways we often forget when those struggles aren’t shared. :^)

So here’s the deal… proving that I am nothing if not teachable, today I found a use for Markdown. (I know, I know - cue the angelic choir. :smiley: )

A User wanted to use RTF (which I love) that supported links but wanted to do some Applescript stuff to split the file. This is no trivial task considering the underlying framework of RTF. Oddly, my first instinct was - plain text… with links? I bet Markdown would do it and sure enough, nicely handled.

I would still rather type in a formatted fashion a lá TextEdit and have the Markdown being generated under-the-hood (because I’m very visual that way, and I spend enough time raw coding 8) ) but this was a good proof-of-concept and a nice little win for Markdown.

Hi, me too i’m experimenting with markdown, a feature that i would like to see in DT for a better support is of course the ability to change style (by css) and also a preference to have .md file displayed as “compiled” by default. (after all html files are not shown as source or not?)

Hi, mi too i’m experimenting with markdown, a feature that i would like to see in DT for a better support is of course the ability to change style (by css) and also a preference to have .md file displayed as “compiled” by default. (after all html files are not shown as source or not?)