Question

Markdown vs. Rich Text: How do you prefer to write?

Do you prefer to format your text with symbols like *this*, or would you rather press CMD+B to add bold text? Do you prefer writing without toolbars, or want toolbars and options and things to tweak?

What makes markdown or rich text better for you?

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#Blogging #Writing
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petersteinberg's avatar
2 years ago

I prefer rich text. What' the point of having computers more powerful than what the Space Shuttle flew with if we can't even display a few words in bold or italics? It takes as little time, if not less, to type Command-I before and after a word than it does to surround it in italics or whatever markdown requires for italics. As an added bonus, your words will be interpreted exactly the way you meant by al readers, regardless of their knowledge of Markdown. And the text can be stored in markdown so it can be displayed across a variety of platforms correctly. But that's just my opinion. :-)

5 points
maguay's avatar
@maguay (replying to @petersteinberg )
2 years ago

That’s a great point, and if anything highlights why it’s so frustrating when copying and pasting rich text between software doesn’t work better.

The perfect middle ground may be markdown editors that hide the markdown formatting, then, and still reply on standard keyboard shortcuts. They save the text in Markdown so it’s more universally compatible and more reliable to paste between software, but hide that from the user.

What’s your favorite writing software?

1 point
AndyDentPerth's avatar
2 years ago

One of the problems is that rich text is not compatible across platforms a lot of the time. Coping and pasting text from one web app to a local desktop or iOS app doesn't always preserve formatting.

I would love a "paste as markdown" clipboard extension on macOS so if I copy rich text I can paste the markdown equivalent because it annoys me intensely losing the odd bit of emphasis. I don't need massive paragraph layout but I want the bolds, italics and strikethru.

On the subject of typing speed, no it's a lot less disruptive to type a single character at the beginning and end of words than to toggle with command keys.

So my ideal is a bit like Slack and BitBucket's text editor now do - you can type in either Markdown or using command keys. But, I want at least the ability to copy out as Markdown for use elsewhere.

4 points
maguay's avatar
@maguay (replying to @AndyDentPerth )
2 years ago

Paste as Markdown is a great idea.

The thing that originally got me switched to Markdown was how annoying it was to paste rich text into WordPress. It was literally easier to convert rich text into HTML and paste it into WordPress code mode than it was to clean up a Word doc pasted into WordPress. Markdown eliminates that hassle while being far easier to deal with for longform content than HTML.

I think the worst is editors that let you enter Markdown characters and turn them into rich text, but then only let you copy out rich text. It’s the moving between software where Markdown has the most advantage.

2 points
NBNite's avatar
@NBNite (replying to @AndyDentPerth )
2 years ago

Paste as Markdown would be incredible... hey Windows/Mac - let's get on it!

2 points
maguay's avatar
@maguay (replying to @NBNite )
2 years ago

YES!

1 point
sotakal's avatar
2 years ago

Markdown all the way. It allows you to save time by keeping all fingers on the keyboard and you don’t have to click anything, you don’t have to go back select text to format it, and it prevents variable formatting because everything is rendered the same way. But I get that not all editors do it perfectly, although many modern apps handle markdown syntax well and they can render the source to dynamically reflect the syntax.

3 points
maguay's avatar
@maguay (replying to @sotakal )
2 years ago

Definitely nice to see Markdown increasingly supported in more apps!

1 point
shawnyeager's avatar
2 years ago

I’ve been a devoted (rabid?) user of Markdown for a decade+, and before that, it was Textile. To me, it’s the ultimate in portability. I’ve swapped out loads of writing and note taking apps over the years, each time, knowing that I can move my thousands of Markdown-styled notes and writings over with little to no hassle.

One of the main reasons I’ve relegated Evernote to a glorified scanner + OCR tool is the lack of Markdown support.

3 points
maguay's avatar
@maguay (replying to @shawnyeager )
2 years ago

Apps that still support Textile trip me up so bad as I use single asterisks for italics and double for bold in Markdown by default, and both turn into bold in Textile. Cracks me up too that Slack always supported Textile, not Markdown, but everyone (including their team) refers to their older text formatting as Markdown.

Evernote’s right up there with Word, too, in making rich text pasting a nightmare where you never know quite what you’re going to get when you copy from one and paste into some other rich text app.

2 points
aredridel's avatar
2 years ago

Markdown hands down, because it doesn't vary so much — I can use the same controls almost everywhere. None of the rich text editors are consistent in the slightest, sometimes even within themselves.

2 points
maguay's avatar
@maguay (replying to @aredridel )
2 years ago

It’s really incredible how rich text for copy and paste hasn’t been better standardized. It’s bad enough I rely on an Alfred workflow to let me paste as plain text everywhere, otherwise odds are you’ll end up with some broken formatting.

1 point
michihuber's avatar
2 years ago

I'm really used to using _ and * for italics and bolding, and usually surprised when it doesn't work in apps – much easier to type than cmd+b.

that said, I do prefer when markdown gets changed to rich-text as it is typed. wysiwyg does feel better when the interactions are implemented well and it works reliably.

2 points
maguay's avatar
@maguay (replying to @michihuber )
2 years ago

It’s funny how the habits build up and typing the formatting characters becomes second nature, isn’t it?

Do you have a favorite writing app that does a great job at supporting Markdown writing but hiding the editing characters?

2 points
2387461's avatar
2 years ago

When I'm actually writing, I generally don't want to think about the formatting. Being a designer, if I want it to look nice, I will probably pull the raw text into a design tool to format it.

However, when the presentation of a text element is semantic (eg. lists, headings, emphasis), I like to be able to format it as I write. If I think about it before I type it, I'm likely to use markdown. If I think about it after I type it, I might use keyboard shortcuts. I enjoy writing in tools that support both (Slack, Notion, GitHub).

What it really comes down to for me is I just don't want to have to reach for my mouse.

2 points
maguay's avatar
@maguay (replying to @2387461 )
2 years ago

That’s a great breakdown of when each is useful. Markdown keeps you from reaching for the mouse while writing, where rich text would more so when editing.

iA Writer had this interesting mode a few years back where you wrote in markdown with a monospaced font, then edited in a formatted text mode with a sans serif typeface, to try to switch mental models between writing and editing. Would be interesting to see more tools explore writing vs. editing modes.

2 points
SevenAmtea's avatar
2 years ago

I have just started using Typora and I find it so easy to use.

2 points
Livenadav's avatar
@Livenadav (replying to @SevenAmtea )
2 years ago

Me too.
Typora is super awesome!

1 point
scott's avatar
2 years ago

5 years ago? Rich text.

Today? Markdown, hand's down.

Of course as my web development career has evolved and I'm writing blog posts for static sites like Jekyll in .md on a daily basis, this only makes sense. But beyond that, I visually love something about Markdown and its syntax. It's just nice to look at! :-)

2 points
maguay's avatar
@maguay (replying to @scott )
2 years ago

Yup that makes sense—once you get used to Markdown, it feels weird not to use it. Just a bit of a tough transition at first (like un-learning double-spacing between sentences).

1 point
abhishek's avatar
2 years ago

Markdown for sure. Additionally, a smart editor which turns markdown to rich text is amazing.
1. Easier to type
2. Better cross platform compatibility

Although, lot of consumers prefer rich text toolbar options, so ensure that the rich text editor content is encoded to markdown before it gets saved to db.

I started using markdown a lot since I moved to Quire for my project management.

2 points
maguay's avatar
@maguay (replying to @abhishek )
2 years ago

Quire looks nice—don't think I'd come across it before! What got you to switch to it?

2 points
abhishek's avatar
@abhishek (replying to @maguay )
2 years ago

Before Quire, I was using Asana.

I liked the simplicity of Quire. Minimal use of trackpad. Lists, Sublists and Kanban are tightly integrated.

1 point
maguay's avatar
@maguay (replying to @abhishek )
2 years ago

Gottcha. The list view and progress dots look tempting!

1 point
abhishek's avatar
@abhishek (replying to @maguay )
2 years ago

The problem with most project management tools are they start noisy and evolve into messy. With Quire, I hope that in the worst case, it would evolve into noisy.

2 points
fhiguera's avatar
2 years ago

I am so used to using markup symbols to stylize my text. Heuristically, the pattern is already engraved in my thought process, and it is a shortcut rather than selecting with the trackpad and then clicking or on a menu/hitting command keys.

I guess it boils down to efficiency for me and the mental patterns that I already created.

1 point
maguay's avatar
@maguay (replying to @fhiguera )
2 years ago

This is the other great thing about Markdown for me; it’s easy to write and add formatting without breaking the flow. Somehow typing an asterisk or underscore fits into writing more than pressing CMD-B—the former fits the flow of writing, the latter breaks the flow and makes you think about the command, somehow.

1 point
fhiguera's avatar
@fhiguera (replying to @maguay )
2 years ago

Agreed! It's all about efficiency. If Richard Hendricks would hear us, he will say we use tabs instead of spaces to indent our code. 😂

2 points
loosewire's avatar
2 years ago

Markdown, so long as it's well-supported -- as many of its features as possible -- and also a WYSIWYG that makes it look half decent. Ulysses is probably the best at that, Bear is nice but a tad frustrating (why do H2, H3, H4 look so similar?) iA Writer is pretty good. I'm increasingly seeing markdown used in non-geek environments, like newsrooms, so it has the excellent effect of making everyone conversant on a standard way of formatting text, so long as apps implement it and respect the most common syntax elements.

1 point
maguay's avatar
@maguay (replying to @loosewire )
2 years ago

Ulysses and iA Writer both perhaps make the best case for Markdown writing. Ulysses even does well at hiding the syntax, though editing links can be a bit frustrating and require the mouse.

Does Bear let you customize your editing template at all? Though even needing to do so would be a downside vs. iA Writer + Ulysses.

1 point
loosewire's avatar
@loosewire (replying to @maguay )
2 years ago

Not to my knowledge. There are some themes but that's pretty much it. It is, no question, a beautiful environment, and I see folk like Andy Matuschak use it as their main note-taker https://www.twitch.tv/videos/611050187

1 point
Jiwon's avatar
2 years ago

I actually prefer to mix them. I'm not a developer and I'm not that familiar with the shortcuts. However, I prefer to use them for simple formatting options like B, H1, H2, OL, UL, and checklist. Recently, a lot of note tools support the mixed feature with seamless UX.

1 point
Sancravo-101's avatar
2 years ago

I prefer markdown AND rich text.

Both have their functionality.

1 point
maguay's avatar
@maguay (replying to @Sancravo-101 )
2 years ago

When do you prefer to use each?

1 point
mercurialsolo's avatar
@mercurialsolo (replying to @maguay )
2 years ago

Similar experience, I like to mix both. Depends on what is muscle memory and recalled, often time i don't recall the keyboard shortcuts, but having used enough links using markdown i may end up using the []() syntax. Don't have much of a preference for when to use what. Good editors these days tend to seamlessly switch

1 point
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