Below are some workflows between my typical writing apps, using Markdown as a writing syntax. I can use Markdown to format my notes and texts quickly ready for publishing to my blog, through Scrivener, and even into my huge research and notes database in Evernote.
Note: this is a long post, so only for those who like to read of other’s workflows (I did not want to split them out into even further posts on the same topic of Markdown). Note that Scrivener users should look at the hot tip, which is applicable to other areas outside of Markdown also.
TOC to Markdown Workflow
- 1. Scrivener for Writing with Markdown
- 2. Scrivener for Blogging with Markdown
- 3. Blogging and Markdown
- 4. Evernote and Markdown
For more on what Markdown is, please see the previous post – Writing Fast with Markdown.
Because I typically “hang” with similar-to-me writer types, for a longtime I considered Scrivener as fundamentally a writing program for fiction writers. It didn’t dawn on me that another large section of writers might be using it for many other writing forms. And it certainly didn’t dawn on me that Scrivener could be a good app for organising and writing blog posts in.
But it is. Scrivener allows for custom organisation and can hold research and various posts in different statuses towards publication. And Scrivener supports MultiMarkdown use. In fact, Scrivener can import and export Markdown files, meaning that if you write any text files in any of the other apps available for Markdown (particularly useful for the iPAD) you can then import these into Scrivener for further processing.
In previous versions Fletcher Penney’s MultiMarkDown syntax may have had to be installed before the compile MMD options appeared, but recent versions of Scrivener for Mac and Windows have Markdown built-in. You can check by going into Compile and the Compile for… shows several MultiMarkdown options for conversion.
At the moment I am attempting to get as much of my writing life – projects – into (and then out of) Scrivener as possible. However, when it comes to working from a mobile device like my iPAD and getting files transferred across to Scrivener for Windows, there’s a lot of cloud-swaps or copy/paste involved. Until such time as Scrivener has a fully synced iPAD app, much of my on-the-fly writing time is spent on iPAD writing apps which are also relevant for my blog post writing.
Several Scrivener users operate by syncing from desktop Scrivener to their iPADs or mobile devices using popular text editor apps like Simplenote or Elements. The syncing is dealt with by keeping the Scrivener produced files in a common cloud sharing folder – Dropbox. However, there are problems in that the syncing is via plain text files – any lovely formatting done within Scrivener doesn’t stick around once the file is opened into the mobile text editor.
But – the text editors mentioned above are two that in iOS support Markdown, and so does Scrivener. So the possibility remains that for Mac Scrivener users – who have a File–>Sync function within Scrivener, setting up sync between Scrivener, Dropbox and through external text editors may well work as a workflow.
Notice the caveat above. Windows Scrivener users like me still await two years after release, a sync function in Scrivener, although it’s possible to simply operate through Dropbox and Scrivener with an import/export manual process, watching out for the different file dates etc. And with Scrivener’s Markdown understanding, it opens up a route for formatting safety between these two text editors.
For further instructions on how to sync folders, the simplenote sync and syncing between my favourite iPAD notecard app, take a look at the bottom of Literature and Latte’s video tutorial page. Again, these inbuilt sync functions are only available in the Scrivener for Mac app, and not for Windows users.
Remembering that Markdown is basically an easy to use language for formatting plain text to html, ready for web publishing, it makes sense to create blogposts and other texts in it, whether through a secondary app offline or Scrivener. If I use one of the many iOS text editor apps which support Markdown, and transfer via Dropbox, then any imports/exports to/from Scrivener will retain the formatting I envisioned. Although…
There are a couple of problems when writing blog posts in Scrivener, however:
- Getting the post out to the blog (Scrivener doesn’t automatically publish to blog protocols)
- If writing text files in Markdown, you can’t see what they will look like inside Scrivener.
There are a couple of ways around the issue of publishing a post written in Scrivener to the web. Both are a manual process unfortunately, but reasonably simple:
1. Compile to Webpage (HTML)
Select the text file, compile to HTML format, saving to your hard-drive. Scrivener compile will convert the Markdown to HTML for you.
Once saved out, you will need to open this HTML file into a plain text editor, select all the text, copy and paste into the HTML/text side of your online blog editor (not the visual or WYSIWYG editor). From there you can upload and add images and further formatting before publishing.
2. Compile for MultiMarkdown (.mmd)
This option simply produces an .mmd file. If you have a Markdown editor (such as Marked.in) which allows for drag and drop or or imports, then you can then further process/preview the text in this. With Marked.in, there is also integration with several blogging services.
3. Simple Copy/Paste
Here you simply select the prepared text inside Scrivener, copy and paste into your online blog editor Html/text side, and use this for further formatting.
- WordPress.org users (standalone self-hosted WP installs) can install several good plugins for Markdown. One good one is Markdown QuickTags which inserts some buttons at the bottom of the editor window. These will convert or “render” your MDed text to HTML inside your blog editor. You will find others in the #52Tech post listing Markdown tools.
- WordPress.com users (free site) can turn on Markdown from the Admin Settings–>Writing page.
- See the WordPress.com instructions here and here is the WordPress.com Markdown Quick Reference sheet.
- Unfortunately, there is no preview function internally here so you will need to hit ‘preview’ to open the post into another browser window to see what it might look like live.
- Also, if you’re after using some of the WYSIWYG functionality in the visual editor (say, inserting the –>More tag or uploading images etc) the combination of html and Markdown sometimes doesn’t work so well.
- WordPresses’ Mobile Apps (available for Android, iOS and others) also work with Markdown – once you’ve set Markdown up in Admin you can simply type using Markdown into these apps. There is a bit of a problem if you refetch a previously published to the blog post originally written in Markdown – it comes back in html only. WordPress are looking into ways around this for future development.
- Tumblr has in house or native Markdown support which includes the ability to send email posts written in Markdown.
- As I’m not a Google Blogger user, I can’t confirm if blogspot users have native Markdown support but believe this is not the case. Instead an app or tool will be needed to convert a MD post into HTML. Several tools do this, and publish to multiple blog platforms such as Blogger.
- Other blog platforms such as Moving Type, Hubpages etc provide either native or plugins supporting Markdown. If you do encounter problems, often blogging apps provide this support and convert before publishing up to the blog itself.
Mentioned above, when you write in MD format within Scrivener you won’t be able to see what the end post may look like.
There’s actually an easy way round this using Scrivener’s inbuilt webpage feature.
Simply add a webpage using the URL to an online Markdown editor with a preview function.(Import Webpage–> Import as Dynamic Web(Embedded Browser)
Then that full page will be available to you inside of Scrivener. You can copy the text from your scrivener file, paste into the MD editor webpage, and preview what it will look like. Setup to look at your file and the Markdown embedded page side by side if you wish.
Some simple web editors worth trying are the ones with a side-by-side text MD panel and live preview panel. Here’s a simple one at Joncom. (John Combe).
<–The process workflow featured in Diagram: Simple Scrivener – Mobile Text Editor Workflow using Markdown which uses some good text editors on iOS would work also, but is a little too complicated. Typically, I would simply write the post anywhere I want (Scrivener, or Blogsy on iOS, and either send directly up to WordPress or copy/paste the text into my WordPress blog editor.
As I try to move more and more of my blog writing onto Scrivener (just waiting for the iPad App for full portability), I still remain using quite a few blogging apps for this large area of my writing:
- This blog is on WordPress.com. I can actually turn Markdown on inside of the online WordPress blog editor screen – however this has to be previewed through a separate window in my browser, and refreshed each time I change my text. I also can’t use the WYSIWYG buttons for further functionality without the html and formatting going wrong.
- On my desktop I still use old blogging app, Microsoft’s Live Writer. That’s because it lets me create tables with a plugin – I can never remember the html for tables if forced to input through the html/text editor online in WordPress.
- On my iPAD I do a lot of blog post writing, both wirelessly when connected up to the web, and offline while out and about. My favourite app for this currently is Blogsy, which integrates with most major sharing services for images and videos, allows for easy formatting, and also supports Markdown.
- I used to write some blogposts through my Evernote desktop client but when it came to copy/paste on the nicely formatted text WordPress often didn’t deal with this very well. Evernote’s rich text format doesn’t convert very well through online.
Aside from Evernote, all of the above involve direct publishing online or the apps publish to the blog using xhtml protocol, usually with a touch/tap of a button. Taking blogging out to another app and using Markdown makes sense, provided this quick publishing is possible also, and I don’t have to muck around with lots of conversions or copy/paste.
Blogsy for iPAD meets this criteria nicely. Scrivener as yet does not have online publishing functions. Mac OS users are catered for with desktop apps like Byword and MarsEdit which are blogging apps with Markdown support. Scrivener can also export to Mac app Textmate, which has a blogging option.
But the Windows desktop users don’t have an easy app to use for this. However, I’m quite happy to simply copy/paste from Scrivener or other desktop apps or type directly into my blog’s online editor.
Evernote – my goto application for note-taking and researching – doesn’t naturally support Markdown. This is because Evernote notes are in rich-text format, not plain text. But now there are several web apps and mobile apps that provide a median between text editing in Markdown and Evernote. My favourites are –
Drafts for iPad.
Simply an awesome text editor for iOS. And it supports Markdown natively, provides a MD preview, and supports many other webapps such as Facebook, Twitter, Google+, reminders, lists, and Dropbox. Oh, and Evernote – either normal text or Markdown direct to Evernote.
Drafts is also available on the Mac, and iPhone. Advanced MD extensions such as tables and footnotes are also found in this app.
Technically my blogging workflow could include using Drafts to write a blog post in, sending it up to Evernote immediately, and using many of the other functions in Drafts (such as Dropbox) to transfer through to my desktop before further processing the post until publishing. Too much? Yes. But it’s nice to know there are now several methods to support any kind of writing.
Drafts has actions that you can setup, useful for sending particular notes to certain Evernote notebooks, or apending notes onto existing ones. For a how-to on this, Jamie Todd Rubin just recently posted about using the Drafts app and Evernote with how-to screenshots on setting up the actions.
I use Drafts in a similar fashion – not for shopping lists like Jamie’s example shows, but for appending notes on my fiction project as I think of them. As Jamie’s third example shows, I have a project notebook for this novel, and append any notes I create in Drafts to one note, with a date and time, using a Send to Evernote action. As I have Markdown turned on, I can also format the notes in Markdown before touching the Evernote action.
Markable.in is an online Markdown editor with side panel preview, and supports cloud storage, Dropbox, Tumblr and Evernote integration. Also supports converting html files. For Evernote you can import your notes into Markable.in for Markdown work, and export notes out from Markable.in to Evernote.
As can be seen in the above workflow image, I have some additional use for Evernote, in that I use it to archive all my blog posts in. I can do this via IFTTT, or If That Then This, which lets me create a recipe between WordPress (new posts) and Evernote.
In this week’s #52Tech post I have a comprehensive list of the most helpful apps which work with Markdown.
This post was written in Drafts for iPad, in Markdown. The post was previewed in Drafts, then exported as a text file into Dropbox (this text file was not rendered in html, but comes through in Markdown).
I also accidentally had the Markdown to Evernote checked on, so a perfectly formatted version arrived in my Evernote inbox too. From there, I simply had to copy and paste the text over into my WordPress text editor, and add further formatting like images that you see decorating this post.