Markdown, File formats and a new way of working

I have grumbled, if you will, in the past about my workflow. Specifically my concerns have been with file formats, having almost lost my entire back log due to outdated file types.

After that I changed to RTF, using that as my primary file container. It worked, and aside from annoyances on my computer, I had no issues… UNTIL I wanted to edit them on my phone. Apparently RTF cannot be edited on a mobile device easily.

Recently I’ve made a new switch. This time I have switched to Markdown. What is markdown? Well, what it is not is a new file format. It is a way of writing that stores the basic formatting needs inside of a text file.

For example: if i wanted to make something italic, I simply surround it in asterisks, such as *this* (which turns into this). Similarly, bolding is two asterisks, like **so** (and so)

And some other things too, such as links and images. An advanced form called MultiMarkDown includes tables and footnotes. All of this is stored in a simple TXT file.

Why is that important? Because I can edit a TXT file anywhere. My workflow has now freed itself of the specific program I am using, and allows me to use any and all of my devices for writing and editing. Also the files are small, just in case that was a concern.

So, how? I’ll not go through everything, but let’s touch on some of the big points.

Dropbox

Dropbox is my cornerstone, at this point, and I am not sure how I managed without it. (Mostly I used zip disks and thumb drives, actually, but you know what I mean…)

All my writing goes here. It is backed up online, on all of my devices, accessible on my phone.

ByWord

ByWord is the app that started all this mess. It is a distraction free writer app, first for the iPhone / iPad, and then later came out with a Mac edition. It uses Markdown for formatting, and provides a clean, simple way of writing. Files are saved as .txt files in dropbox and boom, available everywhere.

And, since they are TXT, using them doesn’t eat into my monthly bandwidth on my phone.

I use it to write, take notes and edit on my phone and computer seamlessly.

DayOne

DayOne is my journal. This was another app offered up by Apple promotions that I grabbed. At first, I simply played with it… but then!

What is it? It is a journalling app. Not a note app, though you can certainly use it that way too. Rather it is designed to put in entries based on a calendar.

For my, I used it most at first by simply logging the events of my day at the end. Sometimes with pictures. Then I started taking memorable pictures I wanted more context with and adding them.

Journalling each day is good for us as writers, and I found myself using it more and more, adding in little notes for ideas and such, eventually deciding to use it for blog entries as well.

DayOne uses XML as its base file format, but the formatting is still MarkDown. XML is still text based, so you can get in there should DayOne go away.

Other Markdown

I use markdown now in my WordPress blog, making it easier to go from DayOne, or ByWord to post (like I did with this post, DayOne -> WordPress). I have fallen for AirMail, a Mac email client that too uses Markdown as an option, allowing me to format emails quickly and nicely. I’ve added Write App to my tool box, because it allows for easier navigation of multiple files.

I’ve even started a CMS (content management system) that allows straight markdown files to be used for content, instead of a database (why? because I am a geek, that’s why)

So give it a shot, this Markdown tutorial let’s you play with syntax! Later, I’ll write up how I use these tools for my specific workflow.

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