43 Folders

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Merlin’s weekly podcast with Dan Benjamin. We talk about creativity, independence, and making things you love.

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”What’s 43 Folders?”
43Folders.com is Merlin Mann’s website about finding the time and attention to do your best creative work.

In further praise of Markdown

Sweet, lovely Markdown I got my first PalmPilot in 1997 or so, and I knew it had begun to get its hooks into me when Grafitti characters started popping up in my longhand—most often as “e’s??? that looked like backward threes and “m’s??? that resembled McDonalds’ golden arches. It was a testament to how even your most ingrained physical gestures can be rewired over a relatively short period of time.

Well, friends, I now find I’m writing—in longhand, mind you—using Markdown. For those who haven’t tried it yet, Markdown is John Gruber’s insanely great syntax and transformation tool for turning structured text into valid XHTML.

I’m discovering that, when I’m jotting quickly, headings become “#s??? and bullets are “*s.??? Of course the sheer madness here is that drawing a three-stroke asterisk takes much more time than, say, making a dot, and don’t even ask about a hash that requires four lines. Such is the influence of Mr. Gruber’s wonderfully useful tool and its ubiquity in my workflow; its irreplaceable value in my typing world has bled over into my increasingly disused handwriting world—where it’s actually a huge mental deficit. Stupid brain: you’re going to bed without your serotonin tonight.

As ever, I really recommend you take a spin with Markdown, particularly in the context of gu.st’s wonderful HumaneText No.4. It’s a terrific OS X Service that combines Markdown with Smartypants and html2text (Aaron Swartz’s elegant reverse-MD Python script).

HumaneText is a breeze to install, and I promise it will shave minutes of brainless markup from your day, every day—even if you do start noticing the disturbing side effect of occasionally replacing a perfectly useful straight line with “***???. I, for one, can live with that.

(For you Wintel/Cygwin kids, be sure to check out Sippey’s smart little hack: markdown for windows.)

Jordan's picture

This looks like it might...

This looks like it might be helpful to some people, but I must say, I Don't Get It. I don't want to sound like a curmudgeon, but if one is going to take the time to learn the basic Markdown syntax, why not just learn basic XHTML formatting? It just doesn't strike me off the bat as a hugely convenient conversion process (as opposed to say, programming in C++ and having the compiler worry about the machine code or someday in the [hopefully near] future when a program can convert a text document into a specified format, DWIM-style).

Ive read the developer's page several times over because I didnt want to be one of Those People who didnt RFTA, but I still just don't understand it. Can anyone explain to me what I am missing?




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