Why you should write in markdown ⬇️
Ever since I decided to move to all-digital note-taking, over the past few years, I’ve used a number of note-taking apps to find what works best for me. During this pursuit for the ideal note-taking app, I realised that two features were essential for my purpose.
A. Storing notes in plain text files
- The note library needs to be future proof and not locked within any application or platform
- Plain text files, those which have only user readable content, have been around for decades and will continue be in use practically forever
- Plain text files adopt a universal open standard across platforms
B. Basic text formatting
- Formatting text allows us to introduce structure, emphasis and relationships between parts of the text
- It allows us to convey a lot more meaning than what is expressed merely with words
- Doing so adds elegance to your text
The only way that I know of to achieve both A and B is with markdown.
What is Markdown?
Over time, the standard evolved and various flavours of markdown emerged. This obviously poses some compatibility issues. You can find more about some of these standards here. To resolve this issue while maintaining the utter simplicity of Markdown, a number of services, websites and programming languages adopted the now most popular flavour of markdown: CommonMark.
How does this benefit me in particular?
- My notes written in markdown are more or less future-proof
- Although I have a go-to app for all of my note-taking, writing notes with markdown allows me platform independence
- This is possible because it is an open standard
- Markdown meets both my requirements for note-taking with remarkable speed — (A) using plain text format and (B) allowing basic text formatting
- It has wide support with a growing adoption rate
- It provides the ability to render the notes as HTML or PDFs files to be shared with others
In case you are looking for recommendations, here are some tools that I use for markdown note-taking and are worth exploring. Having tried numerous alternatives, I find these to be among the best markdown editors for most people, although they come with slightly different feature sets and use-cases:
- Bear: Private Markdown Notes for iPhone, iPad and Mac
- iA Writer: The Benchmark of Markdown Writing Apps
- Obsidian: A second brain, for you, forever
- 1Writer: Powerful, beautiful Markdown editor for iOS
My favourite among them is bear as it brings together just the right mix of features that makes most sense for me, especially because it allows linking to notes within other notes. It is also great in terms of aesthetics and ease of use. No matter how many different apps I try, I always keep coming back to this one and it has now remained my note-taking app of choice for at least the last 3 years.
iA writer comes in a close second and I use it especially when I find the need for their 'style check' feature that automatically reviews your text to highlight redundancies and filler words.
Obsidian is the most promising new tool out there for markdown note-taking. Presently there is no mobile version (but is being built). However, its strongest feature is the implementation of links between various notes coupled with the graph view of all linked notes.
1writer is a great mobile companion app for users who find Obsidian to be their desktop app of choice.
- Write notes digitally using plain text files to make them durable.
- Use markdown to add structure and formatting, making your notes richer and more readable while keeping them in the plain text files.
- Use a tool specifically designed to handle commonmark markdown syntax along with some advanced features such as search, backlinks, tags and whatever else you find useful for your purpose.
Do these three things and note-taking will never be the same again!