6 Replies to “Research for my continuing stone-up-hill effort to convert people to markdown/plain text for drafting”

  1. Hmmm, I don't know. It seems like the crux of the argument is the plain text file format, which all modern word processors can save to, if that's necessary.

    What about programs like Scrivener, which help more on the set up and first draft of something than the editing stuff?

  2. Scrivener is divisive, in my experience – people who like it really like it – people that don't find it matches their workflow either don't care about it at all or find it actively interferes with their process.

    I am firmly in the second camp, on a sliding scale from 'don't really care' to 'get this fucking thing off my screen and let me work.'

    The main crux of plaintext of it is this:

    * Future proof and flexible – Excepting the death of the language in which you're writing, plain text works; it always works, it works in any program that can open a text file (on any operating system, on any device), it's always going to be readable, doesn't have any backwards or forwards compatibility issues, and doesn't accumulate cruft that doesn't have to do with whatever it is you wrote. In short, something I wrote in plain text has the highest chance of surviving and still being readable, for the longest amount of time.

    If and when I get to the stage of creating something where I start to deal with distributing it, the fact that the original content exists as plain text guarantees that it will be compatible with whatever program I want to use to print/publish.

    Formatting isn't a concern: thanks to markdown (which is dead simple, readable my actual humans, and which I've been using since wikis became a thing), I've already handled basic formatting instinctively in the plaintext file itself.

    Virtually any markdown editor around can export plaintext files to html, word, pdf, epub (thank you, Ulysses III), while still leaving the original text file universally accessible.

    * For me, it's about the difference between writing and printing. "Printing" (hard copies, publishing, electronic distribution, et cetera) is, in a nutshell, what a program like Word or Scrivener is ultimately for – formatting/laying out/organizing stuff to get it ready for distribution, and that's when I use those tools.

    But until then, those tools get in the way.

  3. That makes sense.

    I have a difficult time doing the "just sit and write" thing. I enjoy the any levels of Scriviner. I can write my outline by formatting my file system (and writing nots in the fields of each one), and then I can write to that outline…writing in that outline is how it really feels.

    Projects seem to come to life more readily when done that way for me. If I just sit and write and write myself into a corner, with all the work that's necessary to go back and fix it, it becomes way to easy for me to walk away from the project early.

  4. You might want to take a look at Ulysses III, if you're on a Mac. It has some of that same functionality, with some really nice features. Only app-store program I've seen with perfect 5-star ratings from everyone who's bothered to rate it. Kind of nuts.

  5. The reason I mention it is the way it can work with "sheets" (sort of like scriv's noteboard), outlines, et cetera, and then 'glue' them together into a document in whatever order when you're ready to rock.

    Also exports right to epub, which is sort of sweet.

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