How Markdown Saves Time Writing, Taking Notes, and Blogging

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Do you take notes across multiple platforms and devices?

Are you frustrated with the ability to create documents on your mobile?

I want to share how I write, take notes, and even blog on the go, no matter what platform I am using.

It’s called Markdown, and it’s a simple text-based method for writing your ideas. (Markdown experts can skip to below.)

Perhaps you’ve heard of Markdown, but didn’t know how to get started or use it. Or maybe you wrote it off as too complex, or only for web programmers.

Today, I will show you how easy Markdown is to use and how it can save you time.

What Is Markdown?

Markdown is a quick text entry method. It is a simple syntax language to let you write with formatting in plain text.

It was created by John Gruber (see here) and was originally a way for programmers to convert text for use on the web.

It is still great for web HTML creation. However, it is also a simple way to capture notes and create cross-platform documents. Markdown has taken on a life of its own, as there are now many apps and text editors that utilize it.

“Markdown is an easy method to take notes, create documents, and blog. It is particularly useful on mobile devices to create documents on the go.”

While Markdown may seem overwhelming for beginners, it’s really quite simple.

The best way to explain it is to show some examples…

Markdown examples:

# are used for headers. (# = Header 1, ## = Header 2, and so on.)

## Sample Header

becomes an level 2 header like this…

Sample Header

* is used for emphasis. For example, *this is emphasized* = this is emphasized.

** is used for bold. **This is bold** = This is bold.

Catching on?

Lists are as simple as starting lines with a “-” or a “1.”

- Item 1

- Item 2

- Item 3

Becomes…

  • Item 1
  • Item 2
  • Item 3

Many text editors will help you out with Markdown. For example, Byword will continue bulleted/numbered lists automatically. (Ulysses III will do the same if you hit alt-enter.)

If you are new to Markdown, start with the basics and the rest will come. Later, you can get fancier and include URL links, images, and more.

Here is a short 3-minute video that shows how I create blog posts with Markdown.

Why Markdown?

I use Markdown everywhere. On my iPhone, iPad, and Mac. It is a great timesaver on the go.

Sometimes, when I am taking notes on my iPad… to causal observers it looks like I am writing in “The Matrix Code.”

Then, when I hit preview… they are like, “Whoa… how did you do that?”

Markdown makes taking notes, writing text, and even blogging much easier.

Here are 5 Ways That Markdown Saves Time:

  1. Quick – Writing in Markdown is quick. You can capture all your ideas without lifting your fingers from the keyboard.
  2. Concentrate on Writing, Not Formatting – Don’t waste time with bloated word processor features. Writing in Markdown helps you stick to the basics and concentrate on your ideas instead of the software you are using.
  3. Portable – With Markdown, you don’t have to worry about document formats. (Which version of Word are you using? Google Docs? What?) Markdown is text-based, so you can drop it into whatever app you want to use.
  4. Blogging – Markdown started as a web HTML tool and it is particularly useful for bloggers and writing for the web. Markdown editors export directly to HTML so that you immediately publish in WordPress or your software of choice.
  5. Better Control Over Text – Have you ever wrangled with text formatting? Whether in Word or WordPress, it is not fun fighting with text formatting that seems to be wrong. Markdown makes it easy to see where your formatting is and control it.

Markdown for Everyone

Writing in Markdown is not complex. Once you get the hang of it, you will be hooked.

It’s not just for web programming anymore, but also for notes and mobile documents.

Try out apps like Drafts, Byword, or iA Writer to get started.

Whether taking notes or creating a document on the go, Markdown can save you time and effort.

Question: How do you use Markdown in your work? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Check out my new Kindle eBooks: I have just released two new "Best of TMN" eBooks via Amazon. If you are new to TMN or want a compilation of some of my best TMN writings, then please check out my new ebooks on Amazon by clicking here.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • Jeffrey Bunn

    I LOVE using iA Writer to write blog posts. So clean and simple. Great post!

    • http://www.timemanagementninja.com/ Craig Jarrow

      I use Byword every day. :)

      Been trying out Ulysses III a bit, too. Like their binder-like environment with all your writings in one place.

      • Jeffrey Bunn

        Byword looks nice and simple. Ulysses not as much, but the writing in one place is definitely a benefit. For me, the more minimalist, the better.

      • http://www.timemanagementninja.com/ Craig Jarrow

        Simple is good… and best.

        I actually tweaked the UI scheme of Ulysses to look like Byword.
        Maybe I should just stick with Byword. :)

      • Jeffrey Bunn

        Haha. I think you’ve already answered your own question :)

  • http://sabiavida.com Miguel de Luis

    A limitation of markdown is when you need to implement CSS classes or less common elements; though it works like heaven for a simple article

  • Johnny McClung

    I’ve been using Markdown in writing my blog post. i really like the simplicity and ease of it. But still trying to get the hang of it.

    • http://www.timemanagementninja.com/ Craig Jarrow

      Sounds good. I found that I picked up more and more of it by practice.

      What is your Markdown editor of choice for blogging?

      • Johnny McClung

        Currently, I am using Drafts. I write up the post then copy the markdown and paste into WordPress. However, I like the features of the web app Draft, but using only my iPad, it doesn’t work well. I’ve thought of switching to AI Writer or Byword as I have heard a lot about them.

  • http://www.budgetmaxer.com/ Darrius

    I’ve heard of Markdown but never really cared for it. That is until I saw your demonstration video. I am now sold! I like to format as I go, and doing so in Evernote on iOS (especially on the phone) is not the best experience. I was also writing blog posts in Word and pasting them to Blogger/Wordpress, which ended up causing formatting problems. This solves that problem. Thanks!

    • http://www.timemanagementninja.com/ Craig Jarrow

      Give it a try and you’ll be hooked. :)

      • http://www.budgetmaxer.com/ Darrius

        I just downloaded iA Writer for Mac and will probably use Drafts on iOS because of its exporting options. Thanks again for the recommendation.

  • http://www.dalecallahan.com Dale Callahan

    Love this. Just too simple. I have and use Byword and never noticed this easy trick! Thanks

    • http://www.timemanagementninja.com/ Craig Jarrow

      Great! Glad to help.

      By the way, Byword also has a Premium upgrade (one time $4.99 fee) that gives the ability to publish directly to WordPress, Tumblr, Evernote, and more.

  • http://www.forbenmedia.com/ Rick Yentzer

    I’ve been using Markdown for a few months now. There are three things about Markdown that stand out:

    I can open an .md file in a normal text editor such as TextEdit. A proprietary app is NOT required to use it.

    Before it’s converted, it is still very easy to read the content and not get lost in tag soup.

    It doesn’t suffer from the formatting annoyances with copy/pasting rich text files. Many apps read and convert Markdown beautifully.

    I use Markdown for note taking and writing. Because I’m a developer I use it directly within the Sublime Text Editor with Marked to preview it if needed.

  • http://jorgesilvestrini.com/ Jorge Silvestrini

    Great to read your post and best to actually see an example on video. Thanks! I remember when we talked a lot about this in the past. You didn’t mention the iPad book resource. Might be useful to other users starting out!

    I have stopped writing for the blog because I’m repurposing everything web but I will continue to use markdown as I find it very useful for writing.

  • Pingback: How Markdown Saves Time Writing, Taking Notes, and Blogging | 15 Minute Success

  • Chuck

    If you’re just looking for simple stuff, Markdown is nice.

    However, if you’re doing anything even slightly more complex than basic note taking, check out Asciidoc. Its very similar in the style and method of using MD, but is far more extensible. As a technical writer, I’ve found Asciidoc to be powerful tool that is easy to learn and extend to any need.

    Most of the MD people that I introduce to it switch in short order.

    • http://www.timemanagementninja.com/ Craig Jarrow

      Thanks for the tip. Will take a look. :)

  • http://unpunctuatedlife.com/ Laura Lindeman

    How does Markdown handle pictures? I use WordPress’s editor, and I get the most frustrated trying to get pictures formatted and lined up correctly.

  • http://crypti.cc/ Adam Pritchard

    You might be interested in a Chrome/Firefox/Thunderbird extension I wrote called Markdown Here (http://markdown-here.com/). It allows you write email in Markdown and then make it pretty before sending.

    When writing long-ish, complex-ish email for work I got sick of fiddling around with formatting buttons (“Concentrate on Writing, Not Formatting”, as you say) and decided that there needed to be a better way. It looked like there wasn’t yet a good tool to write email in Markdown, so… I created one.

    (I have also created a pretty comprehensive Markdown cheatsheet: https://github.com/adam-p/markdown-here/wiki/Markdown-Cheatsheet)

  • philippe99

    I use Markdown for
    (1) blogging: draft in nvAlt -> Byword for finalizing -> Evernote -> postach.io
    (2) quick note taking : nvAlt (Mac) & Dropbox + ResophNotes (Win) thanks to SimpleNote
    (3) meetings tech notes : Textkraft on iOS -> Dropbox -> reloaded back in nvAlt