Should Writers Dump Word for Markdown? Part 1

My raw experience with the new Microsoft Office 365 for Mac recently, led me on a single-purposed quest:

Can a serious writer get by without Microsoft Word?

On getting my first Mac roughly half a decade ago, I did the newbie thing and headed off to the magical App Store. It had an entire section called “apps for writers” and this was the first time I came across the phenomenon known as distraction-free writing.

Lots of people it seemed, well, found Microsoft Word and other word processing programs disruptive: unZen-like for want of a synonym.

I had to think about it.

I’d never found Word a distraction. I’m typing on it now looking at its white paper over its stark light-grey background and at my keyboard too, and I’m not bugged by a thing. It’s a computer screen. Where’s the commotion?

Yet, the App Store convinced me that folks believed there was a better way to write, and I was soon the proud owner of ByWord, iWriter, WriteRoom, and Scrivener.

Hey, I was now distraction-free.

But I just didn’t get it. Click a tab on these apps and you get a full screen to write on. Click a menu and you get a “typewriter” scroll. Scrivener gives you corkboards and faux note cards to organize thoughts and scenes: plus a learning curve the breadth of Apollo 13. Just how disorganized were people these days, they’d want to fit that in their lives?

I was soon back to Word.

Fast-track to the other day. Word 2016 gets released and it’s a mess of missing functionality for the Mac user. So off to the App Store I go again.

This time there’s a revamped app there called Ulysses. It holds the “Editor’s Choice”. Apple has an editor? It costs AUD $69—one time—to run on every Mac you own (plus another $33 to use on your iPhones and iPads).

Importantly, it speaks of something other than just being “distraction-free”—though of course, that feature is pushed hard too. A plain text language called “Markdown”.

Markdown is the future of writing it declares. A few days later I hesitatingly succumbed. And what did I find?

To be continued …