Should Writers Dump Word for Markdown? Part 2

We left off with me looking for an alternative to word 2016 on the Apple Mac App Store and coming across a distraction-free writing program called “Ulysses”.

Says the App Store’s product abstract:

Ulysses for Mac is your one-stop writing environment on OS X. Whether you’re a novelist, a journalist, a student or a blogger—if you love to write a lot, Ulysses gives you a uniquely streamlined toolset, covering every phase of the writing process.

Importantly, it adds:

Of course, the heart and soul of a writing app is its editor. And Ulysses is said to have the best text editor in the world. It offers everything you need – from markup to images and footnotes, from links to comments and code.

Now, the two most important items of note here are the words “text editor” and “markup”. Why?

The basic way to put words on a computer screen is plain text. If you use Windows, you’ll know of a little program called Notepad; Mac users know of TextEdit.

When you type into these programs you produce unformatted text which you then take elsewhere for formatting say, in Adobe InDesign, Microsoft Publisher, Word, or some other word processor.

I’ve always considered these impoverished-looking programs the realm of computer geeks. Usually employed for scraps of quickly drafted code.

As it turns out, there’s quite a collection of bona fide writers who actually use Notepad and TextEdit as their primary writing platforms. That simply stumps me.

Markdown, then, is computer language used to “markup” text. Confused? In a nutshell, markup is another way to say: “Computer code used to automate the formatting of end products, like web pages.” And Markdown is a clever guy’s contribution to bringing an interface for it into the realm of the everyday person with no prior knowledge of HTML. Like me.

For example, to make bold text in Word, you’d select some writing and then click its bold typeface in the font menu or likely, use the bold button.

In Markdown you’d make bold by typing a pair of double asterisks around a word, like **asterisk**.

What’s the benefit of Markdown?

Well the story goes, by formatting your text this way, you’re bypassing what’s called “proprietary formatting” found in programs like Word.

You’re making your text more widely recognizable by software unassociated with Microsoft for example, and therefore much easier to upload and apply in websites, ePubs, and the like.

The other benefit is one we’ve covered prior. It allows for distraction-free writing. By using Markdown, “You’ll never have to take your hands off your keyboard,” say the advocates, and do such really painful things as highlight some writing and click a bold button. Ya.

Ok so we’re now at the point where I have my $69 Ulysses loaded and can compare it to my $119 per annum Word 2016.

We’ll look at Ulysses next.