In my continued quest to create a completely application independent writing workflow, I figured I’d share a tip that has helped my adoption of MultiMarkdown. This is a simple one, but it’s one of those things that may not be completely obvious to new users.
I still get blank stares of confusion from people when I try to explain MultiMarkdown and just how great it is for creating pretty much anything that includes words. I imagine the difficulty has something to do with new users not quite seeing the cost / benefit to completely overhauling their writing workflow. The Dropbox syncing and platform independence of text files are a great opening line for the sales pitch, but I think the features MultiMarkdown brings to the table are the real closers.
The primary reason I continue to favor MultiMarkdown over traditional Markdown is it’s implementation of document metadata. First off, I love that it creates a nice, neat header to all my files. It’s really the only way I can tell what I’m looking at as I quickly fly through files with the ‘Goto Anything’ feature in Sublime Text 2.
But since I’m attempting to replace all of my writing tasks with MultiMarkdown, the most important metadata feature for me is the CSS key. I can quickly link to different CSS files to create the type of output I’m looking for. I have a standard CSS file for writing on my site, one for converting MultiMarkdown documents screenplays, and most recently I’ve created one that outputs something akin to a slide presentation , to remove the need for horrible presentation software that will not be named here.
Now, since I’m a good nerd, I use TextExpander to take care of the heavy lifting of the MultiMarkdown header syntax. When I open a new text file, I use the snippet ‘mmeta’ to trigger the following:
Author: Dan Sturm
I now have a date stamped file, linked to my default CSS, ready to for me to add a title and any relevant keywords. If I’m writing a screenplay instead of a web post, all I have to do is change ‘http://dansturm.com/ds_doc.css’ to ‘http://dansturm.com/ds_script.css’. And soon, it’ll be just as simple to switch between web posts, screenplays, and slide presentations.
I like using CSS to modify the output of my simple MultiMarkdown documents. I don’t need to learn a different syntax for each type of file I want to create. With a couple hours of tweaking and testing, I can create additional CSS files for nearly any output I may deem useful. And this is all in addition to the obvious benefit of using basic MultiMarkdown and simple CSS to keep my amateur brain from exploding.
Yes this is all very basic stuff, I know. My point is this; when creating a properly formatted document, in any style you desire, requires as little effort as typing ‘mmeta’, there’s really no excuse for using a word processor, screenplay writing application, or slideshow application.
I hope this will help you make the leap to using MultiMarkdown full time in your own writing. I can’t begin to explain how much I love and rely on it every day.
Post coming soon. ↩