David Sparks releases Markdown Field Guide

David Sparks over at Macsparky has released another fantastic iPad book. This time it’s Markdown he’s after and the Markdown Field Guide looks like a stellar book on the topic. David co-authored this release with Eddie Smith of Practically Efficient.

I’ve been writing in Markdown for years but I know I’ve only scratched the surface of what’s possible. I’m eager to have David and Eddie show me the rest. Go and get Markdown from the iBookstore now.

Blogging with Scrivener, TextMate and Markdown [Updated]

Here’s a great post from Chase Reeves, in which he describes how he blogs with Scrivener, TextMate and Markdown. I’ve been using Scrivener for a while now, but only recently added TextMate and Markdown. I’m going to adopt Chase’s workflow with one alteration.

Instead of copying the HTML from TextMate and pasting it into a browser-based compose window (he uses Posterous in his screencast), I’ll copy my Markdown post from Scrivener, open a Markdown blog post template in TextMate (via the Blogging Bundle) and then publish with Control-Command-P.

In fact, I’ll see if I can create an Automator workflow to further automate the process, even though it’s pretty quick as it is. In the meantime, check out Chase’s post.


I’ve gotten several comments and questions about this setup, which I’ll address here. First of all, I’ve learned the hard way that composing blog posts in a browser is a bad idea. Unexpected crashes, network outages, etc. can destroy your hard work. So I’m after alternative desktop software.

Many of you suggested MarsEdit. I’ve tired to get into it several times without success, but I couldn’t tell you why. After much prompting from Brett, I downloaded TextMate, mostly to take advantage of his Blogsmith Bundle for TUAW blogging. It’s so obscenely useful that I couldn’t imagine working without it at this point. Bundles add a tremendous amount of functionality to TextMate, and Brett’s work is a prime example of that. It’s a huge time-saver.

Meanwhile, I’ve been working on a large writing project since November with the help of Scrivener. While TextMate is the race horse, Scrivener is the meticulous jockey who ensures that everything is in order before hitting the track. I’ve begun using it for organizing long posts on TUAW and 52 Tiger. I can’t publish directly from Scrivener, but that’s OK, as publication isn’t its  job.

TextMate might seem like overkill for blogging, but I’ll argue that’s not the case. The time-saving benefits of bundles can’t be overstated. For my personal blogging, I use Brad Choate’s Blogging Bundle [1. Here’s an overview screencast.] and this Markdown plugin for WordPress. [2. Incidentally, if you like writing in WordPress’ compose field but still want to use Markdown, check out Brett’s WordPress plugin for doing just that.] Once a post is pasted into TextMate, I can do so much more with it than simply publish, including saving local copies, drag-and-drop image upload, etc.

Lastly, don’t forget that I’ve set up Scrivener to sync with PlainText for the iPad for cloud-based, on-the-go editing of works in progress.

I’ll admit that I am bothered by the copy-and-paste step, but it’s hardly a deal-breaker. If you have any other questions or comments about this workflow, please let me know.


After reading the tech web for years, you begin to see the same topics come and go. Recently, email management and  comments on blogs were hot topics. This week, Markdown has had a resurgence.

Patrick Rhone at Minimal Mac demonstrated how he uses TextExpander to bring Markdown functionality to apps that don’t support it. That post got the ball rolling, and prompted MacSparky to respond with a post on using reference links.

I also received an email from Eddie Smith which pointed out his call for developers interested in working with Notational Velocity and Markdown. Eddie has done some fantastic work with both technologies; if you can contribute to his current project, please do.

I’ll admit that I don’t use Markdown but this conversation has got me interested. Gruber is, of course, the authority, and TUAW posted a brief “cheat sheet” earlier today.

What all of this demonstrates is that there are human beings behind the words and ideas you read online every day. Most of them are generous and smart, which I appreciate. Thanks, everyone.