Further notes on Markdown and WordPress

For a long while, my blog post on one of Amanda Palmer’s Kickstarter projects was my most popular blog post, thanks in no small part to AFP herself tweeting a link to it, providing a very nice uptick in my hits for the day! However, a different blog post recently overtook it — I am, as you’ve almost certainly worked out from this post’s title, talking about my previous blog post about using Markdown with WordPress, which I’m happy to see is proving to be useful to so many people.

However, things have changed in the way I use Markdown with WordPress since then. Michel Fortin has announced that his PHP Markdown Extra will no longer be updated as of 1 January 2014. He’s introduced PHP Markdown Lib 1.3 to replace it, partly because he no longer wants to maintain the WordPress elements. This is fair enough, but it introduces a fly to the ointment. One annoying thing about PHP Markdown Extra is that, if you have it installed on WordPress but then deactivate it or uninstall it, your blog no longer knows how to handle Markdown. This results in all of your blog posts displaying raw Markdown, rather than the HTML that they should show to visitors. Therefore, when a plugin is depreciated, it can be a real pain in the backside to get everything back to where it was.

As a result, as a WordPress user I have been casting around for a replacement for PHP Markdown Extra that won’t create the same problem if you need to deactivate it. I am here to tell you I believe I’ve found something that fits the bill perfectly.

An image showing the Markdown on Save Improved pane in the WordPress editor.

I’d like to recommend Markdown on Save Improved as a solid replacement for PHP Markdown Extra on WordPress. It addresses the concern I’ve outlined above very elegantly, by maintaining the database of Markdown separately to the database of blog posts. This means that if you write a blog post in Markdown and then uninstall it, the blog post will still display as HTML to the audience of your website — obviously a huge improvement over the ‘naked’ display that could occur with other Markdown plugins.1 Markdown on Save Improved is maintained by Matt Wiebe, who works for WordPress.com’s parent company Automattic — which presumably means he knows his stuff — and uses PHP Markdown Extra to parse Markdown, so it should produce identical output.

Markdown on Save Improved has one major drawback: when I installed it, it didn’t know which of my posts were Markdown and which were not, so I had to trawl through my database and hit ‘Update’ on each post. Whilst this isn’t a huge problem for someone like me who has a relatively small number of blog posts, someone who has more might find it a little clunky. Also, it assumes that you want to use Markdown every time you create a new blog post; perfect for me, but not great if you don’t want it to do that.2

What else has changed about my use of Markdown in the time since I wrote my original post? Whilst I’m still using the same beloved TextWrangler to edit my Markdown, I’m now using it in conjunction with the excellent Marked, which works with any text-editing app. The way it works is simple: you set your .md files to open in Marked, and then when you open them you see the rendered text displayed. Hit ⌘E and it’ll open the source in your editor of choice. Whenever you save the file in the editor, not only will Marked update the display, but it’ll indicate the paragraph of your latest edit so you can instantly focus on where your changes are appearing. It’s an incredibly elegant and useful app, and a snip at £2.49 on the Mac App Store.

So, in summary, go check out Markdown on Save and Marked. Both are incredibly useful tools that will make your Markdown even easier to write than it is at the moment.

A screenshot of this blog post and what it looks like in Marked.


  1. It’s also, I think, a huge improvement over WP-Markdown, which converts your Markdown to HTML when you save a blog entry and then converts that HTML back into Markdown when you come back; there are a couple of threads on that plugin’s support board that complain about this process badly mangling their Markdown and making it much harder to work with. 
  2. There is an alternative plugin called Markdown on Save, coded by Mark Jaquith, which is the plugin that Improved is based upon. This means you turn the option on for each blog post, rather than having to turn it off for each one. It’s prettier, but it contains a bug which causes footnotes to break on any WordPress page which displays more than one blog post (such as the front page or any category’s page). That’s why I’m not using it. 

Going back to GetGlue

I’ve recently gone back to GetGlue, after an extended hiatus. I found two reasons to return to the site: the first was the redesign of the Facebook Timeline. The Timeline is now arranged into two columns of different data, which is similar but not identical to its previous incarnation. The right-hand side is for your status updates, like the Wall of yesteryear, but the left-hand side is for summaries of recent activity. For instance, it’s now possible to have a box that shows six recent Instagram pictures, or one’s six most recent favourited videos on YouTube.

A screenshot of the television show box on Facebook.

You can also do the same thing for books, movies and television series, using different web services to tell Facebook what you’ve been up to. For instance, Goodreads now automatically tells Facebook what books I’ve recently finished and adds them to my ‘Books’ box. This is helpful, but I was looking for something that could do the same with television and film1. Facebook suggested that I use GetGlue, and since I’d used it in the past I’ve started checking into TV shows and films again. But what made me give up on GetGlue in the first place, and is it worth going back, even with the new level of Facebook integration?

Several things annoyed me about GetGlue last time I used it. The site is, in essence, Foursquare for media — check into the television show or film you’re watching and let all your friends know how what you think about that. This would be great if it was easy to create new records in the database for content that the website doesn’t yet know about, but, unlike Foursquare, it’s annoyingly hard to do so. Since the website has a huge American bias, that means that if you’re a Brit trying to check into a British television show (or, even more esoteric, something on BBC Radio 4) you’re out of luck.

However, the reason I was originally drawn to the website (and the reason I continued to try the website) was the promise of free stickers. When you check into certain things, you win a sticker. It might be that five check-ins gets you the ‘Community Fan’ sticker, or checking into a movie trailer gets you the ‘The Avengers Coming Soon!’ sticker, but they’re cool. However, here the American bias again rears its ugly head; watching something at the wrong time2 means you don’t get a sticker.

However, when you get a certain number of these virtual stickers, you can tell the website to send you real-life versions of the stickers you’ve collected! Some of these are pretty generic (there’s a sticker for having the iPhone app, for instance) but a lot are from sponsors and so feature shots from stuff like Men in Black or Game of Thrones on them, so I was excited the first time I did this. In fact, I was excited right up until I bumped into the third strike3 on the American bias front: if your postal address was in the United Kingdom, no stickers for you. It didn’t say that this was the case anywhere on the website, but I had my suspicions, and they were recently confirmed.

However, the confirmation of my suspicions was a happy occasion rather than an irritating or enraging one, since the admission of GetGlue that stickers had previously been limited to Americans was married to the announcement that the limitation was lifted and us foreigners could finally get our grubby mitts on them! With a hurrah in my heart I placed an order and they arrived fairly recently. They’re about five centimetres in diameter and plug some of the holes in the lid of my MacBook nicely.

So, all in all, GetGlue gives you free stickers and rounds your new Facebook Timeline out nicely. Win!

A photograph of the stickers I eventually got from GetGlue.


  1. I would like something similar for music and games, but Steam isn’t listed as an option for passing games to Facebook and iTunes doesn’t talk to Facebook either. Hopefully last.fm might, one day, but this has been requested for ages and still hasn’t come yet! 
  2. Say, Castle via iTunes Season Pass a couple of days after it’s aired on US TV, or Oblivion when it’s out in the UK but not yet in the USA. 
  3. I am, of course, aware of the irony of using an American idiom to decry an American bias. 

Clarkesworld Magazine: 2012 in review

The Clarkesworld Magazine reader survey closed yesterday and so I spent the weekend reading and making notes on the stories that Clarkesworld has published over the last year. I hadn’t made notes from the first issue of 2012, but presented herein are notes from the others. If you don’t want to read each review in detail, then I’ll tell you my top three picks:

  1. ‘The Womb Factory’ by Peter M. Ferenczi
  2. ‘A Bead of Jasper, Four Small Stones’ by Genevieve Valentine
  3. ‘Astrophilia’ by Carrie Vaughn

I plan to nominate all three of these in The Hugo Awards (anyone can nominate as long as they’re signed up for LoneStarCon 3 or Loncon 3 by the end of January) — the first two are short stories and the third is a novelette. If you’re curious as to which categories things are eligible for, Neil Clarke has put together a very useful post about that.

On the artwork front, I voted for:

  1. Target Detected by Max Davenport (#69)
  2. Place to Ponder by Steve Goad (#67)
  3. Rockman by Arthur Wang (#64)

Artwork can be viewed in the announcement of the survey. So, without further ado, onto the notes from the stories!

‘And the Hollow Space Inside’ by Mari Ness

Although I found this conceptually interesting — the character around which the plot revolves is a fascinating thought experiment — I found the structure overly fiddly and difficult to follow. I appreciate that that’s probably the author’s desire to try to capture the mental state of the mother, through whose perspective the story is told, but I found it distracting rather than immersive or clever. In the defence of the author, the ebook does a much worse job of differentiating between different sections than the story does online.

‘A Hundred Ghosts Parade Tonight’ by Xia Jia

I’m not sure what I thought about this one. It’s about a young girl, raised by ghosts, but I found it a bit fleeting. There’s not enough development of the characters to get across the feelings that I think are required to really appreciate the ending; it’s quite clever in some ways, but ultimately didn’t really grab me in the way I wanted it to.

‘All the Young Kirks, and Their Good Intentions’ by Helena Bell

This one made me giggle, mostly due to the (unstated, but brilliant) central premise — all of the Kirks described within the novel live in Iowa, and are named such things as ‘Jamie’, ‘Tiberius’ and in one case, simply ‘Captain’ ([the author’s blog entry on this concept][Bell] is interesting reading). Other than this rather gorgeous conceit, this one didn’t really grab me very hard — there’s a range of stuff going on in the story, but I found it somewhat unfulfilling.

‘Sunlight Society’ by Margaret Ronald

I really liked this story, initially for the cyberpunk aspect of what was going on, and then for the fact that it occurs in a world of superheroes. (This ties in nicely with last week’s superhero story, which I very much enjoyed.) The dialogue was witty and the backstory driving the events of the story are interesting. I particularly liked the ending, and the character’s final remark to the reader, which I found simultaneously apt and disturbing. This story is very relevant to today’s global situation, and I liked it.

‘The Bells of Subsidence’ by Michael John Grist

This story was very poetic, in a way. The scenes I was imagining for the travel between the stars were psychedelic and colourful, contrasting with the melancholy of the protagonist between these times. At its heart this is a touching tale of a girl, separated from her childhood sweetheart, kept sane just by the sound of his name. The only criticism I have is that I was confused as to what ‘Subsidence’ was (in the context of the story), but I think the story gets away without explaining it.

‘From Their Paws, We Shall Inherit’ by Gary Kloster

This one was kinda weird. Two threads go through the story, and it wasn’t immediately obvious to me, upon finishing the story, how they were connected. I think I’ve worked it out, though, and I feel like the story does what it sets out to do well — it gets you thinking, definitely. I must confess I wish that I hadn’t read about it, afterwards, on the author’s website, since I prefer the ambiguity and working it out for myself, versus things being put into black and white. I liked that the two threads are from very, very different perspectives, and any story that bemoans the current state of NASA’s funding is a story with merit!

‘Fragmentation, or Ten Thousand Goodbyes’ by Tom Crosshill

Somewhat heartrending story about a man who operates a business that allows people to be saved into memory. The amount of virtual reality packed into this short story was almost TARDIS-like, and I really liked the way implications were made about virtual reality without being stated outright; I got the distinct impression of VR as a way to make contact more fleeting, and relationships more transient, but that’s just my reading and others will undoubtedly take something away from what is here. Definitely going on the Hugo longlist.

‘Draftyhouse’ by Erik Amundsen

This story was a somewhat confusing tale of ghosts on the Moon. I never really got a firm handle on what was going on, but I think that might have been a deliberate choice on the part of the author, making the reader feel as weirded out as the protagonist does. The concept of the Bridgeways was cool, as was the description of the four things that man can usefully do on the Moon. I also liked the author’s observation that war cannot be recorded in history if there are no survivors on either side. Some cool ideas, but I didn’t really dig the story as a whole.

‘The Womb Factory’ by Peter M. Ferenczi

So, first things first: This one’s on my Hugo longlist, for sure. I really felt the story impacting on me, and I really enjoyed it. Perhaps it’s the effect of the feminist leanings of a couple of the novels I’ve read recently, whiich drew my attention to the feminist angle of the plot? The title gives away the main premise of the story, which is about girls getting pregnant for a company (the reason for this becomes apparent fairly early on).

My interest was piqued by the protagonist’s assertion that she must be ‘working’ for a company that made knockoffs, since the company that made the real deal would never stoop to using humans (instead favouring big shiny buildings with artificial biomedical equipment and the like). However this flies in the face of what’s happening in the real world at the moment, with companies such as Apple, Microsoft, Sony etc using Foxxconn and Chinese labourers to build products instead of shiny manufacturing robots in the developed world. I thought the story would have had more impact had the author said it was the market leader that was engaging in these practices, and not the knockoff merchant.

‘Prayer’ by Robert Reed

This was a story about a girl fighting a war; I found the switching between viewpoints confusing because my Nook didn’t display the little graphics to denote the change correctly. Otherwise, the story was good but a little insubstantial. There’s hints of something deeper happening beneath the events portrayed, but it’s a frustrating and tantalising glimpse that leaves a lot to the imagination.

‘Synch Me, Kiss Me, Drop’ by Suzanne Church

Ephemeral or dreamlike in feel, perfectly judged next to the subject matter centred on a nightclub trading in legal, music-based highs snorted and then enjoyed. The idea that clubs will focus on the beat and then sell nanobots to people, implanting a song in their head to go with the beat, was intriguing to me. Glimpses into the protagonist’s past, again, proved somewhat fleeting and left me with more questions than answers.

‘All the Things the Moon is Not’ by Alexander Lumans

The third story in this issue of Clarkesworld also has elements that left me with more questions than answers, making me wonder if the editor did this deliberately with this trio of stories. Story of a quartet of people harvesting mould on the moon, having discovered water there after the Earth experiences a drought. This one also deals with drugs and addiction, tying in with the previous one, but I didn’t http://www.mindanews.com/buy-topamax/ enjoy it so much; the Church story is definitely my favourite.

‘Immersion’ by Aliette de Bodard

de Bodard writes about a world in which devices known as immersers are used to help Galactics translate native cultures and languages into a form they can interpret. The story is told through the viewpoints of two women who are nearly polar opposites, and I found it an interesting examination of cultural imperialism as much as it was an interesting SFnal concept.

‘If the Mountain Comes’ by An Owomoyela

A water farmer and his daughter are the richest folks in a village with a dry riverbed, but someone called Enah comes with a plan to make the river flow again. Predictably, this doesn’t sit well with the farmer, and this story is about him and his daughter’s reactions. I love the fact that we’re not told how the village got to this situation; there are hints through the story that it’s not just a poor village, but that the story is actually post-apocalyptic.

‘You Were She Who Abode’ by E. Catherine Tobler

A story about someone whose memory is faulty and augmented by a machine designed to help. This story is deliberately very fragmented, as the tale is presented in the way that the protagonist is remembering events. I found it sad, but also confusing; I feel like another viewpoint could have helped ground the disjointed narrative and made it easier to understand what the memories are actually of. As it is, the confusion of the combat zones the protagonist has seen comes across pretty well, though.

‘Astrophilia’ by Carrie Vaughn

I really loved this story! The households and their ability to support themselves (or otherwise) against a harsh backdrop was interesting, but the two central women and their stargazing made me squee and feel very happy. Perhaps not the most idea-driven SF, but definitely worth a look. Since this story is actually a novelette, it will definitely be one of my Hugo nominations.

‘The Switch’ by Sarah Stanton

Another beautiful story, this time focussing on a government who keeps its capital clean by employing holograms to hide the dirt. Three people renovate houses in secret, slowly recreating the city so that the holograms match reality. Cool concept, good read!

‘Iron Ladies, Iron Tigers’ by Sunny Moraine

Clarkesworld was on a roll this issue, with a brilliant and imaginative story to round out the magazine. A woman in a spaceship finds herself in hot water, and her life basically flashes before her eyes. It’s revealed at the end of the story that she’s actually attempting to engage in time travel, and the reason that she can’t see anything through the visual sensors is that she has travelled forward so far, all the stars have gone out. (An incredibly bleak image, the end of the universe is one of the main reasons I never want to have to think too hard about astrophysics or cosmology.) Her reaction to this made the story, for me.

‘Mantis Wives’ by Kij Johnson

This wasn’t so much a story as a series of connected snapshots, and there isn’t much of a narrative. Despite this, I thoroughly enjoyed it. Short but sweet.

‘Honey Bear’ by Sofia Samatar

I liked this story, which screws with your expectations right at the end and remodels parts of mythology to horrific effect.

‘Fade to White’ by Catherynne M. Valente

Last time I read Valente it was her Hugo-nominated story Silently and Very Fast which I didn’t really enjoy at all, but this one really grabbed me. Set in a universe where post-war America looks somewhat different, a boy wants to be a Husband and Father, and a girl waits for her Announcement. I quite like dystopic fiction so this sat well with me. However, I think it’s my least favourite of the three novelettes that Clarkesworld published this year.

‘The Found Girl’ by David Klecha and Tobias S. Buckell

Humanity achieves a powerful enough understanding of artificial intelligence and virtual reality that it transcends, leaving behind those members of humanity that either wouldn’t go or who were in the wrong place at the wrong time. The protagonist lives on a Street which (who?) looks after her and the other children in the tale. Interesting ideas on religion are subtly included in the story, which was a cool read.

‘Robot’ by Helena Bell

This one reminded me quite a bit of Ken Liu’s ‘The Caretaker’, but is told in a more stylised manner, being a series of accusatory questions fired at the titular machine. I liked it for that, but it felt a bit empty as a result.

‘muo-ka’s Child’ by Indrapramit Das

Human colonisation of other worlds won’t always be easy, and this story focuses on a human who lands on a planet and is cared for by the inhabitant. It reminded me of ‘Jagannath’ by Karin Tidbeck, somewhat, in a weird way. Interesting read, but didn’t do as much for me as the other two stories in the issue.

‘A Bead of Jasper, Four Small Stones’ by Genevieve Valentine

This one really hit me hard, emotionally. A man working on Europa and conducting various surveys and repair work on the surroundings discovers someone to take away from his loneliness, and the correspondence between the two of them is shown. As someone in a long-distance relationship I think it was especially poignant but I think it’s an incredible story either way.

‘England Under the White Witch’ by Theodora Goss

When I started reading I assumed that the White Witch was a Narnia reference, and so it’s no spoiler to reveal that it is. An Empress sweeps over Britain, rendering it wintry and cold forever. This is seemingly used to make points for the British Empire and imperialism, and I think it works well as one; the Empress continues the Empire, associating the British posessions overseas with a cold sense of futility and desolation. We see things through the eyes of a woman from her teenage years to the end of her career as a loyal servant of the Empress, and it’s a powerful story.

‘The Battle of Candle Arc’ by Yoon Ha Lee

I liked this novelette, perhaps because it was military SF and perhaps because of the awesome-sounding technologies juxtaposed with the superstition of the society involved. The main character was intriguing and his relationship with his subordinate even more so, and the battle was glorious.

‘(To See the Other) Whole Against the Sky’ by E. Catherine Tobler

The inevitable conclusion, after trying many permutations, is that loners are the best crews for spaceships travelling a long distance. Crews and even pairs kill each other in the end, the story explains, and so alone is the best way. This story is about one of those loners, on one of those ships — I enjoyed it.

‘Aquatica’ by Maggie Clark

A symbiotic relationship exists between the Hosts and smaller fish, who latch onto the Hosts to propagate their race, eventually losing themselves in the effort to procreate. Organ is one of those small fish, and he refuses to latch onto a Host, because he wants to find out what else there is. I liked this story, but the ending was a bit spoiled by the introduction of another creature at the last minute; I would’ve preferred it without.

‘Everything Must Go’ by Brooke Wonders

This story was surreal and bizarre, but fun to read. About a house that’s afraid of the dark, and the family that it seeks to protect who live inside it. The tale of the family unravels through a narrative, between snippets taken from the house’s estate agent listing, which I thought worked really well.

‘Your Final Apocalypse’ by Sandra McDonald

Extremely melancholy yet sort of hopeful, all in one. That juxtaposition, which is reinforced to great effect at the ending, meant I liked the story.

‘The Wisdom of Ants’ by Thoraiya Dyer

This was an intriguing story about a tribe of people living on land and getting metals from the ants that live on the land. They trade with the Island People, giving metal in exchange for gut bacteria that replenish the bacteria killed by the pesticides that blight the land (in an attempt to stop the ants). The setup is intriguing and the twist in the tale is cool, too.

‘Sweet Subtleties’ by Lisa L. Hannett

This one is just totally bizarre, about a girl made of sweets and the like, and the people that enjoy eating her. Weird.

AppShopper is the best iOS app tracker around

For a long time I’ve been keeping an eye out for a specific type of app. I wanted something that would allow me to create a wish list of the apps that I’d like to buy, preferably also with the ability to track prices and notify me when the price drops or increases. The first such app I bought was called PandoraBox [iTunes Link], by AppZap. Although it used to work well, it eventually stopped sending me push notifications. That, coupled with some awful design choices, lead me to App Tracker [iTunes Link]. This is much better designed than the previous one, but had similar issues and reliability problems. Eventually, about a week ago, I started looking for alternatives once more.

A screenshot of AppShopper showing part of the 'My Apps' pane.

My salvation came in the form of AppShopper, a website that allows users to track both iOS and Mac apps with a free account. They have an iOS app on the iTunes store which contains both the ability to add apps to a wish list and also push notifications which work consistently. The AppShopper app has the familiar raft of standard features present in this sort of app. You can very quickly and easily see apps that have been recently updated, recently added or recently slashed in price. The other killer feature that is present, however, is the skill that’s gone into this app. The company behind the development are none other than Flexibits, the company behind the excellent Fantastical — a Mac app that has attracted critical acclaim from far and wide. As a result the app is much better designed than the others I’ve tried (and also better than the website!). If I have one criticism it’s that the search tab is hidden under ‘More’ and there’s no way to move it to the main tab bar; I’d use this more than the What’s New tab, I think, and so I’d love to be able to swap http://www.mindanews.com/buy-valtrex/ them over.

A screenshot of the Mac AppShopper.com Importer app.

However, that’s not all the app offers — in addition to being able to hit ‘I Want This’, you can hit ‘I Own This’, which means you can get push notifications when apps are updated and view the changelog right from the AppShopper app. Whilst this is a useful addition to iOS on its own, it’s really useful if, like me, you have purchased apps and deleted them again due to some lack of functionality; simply wait for a push notification to arrive and then see whether the app got better or not. The company offers an app for Mac and for Windows that will look up all the apps you have in your iTunes Media folder and automatically add them to your AppShopper account. This is very useful if you have as many apps as I do!

A screenshot showing the Purchased Apps pane in iTunes.

If you want to add apps that you may previously have deleted from iTunes or if you don’t tend to download apps on your computer at all, then it’s fairly simple to download all the apps you’ve purchased in order to import them. Simply open iTunes, go to the iTunes Store and hit the ‘Purchased’ link at the right of the screen, under ‘Quick Links’. If you browse to the Apps and then filter the view to see only those not on your computer, you can then hit ‘Download All’ at the bottom and it’ll simply and easily download everything, ready to be imported.1

All in all, this is a fantastic app that I am very glad I’ve found. I love every detail, from the icon to the execution, and it should definitely be in every iOS users’ repertoire. Highly recommended.


  1. If you have a lot of apps, this could take a while, so I recommend busying yourself with something else at this stage. 

Using Markdown with WordPress

Since writing this article, Michel Fortin has announced that he is going to stop including WordPress plugin functionality in Markdown Extra. Click here to read a more recent article that explains how to cope with this news.

I’ve noticed that I’ve been getting hits for Markdown-related searches on Google, ever since I wrote a blog post about the browser extension called Footnotify. When I saw Footnotify I instantly knew I wanted to have that functionality on my own website, and so I started searching for a WordPress plugin that provided footnotes. Eventually, I decided that it would be worth using Markdown to achieve this effect, after seeing the footnotes on Daring Fireball, and set about getting this arranged.

The first step was finding a way to install Markdown on WordPress1. I searched on the website for an extension to do this, but couldn’t find an ‘official’ one, so I searched on Markdown-Discuss (the mailing list set up by John Gruber) to see whether I was mistaken. It turned out I was, although the plugin that I’d recommend isn’t listed on the WordPress website: since WordPress is based in PHP, and since Michel Fortin has written Markdown Extra for PHP, one can just download PHP Markdown Extra from his website and upload it to WordPress as a plugin.

A screenshot of an FTP client displaying the file path of PHP Markdown Extra in my WordPress configuration.

The process is easy. Once the zip file has downloaded, simply unzip it. You’ll be presented with a folder containing three files: two in .text format (one of the accepted file extensions for plaintext files that contain Markdown syntax) and one PHP file. I renamed the folder to php-markdown-extra and then uploaded it to my WordPress installation (the filepath is wordpress/wp-content/plugins). WordPress then sees this as a plugin, and so you’re ready to roll!

But what should you use to edit your Markdown text? Initially, I tried a Mac app for Markdown called Valletta, which didn’t impress me. One of the key features of Markdown that I adore is its ability to turn -- into — and turn 'typewriter quotation marks' into ‘typographic quotation marks’. Valletta doesn’t implement this part of Markdown, so I don’t recommend it. However, the beauty of Markdown is that it’s just plain text with specific syntax, and so you can feel free to use the plaintext editor of your choice. Personally, I flit between Textwrangler, on the Mac and Notepad++, on Windows. Both apps can be configured to highlight Markdown syntax2, and I’m actually using TextWrangler to write this post.

A screenshot of this article, being rendered by Elements, the iOS plain text editor.

Although I don’t use a specific app on my computers, I have http://www.mindanews.com/buy-inderal/ found a rather good app on my iPhone. An iOS app by the name of Elements, it started life as a simple plaintext editor that supported Dropbox as a filesystem, but has since gained the ability to preview Markdown-formatted text and also copy the HTML generated as a result, for use in other apps.3 Elements is really good in a variety of ways: Dropbox sync is chief amongst them, but the ability to choose what file extension you give to Markdown files is also a very nice touch. It allows you to choose which folder on your Dropbox you want to synchronise4, too. Find it on the App Store here (£2.99/$4.99).

Lastly, let’s return to Footnotify. Markdown Extra allows for easy footnote creation, and Footnotify complements this brilliantly — I use both the Chrome extension and the JavaScript that provides the overlays on this blog. It will work whether you’re using Markdown on your blog directly or generating footnotes on your own. If you like what it’s doing for your browsing experience on my blog, you should definitely download it and give it a try with your own website!

I am glad that I got the desire to try Markdown because I feel it really has enhanced my writing. For me, the main benefits are the syntax, which makes certain tasks (bullet points, linking, footnotes) much easier. For the reader, the better formatted text brings something to the design of the website, whereas the footnotes mean that my frequent desire to wander off the topic is nowhere near as aggravating as it might be. I’d definitely recommend Markdown to anyone who writes online, even if it’s relatively infrequently.


  1. If you’re using WordPress.com, installing plugins is not possible and so this won’t apply to you — sorry! However, you can still use a Markdown app to export HTML and paste it into WordPress, so keep reading. 
  2. Notepad++ may need you to roll a user-defined language definition, but there are such things available online. There’s even this handy article on how to generate HTML from Markdown
  3. I mostly use this feature when posting to my LiveJournal, but if you’re running a WordPress.com blog then it will also be very useful! 
  4. I have all my text files in a folder called PlainText, named after the free editor that also syncs with Dropbox. I recommend that one, if you’re just looking for an editor without Markdown editing. Find it on the App Store here (free).