Posts Tagged

markdown

Most sites these days are powered by a CMS, and hand-coding a site from plain HTML files would seem terribly archaic. And yet, for most sites, the average CMS is a huge overkill. There’s so much to them, it’s sometimes hard to change the tiniest thing. And rich editing … well, for the most part, the world would be better off without it.

There’s been a recent rise of simple CMSes, ones that use just plain text files with Markdown files to make a full website. As a writer who writes in Markdown, those are terribly interesting to me. One in particular stood out to me as a simple yet powerful flat-file option, and it was so nice that instead of just trying it out, I switched my entire site to it, and still use it months later.

That CMS is Kirby, from Bastian Allgeier, one of the guys behind Zootool. We’ve already had an interview with him about Kirby, so today, let’s take a closer look at what makes Kirby so great.

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Document management has always been tricky, especially when you want to centrally store documents with all of their updates and revisions, and give people an easy way to collaborate on them. Wikis seem like the perfect solution, but they’re usually complicated, requiring at best HTML formatting and at worst a special markup language that you’ll have to get used to.

On the other end of the spectrum, Markdown formatting has been steadily increasing in popularity as a simple markup language to make rich formatted documents and HTML without having to use anything other than plain text and simple characters. It’s used in everything from new CMS apps to simple writing tools on the web and in native apps.

Bring the two together to create a web app that allows insanely simple editing, what have you got? Scribble, of course.

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For a while now, GitHub has been running a service called GitHub Pages. Based on Jekyll, GitHub Pages allows for the creation of websites as either standalone sites or to accompany code projects on GitHub. This is great, but adding new pages is a little tricky unless you’re a seasoned Git pro.

That is where Prose comes in. Once you’ve authenticated your GitHub account, Prose lets you edit existing text files and create new ones ready for Jekyll to convert them to HTML. Prose is geared towards the creation of new Jekyll pages in the Markdown format. Markdown, if you’re unfamiliar, is a simple type of markup language designed to be both easy to learn and to convert to well-formed HTML.

The question is, do Prose and GitHub make a good enough team to displace more traditional website backends?

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Blogs are supposed to be about writing. Real, authentic, personal, heartfelt writing. The very word blog comes from the words web and log, a log of your thoughts on the web. But by and large, blogs have gotten complicated. 15 million widgets, word clouds, flashing ads, and more drive most people to just use social networks and forget the mess and confusion of blogging.

If installing WordPress on your hosting account or tweaking a Tumblr account to your liking sounds like more trouble than it’s worth just to publish your thoughts on the web, then get ready for a breath of fresh air. How about just saving plain text files with Markdown formatting to a folder in Dropbox, and having them published directly online? That’s what Calepin offers.

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Formatted text. It’s either the best thing to ever happen to the world of computing, or the worst, depending on who you ask. Plain text is the simplest; you can read it on any computer or app, and it looks the exact same. Throw in some markup, whether something simple like Markdown or more complex like HTML or XML, and it’s a bit harder to write and a lot harder to read, but still, very useful if you’re any bit techie.

Rich text is somewhat of a mess, though. As we all know, one of the biggest problems with switching to web apps for Office files is that Microsoft Office formatting doesn’t always carry over correctly. Even basic rich formatting in comment boxes and simpler apps like Evernote often doesn’t copy/paste between apps very nicely.

I’m a plain text fan myself, and that’s one of the big reasons I’ve switched to Simplenote for all of my notes needs. Whenever I need a bit more formatting, I’ll throw in Markdown formatting, convert it HTML for publishing online, and I’m ready to go. I find it very nice to have all of my notes in an accessible format that works everywhere, and can be useful even if Simplenote disappeared tomorrow.

So, we’d like to know: what’s your favorite way to write text? Do you prefer to just write in plain text, or do you want to add a bit of extra style with Markdown or Textile? Or would you rather have a full featured rich text editor? Why? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!

Over the past few months, there’s one web app I’ve increasingly relied on to keep up with everything I need to remember and write down. From blog posts to random to-do lists, the bulk of the things I write are saved in Simplenote. Best known as an iOS app, Simplenote’s elegant web app and the wide variety of 3rd party apps that work with it such as Notational Velocity make it work wherever you want. is one of the best examples of an app that’s gotten more features over time and yet stayed fast and simple.

At the heart of Simplenote is Simperium‘s high quality cloud sync engine. No matter what Simplenote-compatible app you’re writing in, your text will be seamlessly synced to the cloud so you can pick up writing from another device. It’s the promise of iCloud’s document sync, available today on almost every device. You can even use it to look back at previous versions of your notes, or share your Markdown formatted notes with the world.

Simplenote has an incredible number of features to be such a simple app, so let’s take a deeper look at its most advanced features, and how you can use it to keep your notes safe.

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Raise your hand if you’ve tried to collaborate with others using a wiki. Most people just don’t get it, do they? Wikis, for the most part, are confusing and slow to edit, and are simply too much hassle for small projects. Wikipedia is the biggest wiki success story, but they’re not the panacea for normal business and educational collaborative writing. The market hasn’t been too rewarding to wiki products, either. PBwiki, a business built around hosted wikis, has been rebranded as PBworks and deemphasizes the wiki part of their product, focusing instead on their project manager and intranet social tools. Even the much hyped Google Wave quickly hit the deadpile after consumers found it too confusing.

After trying to use wikis for one too many group project that fizzled out because of poor tools, I set out to find something easier to use than email, copying a Word file back and forth, or the dreaded wiki that no one could figure out. Enter Writeboard. This simple online text editor takes the pain out of collaborative writing, and is as simple to use as Notepad or TextEdit. It’s a solution that almost anyone can instantly understand and start using without any learning curve. Keep reading to see why Writeboard might be the perfect solution when wikis fail.

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