Why You Should Ditch the WordPress Editor and Use Markdown Instead

Why You Should Ditch the WordPress Editor and Use Markdown Instead“Ditch WordPress?!” You’re thinking, “What is this crazy guy talking about?!” No, I’m not saying you should ditch WordPress altogether. What I am advocating, though, is to consider composing your blog posts in an outside editor like Draft or Byword using Markdown syntax. Do I have you confused already? Stay with me, it will soon be made clear.

Let me tell you a quick story…

Why You Should Never Write Blog Posts in WordPress

It only took one time of losing 1,000+ words for me to realize that I should never draft blog posts in WordPress. I’m not even sure what happened. I was on a roll and kept writing, all the while forgetting to click the little “save draft” button. Then all of the sudden the page is refreshing itself. When it’s done I see this message: “ALERT! You are logged out. Could not save draft. Please log in again.” I almost punched my Macbook Air. Has this ever happened to you? Not wanting to repeat that same awful scenario, I decided I would no longer write my blog posts in WordPress. I’d find a better solution and then just copy and paste into WordPress when it was time to edit.

What is Markdown?

Markdown is an easy way to write content for the web. Unlike HTML (WordPress Editor) where you have to use various tags to create headlines, make links, or bold words, Markdown is super simple and fast.

Markdown is ideal for those writing content to the web who could be easily distracted by HTML tags.

Why Use Markdown?

1. It’s Easy. You can honestly learn everything you need in 5 minutes. That’s 5 minutes that will save you countless hours moving forward.

2. It’s Fast. A lot of people write in the built in Word Press WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) editor where you have to highlight text and click buttons to make formatting changes. Markdown improves efficiency by allowing bloggers to simply use asterisks to **bold** their words. That’s just one quick example of the formatting you can do the fly without having to lift your hands from the keyboard and click buttons.

3. It’s Readable. If you’re like me occasionally you have the need to jump over to the HTML tab in the WordPress editor when things aren’t displaying correctly. The HTML always looks like a jumble of opening and closing tags and huge blocks of text. It’s a mess!

wordpress-jumbled-mess

What a jumbled mess!

Compare that to…

markdown-readable

You can actually read Markdown!

 

The overriding design goal for Markdown’s formatting syntax is to make it as readable as possible. -John Gruber, the creator of Markdown

Easy Markdown Syntax

Enough already! How do I actually write in Markdown? This is far from a complete list of everything Markdown can do, but it will get you started.

#H1 Headline
##H2 Headline
###H3 Headline
####H4 Headline
#####H5 Headline
######H6 Headline
1. This
2. Is
3. A
4. Numbered
5. List
-This
-Is
-A
-Bulleted
-List
> This is a block quote. The quote can
> wrap to multiple lines.
This is how you **bold** a word.
**This is how you bold a sentence**
This is how you *italicize* a word.
*This is how you italicize a sentence*
[These are the words that display on a link](http://donnielaw.com)

Those are the Markdown elements I use on a daily basis. You’re up and running! That’s all you need to start writing in Markdown today. If you want to dive even deeper, check out this guide

How to Convert Markdown to HTML for the Web

You can use this plugin if you want to continue to do your writing in WordPress. I personally don’t use this method (remember my 1,000 lost words?). But the WP-Markdown plugin transforms your WordPress editor and allows you to write in Markdown. It even has an “as you type” preview pane. Here’s how to set it up…

search plugins for wp markdown

Search plugins for WP Markdown

 

Install WP Markdown

Install WP Markdown (mine’s already installed)

 

Navigate to Settings, Writing in WordPress

Navigate to Settings then Writing in WordPress

 

Enable Markdown for Posts, Pages, and Post Editor

Enable Markdown for Posts, Pages, and Post Editor

 

Now your WordPress Editor is divided into two panes. A Markdown editor and a live preview pane.

Now your WordPress Editor is divided into two panes. A Markdown editor and a live preview pane.

 

Like I mentioned before, I value a good clean writing experience. That’s why I prefer to compose my blog posts outside of WordPress using Draft and then import into WordPress for the final editing. Let me show you how simple it is to compose blog posts in Draft using Markdown, and then export them in HTML to WordPress. This is the exact same process I use and it couldn’t be easier.

Click the home button from the Draft editor

Click the home button from the Draft editor

 

select export

Select “export”

 

click html

Click “HTML” but look at all those options!

 

Copy and paste HTML from Draft into WordPress

Copy and paste HTML from Draft into WordPress

 

Best Markdown Writers

I’m in love with Draft right now but there are lots of other good options. When making your decision you should think about these things (Draft nails them all!):

  1. Beautiful writing experience
  2. Built with Markdown in mind
  3. Easy to collaborate
  4. Auto save
  5. Reasonable price (or free!)

This is far from an exhaustive list but these are a good places to start your foray into writing in Markdown.

Web Based:
  1. Draft
  2. Penflip
  3. StackEdit
  4. Markable.in
  5. Dillinger.io
Mac App:
  1. Marked
  2. Byword (I own and like, although not as much as Draft)
  3. iA Writer
  4. Ulysses III
  5. Macchiato
  6. Markdown Pro
What writing platform do you prefer?

Don’t miss a thing!

  • http://www.liveworktravelusa.com Daniel

    Man, I hate when that happens.. I’ve lost some paragraphs and long comments due to browsers hickups, too. But never a whole article.
    Now I usually copy my work or comment before I hit the submit or any button, because I always expect something to go wrong. Then at least I have everything in my clipboard and just paste it again. If the computer freezes, that’s another story… ;)

    • http://donnielaw.com/ Donnie Law

      That makes sense to copy everything to the clipboard before hitting every button.

      WordPress is usually pretty good at restoring your draft if something goes wrong with the browser but it doesn’t work every time.

      I’m just LOVING writing in Draft using Markdown. It’s so fast and a lot more fun than messing around in the WordPress editor!

      • http://www.liveworktravelusa.com Daniel

        What I have issues with is using the WordPress editor through Safari on my iPad. I just can’t type anything in it and have to use text view for it.
        Is that different in Markdown? Does it let you easily type on the iPad?

        • http://donnielaw.com/ Donnie Law

          I would guess that Draft would display correctly on an iPad (although I don’t have an iPad to test with).

          Many of the 6 “mac app” markdown editors also have iPad apps. You could try that.

          Either way… I think writing in the Markdown syntax would speed things up for you. It has for me.

  • http://tangiblefreedom.com/ Ragnar

    Interesting. I usually write in a separate text editor(recently switched to writemonkey and really love it), and do the html formatting in WordPress when I’m editing the post.. but this looks like it could save me some time, and the distraction of having to look at the menu. I’ve actually never lost any words to WordPress though! Must be luck, haha.

    • http://donnielaw.com/ Donnie Law

      Markdown is one of those things that you don’t even realize you need. It’s not until after you use it for awhile that you can’t imagine what it was like before you wrote in markdown.

  • David Mason

    Just a note if you do need to or choose to write or edit in WordPress: there is a plugin that will keep track of what you have typed in to any input field, so if the page refreshes or you lose power or whatever you can recover your work.

    I have it installed, and I don’t think about it most of the time, but it is there when something goes wrong and I need it – it would have prevented the loss of 1000 words mentioned in the original article: http://getlazarus.com/download (has plugins for Chrome, Firefox and Safari)

    • http://donnielaw.com/ Donnie Law

      Thanks for the tip David. I wasn’t aware anything like that existed!

  • http://www.bosorganization.com Deron@Bos Organization

    This was a great post, Donnie. It inspired me to go back to my habit of starting posts in Byword. Have you read/seen David Sparks’ MacSparky Field Guide on Markdown? It’s here: http://macsparky.com/markdown/. Really great primer on Markdown, with screencasts.

    He also just did a post on a email service that just allows you to compose one-off emails in Markdown. (So you don’t have to open your mail client back up just to write a single email.) That’s here: http://theletterapp.com/

  • http://operationfamilytime.com/ Neil

    Thanks Donnie! Super helpful. So true, much easier and user friendly to navigate and add specialized text formats to my posts and pages.

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