MultiMarkdown and Me

MultiMarkdown: All I Never Knew I Wanted:

When I write, I want to write text files that are ready to be published either as word processing files or to the Web, with full formatting, while still already human-readable simply as text. And I didn’t even know how badly I wanted that until I discovered that it’s possible with Markdown. This is probably easier to show first, then tell.

As you can see, the *.txt file is human-readable, and I get the same formatting results whether I publish to *.rtf (for word processing) or to HTML (for web publishing as you’re reading it now). This is the point.

Results Explained:

These examples illustrate the gist of it. As a writer, this is what I gain from MultiMarkdown:

I get to create a human-readable document that can nonetheless be exported to the Web as HTML. Have you ever seen a page of text that is marked up for HTML, that is for web viewing? It’s a blizzard of tags that make the actual content unreadable. (You can see an example if you select, in your browser, View: Source or Page Source.) But with MultiMarkdown (or just Markdown: see below), I have a document that is prepared for the web, but which is also totally readable in plain text.

I get to create a human-readable document that can nonetheless be exported to a word processor as *.rtf (RTF). Have you ever seen a page of text that is marked up as *.rtf, for opening in Word or another word processor? It’s even worse than with HTML. (You can see an example if you take the RTF file linked above, change the suffix from *.rtf to *.txt, and open it in Apple’s TextEdit or in Microsoft Notepad.) But again, with MultiMarkdown, I have a document that is prepared for export as *.rtf to almost any word processor, but again which is also totally readable in plain text.

I get to write this file just once, and archive it as a single file, no matter whether I used it for word processing or web publishing. The same file, written in MultiMarkdown, can be exported as an *.rtf document, easily read in almost any word processor, or as HTML, easily read by any browser or pasted into a blog post or web site.

I get to compose this file in plain text, in any application that suits my stage in the writing process (collecting ideas, outlining, drafting, editing, publishing). It doesn’t feel like I am writing “markup,” it feels as much as possible like I am simply writing. The beauty of Markup is that most of it derives from email conventions: a line of white space between paragraphs, or asterisks surrounding a word or phrase to mark emphasis, or two asterisks for strong text. There are multiple ways (see below on Gruber’s Markdown) to write Web links that are wonderfully readable, completely unlike HTML web link markup.

I get to be sure that it will be readable in twenty years, without a word processor or web browser to render the formatting. Do you have any old files that you cannot read anymore because they only exist in an obsolete format like “AppleWorks”? The stuff I wrote during my Masters work can only be opened as plain text, and the text is entirely buried in obsolete markup and code. But the stuff I write today in Markdown is already human-readable in plain text, and will remain human-readable for as long as we have plain text.

This is the beauty of MultiMarkdown: plain text files, easily readable to the human eye, but already marked up for headers, sub-headers, ordered or unordered lists, emphasis, and footnotes…both for word processing via *.rtf or for web publishing via HTML. Yeah, it’s the writer’s holy grail.

What is MultiMarkdown?

John Gruber developed Markdown with the web-publishing end in view. Markdown allows almost any formatting one will need for most purposes: emphasis (usually italics), strong text (usually bold), paragraphing, lists, block quotes, hyperlinks to the web, and more. However, Gruber’s Markdown exporter only exports as HTML, because web-publishing is what Gruber has in mind.

Fletcher Penney developed MultiMarkdown as a supplement to, or extension of, Gruber’s Markdown. It accomplishes two things:

  • It exports Markdown as *.rtf rather than only as HTML. (It also exports to OPML, LaTex, and other formats that you may or may not know about or be interested in.)
  • It adds syntax for things like bibliography, footnotes, tables, and more.

So, MultiMarkdown incorporates all the features of Gruber’s Markdown, and extends the idea beyond web publishing to word processing. Note that you do have to install Fletcher’s MultiMarkdown script and support package in order to export MultiMarkdown plain text files as HTML, *.rtf, or other file formats.

My Workflow

I like this because I often don’t know where doodling, note-taking, and outlining might leave off and “writing” begin. I am learning to write in MultiMarkdown all the time, in every stage, because any of that stuff may, at some point, become part of the written piece. Composed in Markdown, anything I write is legible while I play around with it, and it won’t require additional formatting for word processors or for the Web once that writing sits in the final, published piece.

For example, this blog post was

  • begun as a note in NotationalVelocity,
  • moved into OmniOutliner while I played with structure and began some drafting,
  • imported via OPML into Scrivener for continued drafting and editing. From Scrivener I can compile it as HTML (as for this post in WordPress), or as *.rtf for word processing. I save it in Scrivener, but also compiled as plain text ( *.txt) for archiving.

At any of these stages I can compose freely in MultiMarkdown, working in whatever tools suits my present location and purposes, knowing that the result will be a human-readable plain text file formatted for word processing or for the Web.

What do you think? It can sound complicated, and there is a bit of a front-end learning curve (not much, for anyone who already habitually writes in “email style” paragraphing), but once learned, it is all simplicity itself. Can MultiMarkdown do for you what it does for me?

[MultiMarkdown and Me was written by G. Brooke Lester for Anumma.com and was originally posted on 2011/05/02. Except as noted, it is © 2011 G. Brooke Lester and licensed for re-use only under CC BY-NC-ND 3.0.]

RBoC: Not-Yet-End-of-Term Edition

End of term? Not even Spring Break yet! (Next week, insh’allah and the creek don’t rise).

I have in mind some writing on pseudonymity and nymity in blogging, on a recent Chronicle op piece about keeping quiet in faculty meetings, on ancient language “reading examinations,” and on “feeling like a writer.” This is what I’m doing instead:

  • Facilitating faculty training on our new Moodle learning management system (so long, Blackboard);
  • Arranging to offer similar training to our platoon of TAs;
  • Preparing biblical Greek reading exams for 2nd-year Greek students and Ph.D. candidates;
  • Catching up on a self-paced UWM online certification program in online teaching and learning;
  • Working up a couple of videos for our seminary admissions page;
  • Keeping up on quizzes, exams, and papers for Elementary Hebrew, Elementary Greek, and Intro to OT;
  • Experimenting with a couple of new productivity helps to organize the above and more;
  • Eat, sleep, you know. Maybe try for a haircut.

What do you find this week  among your RBoC?

[RBoC: Not-Yet-End-of-Term Edition was written by G. Brooke Lester for Anumma.com and was originally posted on 2011/04/12. Except as noted, it is © 2011 G. Brooke Lester and licensed for re-use only under CC BY-NC-ND 3.0.]

Teaching Carnival: Backstory (and New Carnival)

The newest Teaching Carnival (4.8), by Annie Vocature Bullock, is available!

Linking to this edition of the Carnival, ProfHacker Jason B. Jones also fills us in on where it began, and how one can host or contribute to a Teaching Carnival.

It is through the Teaching Carnival that I began to get to know most of the blogs in my Academic Blogroll. (See my right sidebar, underneath my regular Blogroll.) While I don’t love the other Carnival in my life less, it is the Teaching Carnival that most often makes an immediate difference to my daily practices of teaching and writing.

You can always find past Carnivals on the Teaching Carnival Home Page.

[Teaching Carnival: Backstory (and New Carnival) was written by G. Brooke Lester for Anumma.com and was originally posted on 2011/04/04. Except as noted, it is © 2011 G. Brooke Lester and licensed for re-use only under CC BY-NC-ND 3.0.]

What’s (Not) Going On around Here: Craft

A very short while ago (subjective time) I announced a plan to pen a short series of insufferably self-absorbed, navel-gazing gritty, fact-finding posts about what goes into this particular web address. For my purposes, the series amounts to an attempt to respond reflectively and directly to the fact that a five-post-a-week habit had fallen into…irregularity.

This morning, I take a moment to stir into that glass of water a few words on writing.

For me, putting words on a page is enjoyable in direct proportion to how much attention I can give them. Like anything else. It’s the difference between a leisurely afternoon maintaining your bicycle and sweating out your shirt to patch & inflate a torn inner tube on the way to your first job interview in three months. Or, to return inadvisably to the theme of “irregularity,” it’s the difference between crafting your martial arts patterns & techniques every morning and flailing through them in miniature while behind the wheel driving late to the promotion test.

To put it in terms of product rather than process, a blog post worthy of the name is, on average, a good 250+ words that are lovingly chosen to accomplish some keenly-felt goal…not, as Drifty reminds us through prophetic sign-act and through don’t-miss dialogue with Blue Gal, twelve words wrapped around a link to Digby. Or to James, or Peter, or Mark.[1]

So I offer what another craftsperson, Poul Anderson, liked to call “the triumphant discovery of the obvious”: it turns out that, when one is five-alarm, brain-yammering, cringing-and-trembling, fear-mad busy on most days of your vain life that are given you under the sun… one finds that opportunities to craft quietly-running bicycles, effective Taekwon-do patterns, and satisfying strings of words fall as few as workers, and as far between as pebbles in the sky.

BACK TO POST (N.B.: Secondly, I’ve got to get more bloggy friends with OT names. But firstly, we need to make permanent the thread about Where All da [Biblical-Studies-Bloggin] Wimmin At?)

[What’s (Not) Going On around Here: Craft was written by G. Brooke Lester for Anumma.com and was originally posted on 2011/02/16. Except as noted, it is © 2011 G. Brooke Lester and licensed for re-use only under CC BY-NC-ND 3.0.]

Hey, the Teaching Carnival is Back

The Teaching Carnival had been (once again) defunct for a while, but look: it has been back and thriving since September 2010. The current teaching carnival is 4.05, hosted by Sara Webb-Sunderhaus.

The Teaching Carnival is a carnival of blogs in higher education. Because many of us who blog in biblical studies are also teaching in institutions of higher ed, I would love to see (and try to embody) some more explicit overlap between “Hebrew Bible” and “Higher Education.” The blogging going on out there about teaching and learning with undergrads and with grad students is amazing. Carnivals come and go, but in my experience, the bloggers in higher ed form a stable blogging community characterized by mutual support and penetrating reflection on learning, teaching, and academia.

If you can, try to put down that article on narrative in the ancestral tales, or that Akkadian hymn to Ishtar (just for a while!), and enjoy a visit some of our fellow educators in the Teaching Carnival or in my “Other Academic Blogs” blog roll (right sidebar, below my regular blog roll).

[Hey, the Teaching Carnival is Back was written by G. Brooke Lester for Anumma.com and was originally posted on 2011/01/21. Except as noted, it is © 2011 G. Brooke Lester and licensed for re-use only under CC BY-NC-ND 3.0.]

Reading the Hebrew Bible—Aloud—over Two Years

As Charles and Daniel had made known, the Miqra Group plans to read the Hebrew Bible over a two-year period. So, you‘ll find me blogging and commenting over there as well as here.

My own “twist” on the reading program is to read the entire[note] Hebrew Bible aloud in two years. Despite years of teaching, and despite my continuing efforts to shape my teaching of biblical languages into an immersive mode, my reading fluency is not yet of a quality to satisfy my harshest critic (me). At some point, maybe I will add the Greek New Testament into the mix.

Anybody want to read the Bible aloud?

BACK TO POST And by “entire,” I mean, “except when grading, administrative emergencies, or urgent opportunities for professional development intervene.” Let she who is not a junior instructor cast the first stone.

[Reading the Hebrew Bible—Aloud—over Two Years was written by G. Brooke Lester for Anumma.com and was originally posted on 2011/01/18. Except as noted, it is © 2011 G. Brooke Lester and licensed for re-use only under CC BY-NC-ND 3.0.]

Stop Making the Blogosphere So Damned Interesting, Jim Getz

Grades are due Monday evening, and I am still crawling along.

As if I don’t have enough distractions, a riveting conversation on Pentateuch criticism broke out at Jim Getz’s place. The trigger was David Carr’s RBL review of Joel Baden’s J, E, and the Redaction of the Pentateuch. When the RBL newsletter had come out, some friends and I emailed one another about the tone of the review (as junior scholars, our reaction amounted to “There but for the grace of God…”).

The comments thread to Jim’s post is striking for the attendance of actual players and other luminaries. Bloggers tend to be more junior than senior, and the place of senior scholars in the blogosphere has sometimes been isolated, rarely-updated news-release outlets, not closely in conversation with other Bible-centric blogging. At Jim’s post, the comments thread became the kind of discourse, with the kind of participation, that I think we’d all like to see more of.

Which really ticks me off this week, because as I have said, I don’t have time for that kind of thing right now. :^) Back to papers.

What’s (Not) Going On around Here?

“What’s not going on around here?” That’s easy: writing.

“What is going on around here?” is another question, and amounts to, “Why isn’t writing going on?”

The easy—far too easy, and therefore false—answer is, I am just way, way too busy. And I am too busy, so that is not the part that is false. What is false, is the notion that there is such a thing as “Too busy to write,” if writing wants to be happening.

I have in mind a short series of short posts, in which I think aloud a bit about why I write here, and what sorts of things get into the way of writing in a space like this. It will not be about “blogging,” so much as it will be about “blogging here at Anumma.”

So, feel free to read or not read. Without anticipating the results of my inquiry, I can say that it is likely that there will be, at the other end, blog posts having some continuity with what has gone before: reading CoS in a year, how to be a student, the social web and teaching higher ed, a little light debunking of Bible woo, and of course, Hebrew Bible (Old Testament).

What’s (not) going on around here? Every few days, on a schedule negotiated between a crushing teaching load and a persistently impatient desire to write, we’ll just see.

[What’s (Not) Going On around Here? was written by G. Brooke Lester for Anumma.com and was originally posted on 2010/10/24. Except as noted, it is © 2010 G. Brooke Lester and licensed for re-use only under CC BY-NC-ND 3.0.]

Six Days Remain…

…of guilt-free blogging.

Blue Gal reminds me that May is National “It’s Okay If I Don’t Blog Today” Month.

Have a good day.

[Six Days Remain… was written by G. Brooke Lester for Anumma.com and was originally posted on 2010/05/25. Except as noted, it is © 2010 G. Brooke Lester and licensed for re-use only under CC BY-NC-ND 3.0.]

Well, It’s Like This…

So what does it take for a reasonably regular blogger to go AWOL for nearly two weeks? Not much, it turns out. I changed my daily schedule a bit in order to get more physical exercise, and there was this beautiful spot in the day when I usually write my posts, and…

Anyway, I’m playing with solutions. Keep me on your reader, if you would, while I settle into a new routine.

To thank you for stopping by, and to keep such lapses as this of mine in perspective, I offer you The Known Universe:

[Well, It’s Like This… was written by G. Brooke Lester for Anumma.com and was originally posted on 2010/04/28. Except as noted, it is © 2010 G. Brooke Lester and licensed for re-use only under CC BY-NC-ND 3.0.]