I have never been a great fan of Microsoft’s Word. I avoid it as much as I can and use it only to open files I receive. It is, however, the de-facto Word-processing app and file format in use, something that will not change in the near future. That said, I have been actively exploring alternatives to Word for the last 15 years. For many years I played with DocBook, but dropped since the workflow to import/export Word files for the exchange with others became to time consuming. There was also the issue with the increasing use of tracking changes between editors and reviewers.
As I mention in my article “My Mobile iPad Office – 10 Months later” I have started to use Byword for all my blog article writing. Byword is a minimal text editor that works with the MultiMarkdown (a Markdown Superset) syntax and allows for easy exporting of plain text to a variety of formats including HTML, PDF, and LaTex. Byword has become popular among writers and bloggers (also) thanks to extensive support for keyboard shortcuts, built-in Markdown preview, and integration with OS X’s full-screen mode, auto save, and Versions. Again, one of the reasons for using it is the simplified workflow allowing the exchange/syncing of documents between the desktop and iOS version. This allows me to work on the same documents either at my office or remotely using my iPad.
Since the beginning of this year, I have expanded my use of MultiMarkdown to switch my document creation process to plain text. This decision was a followup to an earlier article I wrote about getting “Back to the late 1970s way of plain text writing”.
The main reason I am interested in MMD is that it is entirely platform and OS neutral. The syntax supports most of the document complexity I require for my business and standards-related documents. I am able to work on all my documents on any device that supports plain text. That is appealing for a number of reasons:
- The cost of my “word processor” drops to zero for all my devices;
- The ability to sync documents to iCloud or Dropbox to share them between my devices, my workflow become truly platform agnostic;
- The option to use a generic revision control system (CVS, subversion or Git ); and
- The risk of documents becoming unreadable over time drops to zero because plain text will always be readable and in the worst case all that may be required is some sort of interface to translate the syntax.
There are challenges in replacing Word with MultiMarkdown, more about them in Part 2. So stand by for more.