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MultiMarkdown and Scrivener for Efficient Blogging

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We write a lot of content here at Asian Efficiency – and most of it is pretty darn awesome. Each article takes at least a couple hours of work, involving planning, research and writing. There is one more process on top of that, and that is converting text into a presentable HTML format in WordPress. We used to manually to do the markup for our articles, which took up a lot of valuable time… so, we looked for a more efficient way of converting text into HTML.

Our highest value activity (for Asian Efficiency) is publishing awesome content. This is where we put most of our focus and time. Anything in the process that is tangential to that, is relatively unimportant – and we want to either outsource that or spend as little time on it as possible. We needed a solution for turning text into nicely formatted HTML without much hassle or friction. This is where MultiMarkDown comes into the picture.

MultiMarkdown

After doing some research on how to turn text into HTML in an efficient manner, I stumbled upon MultiMarkDown (MMD). It is a simple and easy-to-use markup language based on Markdown. You can write your content in a way that is very easy to read for a person, but it makes it very easy for you to turn text into HTML. To quote the source:

MultiMarkdown, or MMD, is a tool to help turn minimally marked-up plain text into well formatted documents, including HTML, PDF (by way of LaTeX), OPML, or OpenDocument (specifically, Flat OpenDocument or ‘.fodt’, which can in turn be converted into RTF, Microsoft Word, or virtually any other word-processing format).

In other words, the solution to the problem we had with turning text into nicely formatted HTML in an efficient way. To give you an idea how this works, at the end of this article I’ll show you how to use MultiMarkDown and Scrivener (possibly the best writing program ever). But before that, you have to understand the MultiMarkdown syntax so you can apply this for yourself. I’ll quickly show you how to use it. Here’s an example of MultiMarkDown syntax being used.


# This is an H1 header 

## This is an H2 header 

I briefly talked about MMD, but it gets more awesome. For example, to turn a word into bold 
all you have to is put two asterisks in front of the word and at the end. So **Asian Efficiency** 
is now bold. To italicize a word, just put one underscore in front of the word and at the end, 
so _Scrivener_ is now italicized. But it gets more fun. Let’s say you want to have an **unordered list** 
(see the bold highlight here!), all you have to do is make a list starting each with an asterisk. 
For example: 

* This is bullet one 
* This is bullet two 
* This is bullet three 

Isn’t that easy? 

Now if you want to have an _ordered list_ (see I made it italicized!) you do it in similar fashion, 
but you put the numbers in front instead of the asterisks. 

1. This is bullet one 
2. This is bullet two 
3. This is bullet three 

### This is an H3 header Another feature you will use a lot is embedding links. 
This is also very easy to do in Markdown. If you want to find out more about the Asian Efficiency bloggers, 
just [click here](http://www.asianefficiency.com/about/). 

The above text will translate into the following HTML code.


<h1>This is an H1 header</h1>

<h2>This is an H2 header</h2>
I briefly talked about MMD, but it gets more awesome. For example, to turn a word into bold 
all you have to is put two asterisks in front of the word and at the end. 
So <strong>Asian Efficiency</strong> is now bold. To italicize a word, just put one underscore 
in front of the word and at the end, so <em>Scrivener</em> is now italicized.

But it gets more fun. Let’s say you want to have an <strong>unordered list</strong> 
(see the bold highlight here!), all you have to do is make a list starting each 
with an asterisk. For example:
<ul>
	<li>This is bullet one</li>
	<li>This is bullet two</li>
	<li>This is bullet three</li>
</ul>
Isn’t that easy? Now if you want to have an <em>ordered list</em> (see I made it italicized!) 
you do it in similar fashion, but you put the numbers in front instead of the asterisks.
<ol>
	<li>This is bullet one</li>
	<li>This is bullet two</li>
	<li>This is bullet three</li>
</ol>

<h3>This is an H3 header</h3>
Another feature you will use a lot is embedding links. This is also very easy to do in Markdown. 
If you want to find out more about the Asian Efficiency bloggers, just 
<a href="http://www.asianefficiency.com/about/">click here</a>.

Isn’t this awesome? You can write in a format that allows that is easy to read to people, but it allows you to convert it into HTML very fast. Thanks to the MMD syntax you can write content and not worry about the formatting too much. All you need is a couple basic formatting rules to get started.

Turning text into HTML

Now that you have text in MultiMarkDown syntax, you can convert it into many different formats. For bloggers, HTML is the obvious choice. There are a lot of tools available to turn your MMD text into HTML, but our favorite program is Scrivener. We don’t just use it for turning MMD into HTML, we primarily use it to write content. So we write with Scrivener all our content in MMD format and then turn it into HTML. It’s also very easy and intuitive to write in Scrivener and to reference your research material within the program. We can highly recommend this program to all writers and bloggers. It is just a nice bonus that it supports MMD.

Here is how you turn your MultiMarkDown text into HTML with Scrivener:

  1. Have your MMD text.
  2. Click on the compile button.

    Click on the Compile button to turn your MultiMarkDown text into HTML.

    Click on the Compile button to turn your MultiMarkDown text into HTML.

  3. Make sure the pull-down menu option for Format As is Original.
  4. Select in Compile For pull-down menu the option Multimarkdown -> HTML.

    Scrivener Compile Settings

    The settings for Scrivener to turn MultiMarkDown into HTML.

Now Scrivener will produce a HTML file with your article formatted in HTML. Super easy, super fast. Copy your HTML code, paste it into WordPress, publish and that’s it! In fact, this and most previous articles, have been written using MultiMarkDown and Scrivener in this exact way.

Next Action

Get familiar with the MultiMarkDown syntax, try out the trial of Scrivener and start being an efficient blogger or writer.

If you would like to buy Scrivener, you can do it on their official website or even better in the Mac App Store.

Photo by rahego.

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{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Triathlon Coach December 7, 2011 at 9:44PM

Can you write an article more specifically on Scrivener?  How you use it to keep track of more complex topics? DO you have one scrivener project for all of AE? Or do you have multiple scrivener documents/projects for different topics?   Do you have favorite “shortcuts” that help you sort & mangine the text information?  I use scrivener to compile things I write to my clients (athletes) in the ever ending hope I’ll create a really awesome training manual, but it always seems plagued by a variety of things. Anyway, I’d love ot see your process.

Reply

Thanh Pham December 8, 2011 at 1:16PM

Yeah we do have something in the works for that, but I’m not sure when this will get out.

The way we do it now is that each blog post has its own scrivener file. First there is a mindmap made, but then that gets translated into Scrivener as we write. Pretty much all the writing we do is in Scrivener, including some of the bigger things I can’t talk about yet.

Reply

Dellu January 10, 2013 at 7:47AM

That is how I am writing my PhD dissertation: MMD+Scrivener+Latex, you have it all!
The best of all worlds.

Reply

Shannon W. March 11, 2013 at 4:54PM

Please indulge me on how you do this. I am looking to pursue this exact method myself… lol

Reply

Jan April 4, 2013 at 4:55PM

That’s the right way. Of course you want to read the iBook “Markdown”; a MacSparky field guide. Then you know everything you have to know about multimarkdown

Reply

Jeff Porter April 21, 2013 at 3:42AM

I write in Markdown all the time. I just wish more apps, such as Scrivener and nvALT, would provide enhanced Markdown for better visualisation of a document’s structure. If anyone knows of a way to do this in Scrivener, please let me know.

Byword and iA Writer are examples of apps that provide enhanced Markdown.

Reply

Chris May 20, 2013 at 5:33PM

I’ve been using Scrivener for some time now and absolutely love it. It does everything I need it to and more. BUT – I had no idea I could write in Markdown, I didn’t even know what Markdown was until now. Scrivener is more clever than I realised.

This is a brilliantly informative article and I am now off to try writing in Markdown in Scrivener to test it out … if for no other reason than I just love using Scrivener.

I shall be including a post linking back to his article as soon as I can.

Reply

Scott August 16, 2013 at 11:42AM

Thanks for the article.

Do I need a plug-in for WordPress to do the above (my website shows none of the MMD formatting when copied over from Scrivener?

Another question….I’m writing a method for classical guitar that will be published on my website but also want it available for in PDF and possibly a booke reader (Kindle, IBook). There is a lot of formatting necessary; headers, tables, lists, images, video links, etc. I find Scrivener great for easy organzation of multi-chapters (like an effecient ‘Finder’) but prefer prepping this in an easier format like MMD. Is it possible to write this once (albeit with the formatting) and be able to publish in all the formats mentioned above?

If so, what is the protocol? Write in MMD, copy to Scrivener and Compile from there?

Any suggestions?

Thanks,
Scott

Reply

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