Simplifying Markdown with TextExpander

July 22, 2012 ☼ ArticleWriting-Tools

If you follow this blog for a while you already know that I switch my preferred text-editor more often than my pants [1] but whatever I do, I always come back to iA Writer. In fact I already rambled on this issue here on the blog.

To make a (relatively) long story short: a recent update of iA Writer brought it back unto my homescreen and once more replaced Byword as my general writing tool. I still use Byword for many purposes, but I simply enjoy writing text more with iA Writer than with any other application that I own. It’s especially enjoying to do work with it on the iPad and this keyboard [2]

While I prefer the extra row of this app much more than amy other apps, it is missing some typical and important markdown shortcuts. Naturally, and I think this goes without saying, I already have various TextExpander snippets, but those did usually include the symbol that it should expand (usually the asterisk, brackets and so on) with auto-pairs.

Even though this is easy enough, it requires to switch between the different keyboard layouts on the iOS devices, hence making it not as efficient as I would like it to. I started to think how I could make this easier and more efficient (especially with iA Writer even though it works all other apps as well) without the need to actually switch between the keyboards.

The solution was as simple as it was obvious: only use the keys that are available on the first keyboard layout for the abbreviations! Boom, that’s it. Actually I don’t even know why I didn’t think about this earlier.

At one point I went a bit crazy on the snippets but here’s what I came up with:




*%|* (italic)


**%|** (bold)


[|%] (square brackets) [3]


[|%]: %clipboard (ref link and paste)


# |% (header)


* |% (unordered list)


[^|%] (footnote)


> (blockquote)

I have working with these shortcuts now for a while on the desktop and iPad both with the on-board and an external keyboard and find these shortcuts relatively easy to use. I am though still trying to simplify and automate the process even more.

  1. Naturally this sounds worse than it actually is, but I do find myself changing my editors every now and then twice a day.  ↩

  2. Sometimes I am having some fun and write a document on the iPad while having the same document open on the desktop in Marked. I know, I might need a life.  ↩

  3. For the sake of the beauty of the text-file I prefer to work with referenced link hence these shortcuts. Even though I start to have feeling that in the long run it could be easier using inline links and re-format later.  ↩

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