Easier Text Entry And Formatting

I made couple of upgrades to my site which you may have noticed in my last post. I installed Daring Fireballs’ excellent Markdown and Smarty Pants plug-ins.

Markdown is the kind of Movable Type plug-in that I’ve been looking for for quite a while now. I think I’ve mentioned before that I use BBEdit to write my posts. And then I copy it into the MT web interface. In a little more detail, I actually type the entire document first. Then I check it for spelling errors and read it through for grammar problems. Only then do I go through and add in all the XHTML markup. This is what makes it look the way it should in the final presentation online with links to other webpages, code for embedded image files, other code for bold and italics. But once I add all this in, the once neat and clean document is damn near impossible to read.

Hence, Markdown. The basic idea is that you type up your document like you would in an old text-only email. You add simple things like *asterisks* around a word to turn it into an italicized word, asterisks. (Actually it adds the emphasis tags <em> and </em> since this has more to do with content than layout.) There are simple text-based “codes” for many of the most used XHTML tags, and best of all, it leaves you with a text document that you can easily read. (You can still add all the XHTML you want, don’t worry about that.)

The other plug-in, Smarty Pants, turns your ‘this’ into ‘that’, your “that” into “this”, your . . . into …, and your — into —. It gives you nice typographically correct text without any real effort.

A cool feature of these two plug-ins is that they work together and are implemented through the “Text Formatting” pull-down menu in the MT entry screen. With this you can turn it on or off for each individual post. Quite handy. I’m planning on going back and reformatting all my previous posts for Markdown, but that will take some time. However, I can start to get the benefit of Markdown right now without screwing up my other entries.

Great stuff.