Scrivener’s markdown support is fantastic, but it still feels quite clunky and unreliable. Here are some thoughts about what feels off, and how they might be addressed.
HUMANS ARE UNRELIABLE
First, what makes markdown handling in Scrivener isn’t the capabilities of the software itself, it’s the impossibility of perfect author restraint. I use Scrivener’s sync feature to edit in external, text-only editors. Ostensibly, this gives me complete control of formatting via markdown, and flexibility in applying different tools for different jobs. The trouble is that I sometimes find myself in too much of a hurry when I’ve had an idea to go through the multi-step sync process. I end up typing directly in Scrivener, and, thanks to deeply-seated keyboard habits, I end up applying styles (usually italics) directly in a document that’s supposed to be markdown.
Markdown is rarely, if ever, used as only a partial choice within a single document, so at the very least it would be handy if I could tell Scrivener not to allow me to shoot myself in the foot: if an entry is text-only, styles don’t work, period.
HUMANS ARE IMPATIENT
The trouble with this solution is that it doesn’t address the underlying usage pattern. I want Scrivener to be the hub for my writing, not a ball and chain. In an ideal world, syncing would happen automatically so that I don’t even need to worry where the latest changes exist. Pending utopia, here is one way that the whole workflow could be vastly improved.
MEDIUM COST SOLUTION
I’ve encountered the following pattern in FTP clients as well as IDEs and their plugins.
• Bring a specific document into focus in the hub application
• Trigger an Open in External Editor… action
- The hub app saves a copy in a tmp location
- The hub app tells the other editor to open it
• Make a change and ⌘S
- The hub app listens for changes and “sucks them in” to the canonical source
- Note: things could get complicated if trying to do this in conjunction with the existing ScrivenerSync folder, so perhaps this feature only works when Sync is disabled.
• Make some more changes, but close without saving
- These changes are lost, as you would expect
Combined with the ability to indicate text-only documents, this feature would make Scrivener into a more efficient hub, and, therefore, even more of an unstoppable powerhouse!