Academic Writing in Markdown: How Working in Plain Text Make You Academic Writing Easier?

Students and researchers have enough challenges with their academic writing already, and the last thing they want is to have a low-efficient academic writing tool.

LaTeX and Microsoft Word are the choice of many who are heavy academic writers, but they don’t cater to everyone’s taste, do they?

For starters, the learning curve for LaTeX is so sharp that it’s horrifying to some. Just adding figures and tables in LaTeX alone could take you hours to master. While Microsoft Word seems to have conquered the learning curve issue, it becomes extremely slow and bloating when you write longer content, especially those who require versatile formats. You may find yourself waiting for 2 minutes for a large doc to open!

I’m comfortable with what I’m using for academic writing now, why would I change to markdown writing?

When you need to write a lot, and for various purposes, such as emails, papers, online articles, etc., like most scholars and students, it takes you forever to just adjust the format of your work to where it belongs.

Come to think of it, you first need to remove the original format of your writing, since the format you use (such as Word) doesn’t really fit everywhere, and then you need to add all the formats again to make it look good in emails, papers or websites. What a good way to waste your time!

Things are really different when you switch to markdown plain text writing.

Markdown editors such as Inspire Writer allows you to export your writing (including academic writing) to various format, HTML, txt, PDF, DOCX, and many more, with just 2 single clicks:

  1. Choose what format you want your content to be in,
  2. Click Export.

And that’s it.

So with a markdown editor, you won’t find yourself wasting time tweaking your copy to make it look good in different situations, because it’s already taken care for you.

Wait, what is markdown again?

According to Wikipedia, markdown is a lightweight markup language with plain text formatting syntax. It’s often used to create rich text using a plain text editor.

Uh-oh! I can see that we’ve lost you already, you might be wondering: how the heck do I know less than before I read that sentence?

Don’t sweat it, let’s break it down bit by bit for you:

  • Rich text: When you open a Microsoft Word doc, you’ll see a bunch of formatting features in the text. Footnotes, section titles, fonts, size or color of text, and all formatting elements of these sorts: these are features in a rich text document.
  • Plain text: You don’t see the aforementioned features in a plain text document, all you have are letters, numbers, punctuation marks and other symbols.
  • Syntax: You can think of syntax as a way of telling your computer how you want your text to look.

So, to sum it up, when you write with markdown, all you do is to write, and formatting is never your concern here. It then allows you to export your work to other formats such as DOCX, HTML, and more. Markdown sets writing and adding formats apart, and thus saves more time and creates less headaches.

More Advantages of Markdown Writing

Markdown allows you to focus on writing itself

At this stage, you’ve probably connected some dots here: markdown writing keeps you from distracted from formatting, so your focus is fully on writing itself.

With rich text editors such as Microsoft Word, you may find yourself spending a full hour fiddling with the formatting: you just have to find the right font for your work, the most appealing header that looks good everywhere, or other ways to procrastinate. 😛

With markdown, you have none of those excuses, and you have to write. Sound scary for some, I know I know. But you’ve gotta start somewhere. Why not let markdown editors be the external force to push you forward?

Markdown can be easily exported to multiple formats

You can well write something in a markdown editor, and convert it to a HTML file, which works perfectly on a website. Or a PDF for printing, a DOCX file if someone you work with just have to have a Word document.

Markdown files are future proof

The page format that used to work a decade or two ago might not work anymore now, and this is not uncommon. What if 10 years later, people stop using Microsoft Word (God forbids!), what would happen to your Word files?

None of these would be a worry if you’re working in plain text: it’s the same decades ago, and it’ll remain the same decades from now.

Markdown files are easy to sync between devices, and even software

Plain text documents are usually small and easy to move from one device to another, even if they’re on different operating systems, like Windows and Mac.

In the case of Inspire Writer, you can start your document in a Windows computer at work, and you can continue to work on it in Ulysses on Mac at home. And you don’t need to worry about losing anything, or compatibility issues. All you need is a solid third-party cloud syncing provider. See more detailed instructions and info about how to edit Ulysses markdown files on Windows here.

More advantages for academic writers

Apart from the above mentioned benefits for general and academic writers alike, here are two features of markdown writing that are especially helpful for academic writing.

Easy collaboration

When you need to work with a team to create a long, juicy article or report, it’s very common that you all have preferred formats. For instance, one may go with Microsoft Word, one with Google Docs, and another with Google Docs with its fancy template, and many more of this sort.

None of this would be an issue when you’re writing in plain text. You just need to write all the pieces and leave the formatting after until you’ve reached an agreement of the text. Thus saving bunch of time going back and froth arguing for the best format for your work.

Why Inspire Writer stands out?

Of all the markdown editors, or plain text editors, Inspire Writer stands out. Because:

  • It’s easy for you to convert your writing to all sorts of formats with Inspire: HTML for website publishing, DOCX for people who prefer a Word document, PDF for printing, and more widely used formats to come. It even allows you to publish your work directly from within the app to WordPress websites (very handy for bloggers), and Medium.
  • Its syntax is easy to master: you can grasp it in 2 minutes, literately. Check this markup syntax tutorial out and you’ll see for yourself how easy it is.
  • Your work syncs in different platforms and devices, as long as you have a reliable cloud syncing service provider. That is to say, you can write in Inspire on Windows, and can pick it up when you want in Ulysses on Mac. This is proof that Inspire Writer has done what its counterparts can’t do.

We don’t just talk the talk , but you need to walk the walk with us to see how Inspire benefits your academic writing.

Download the 10-day free trial of Inspire from here, and have a go at it. You’ll see how much time it’s saved you from all those formatting, and believe me, you’ll fall in love with the plain text writing experience, just like me.

If you feel that I’m still not clear enough about anything, feel free to leave me comments in the comment section, and I’d be happy to help. 🙂

Markdown Footnote: How It Spices Up Your Writing Workflow

As writing genres become more fluid these days, footnotes are no longer exclusive to academic writing. You can include them in your work of any kind if you need, be it a short novel, a long blog post, a short story, or even a poem!

For you, this means more authenticity for your work, more value-added information and fewer distractions for your audience. What more could you ask for?

In other words, it’s wise of you to add footnotes to your writing and have them spiced up your work. Keep on reading and see how you can add footnotes easily in Inspire Writer.

First off, what are footnotes?

Footnotes [1] can be anything: interesting comments, relevant sources, additional information, etc. (You can click the superscript number with the link to jump to the footnote at the bottom of this page to see for yourself what a footnote is. )

To some extent, you can add what seems too distracting for your audience, but could provide more information as a footnote.

We usually see footnotes in books as references or comments made by editors or translators at the bottom of a page. Or we can also find them at the end of a page of a rather long blog post, or a piece of academic writing.

Do I need to add footnotes in my work?

You don’t have to include footnotes to your work, if you don’t want to. I just suggest that you add them when you’re writing something like a novel, a short story, etc.: They’d be interesting reading materials for your readers.

To sum up, footnotes can do the following for you:

  • Provide explanatory notes to your readers without interrupting their reading flow;
  • Avoid distracting your reader from your main text;
  • Avoid cluttering your page with trivial but interesting information;
  • Add more authority to your work;
  • Provide value-added information to your readers;
  • And more.

How to add markdown footnotes in Inspire

To add a footnote in Inspire (download Inspire from here if you haven’t already), here is how:

1) Place your mouse cursor to the text where you want to add the footnote[2] to. Click Markup > Footnote. Or use the shortcut keys Shift + Ctrl + F.

To add a footnote in Inspire the markdown writing app for distraction free writing of all kinds
To add a footnote, use the shortcut keys Shift + Ctrl + T, or click Markup > Footnote.

2) There you go, you’ll see the footnote icon on the right corner of the footnote, and its content at the end of your page like this:

NOTE: The style of the footnotes depends on your website design. Therefore it can look very different from what’s shown here.

Over to you…

What do you think about adding footnotes to your work? Have you tried to add them to your work in Inspire before? What do you usually include in your footnotes? Feel free to share with us your writing experience, and your story could provide help for some.


  1. See the definition of footnote here:
  2. This is just an example of a footnote.

Sheet list: organize your projects and texts

When you open Inspire, you can see 3 columns from left to right: Library & Groups, Sheet list, and the Editor.

Sheet list is the column in the middle. It contains a bunch of “classic documents”, except that they don’t require a “title” or a “filename” or anything as such.

Sheet list in Inspire.
Sheet list in Inspire.

In other words, you don’t need to scratch your head to come up with a title before you write. This is how Inspire fastens your writing workflow. On the improving writing efficiency front, every step counts.

Here are what you can do in the sheet list to improve your writing efficiency:

Change sort order: for better sheet organization

Here, you can change the sort order of your sheets in a group.

To do so, just select the group you want to sort, and hover your mouse over to the top-right corner of the group, and select one of the options you see here:

Change your sheets sort order in Inspire.
Change your sheets sort order.

Searching for keywords: locate your sheet faster

Search for keyword
Search for keywords

You can also filter your sheets by typing in the keyword in the Search field, so you’ll only see sheets with the searched keyword listed.

Display dates in the sheet list: keep track of the last update

In Inspire, you can show the dates of a sheet in the sheet list. To do so, you can go to View > Sheet Preview, then make sure that you’ve ticked Dates .

View the updated dates of your sheets in Inspire.
View the updated dates of your sheets.

By default, you can see the updated date above each sheet:

An example of the updated date on a sheet.
An example of the updated date on a sheet.

Add to Favorites: direct access to your favored sheets

By adding your sheets to favorites, you’ll see them in the Favorites group in the Library, so you don’t have to spend your time searching for them in the group hierarchy. Such direct access leads to a smoother workflow.

Add a sheet to your Favorite group.
Add a sheet to your Favorite group.

Duplicate: copy your current sheet

Just as the name entails, by duplicating the selected sheet, you’ll get an identical copied sheet in the same group. So you can move it around to other groups if you need, without having to manually copy and paste the entire sheet to a new one.

Split Sheet…: split a sheet by heading and/or divider

If you want to split your long document into shorter, handy chunks, like when you’re working on large projects such as novels, it’s done almost immediately on Inspire.

To split your sheet, you can right-click the sheet and click Split Sheet…. Then choose how you like the sheet to be divided, and click OK.

Split your work with long content by headings and/or divider
Split your work with long content by headings and/or divider

There, you now have a group of sheets stored in a new group.

Merge sheets: join multiple sheets into one

Inspire aims to let you write whole books, and you’ll probably need more than one single sheet of content for these. So, merging multiple sheets into a master one for later use is of great help. Here is how you can do it:

Press the Ctrl key and select the sheets you want to merge. Right-click the sheets highlighted and click Merge Sheets.

Merge multiple sheets into one
Merge multiple sheets into one

There, you have your master sheet created.

Preview…: see how your work will look like

Right-click your sheet and select Preview…, you’ll see how your sheet will look like when it’s published to the website.

You can also Preview multiple selected sheets to see how are the sheets doing when merged.

Export…: export to a host of standard formats, publish to WordPress or Medium

When you finish your writing, how do you want the world to see it? Inspire allows you to export your work to numerous standard formats (Text, HTML, DOCX, PDF, etc.). You can also publish it directly from within the app to your WordPress website or a Medium account.

You can either 1) click the export button on the editor, or 2) right-click the sheet and select Export… to invoke the export option.

How to export your work from Inspire
How to export your work from Inspire

This is what the export panel looks like

From left to right are what you can do in the export panel: you can change export formats, you can directly export, or see draft, you can change the export settings
What you can do in the export panel

From left to right, up to down:

  • You can choose what format you want your work to be export as,Text, HTML, PDF, DOCX, or InspireSheet. You can also publish your work to WordPress or Medium as well.
  • Copy to clipboard
  • Preview… allows you to see what your exported sheet will look like
  • Open in… lets you open your sheet in available applications
  • Save to… opens and saves your sheet to your local folder
  • Publish… allows you to publish to WordPress and Medium
  • Cancel if you have second thought about exporting

Export multiple sheets

You can also export multiple sheets all at once.

When you selected the sheets, all of them will be “stitched together”, like a large chunk of content. You then can decide what format you want the merged sheet to be in, just like a regular sheet.

Move to Trash: move unwanted sheets from the sheet list

When you move your sheets to the Trash group, they’ll stay there, until you erase them manually. But please be aware that manual erased sheets can’t be retrieved, so please do so with extra discreet.

Other features for the sheet list

  • Add a new sheet: shortcut keys Ctrl + N
  • Previous sheet: shortcut keys Ctrl + Up
  • Next sheet: shortcut keys Ctrl + Down

Why Every Software Engineer Should Write More

“Every developer should write.”

We’re at the beginning of the ‘everyone should learn to code’ area. With the ever-emerging developers’ forums, tech websites and personal blogs, we have much easier access to advanced coding knowledge than ever before.

For a software engineer, it becomes all the more important for you to keep up with the tech trend from the mentioned sources, otherwise, your competitiveness would be under great challenge.

But having access to such knowledge and information only gets you halfway. How so?

Because being at the receiving end doesn’t necessarily mean that you truly master what you ‘learn’ as a software engineer. You could start blank at a technical document for 30 minutes without understanding a bit of it (one of my embarrassing true stories).

What can be done differently?

“While we teach, we learn.

The learning-by-teaching effect has been proved by many studies. Just as the name entails, by teaching someone else, we learn better ourselves. In other words, teaching what we learn is the other half of our learning journey.

That said, from my standpoint, writing is the best way of learning. Why would I say that? Read on and you’ll see.

Why do I say writing is the best way of learning, especially for software engineers?
Why do I say writing is the best way of learning?

Writing helps you code better, and vice versa

Coding and writing actually require very similar skill sets: you need to be capable of

  • thinking clearly,
  • planning,
  • organizing,
  • explaining clearly and concisely what you have in your head,
  • revising and editing your work till it’s almost close to perfection,
  • learning and practicing new industrial knowledge…

The list goes on and on…

By sharpening your writing skills, your coding skills grow as well.

For instance, if you are to write a good copy, possibly a big project, you need to break down the topic, find and select evidence you need, and order your points in a compelling way, and then start the writing process. This is almost what you’d do if you are to write codes for excellent software.

Writing helps you know more about your codes and yourself

Just like writers, software engineers need to learn non-stop. With the knowledge and information updating so rapidly, it’s a big challenge for these two groups to keep up with the trend, let alone being on top of it all.

But as we mentioned, teaching helps you learn better. By writing down what you learn, to you or to others, you have a chance to see clearly how far you’ve gone in the learning path.

Let’s think of it: you need to know what you learn by heart so as to write something about it, which requires you to learn more than what’s given in just one or two documents. During the process, you’ll see your weaknesses and strengths, and therefore, be able to fix what needs to be fixed.

By writing what’s in your head down clearly, you learn how to communicate effectively with different groups, especially when you have an audience of various backgrounds.

Different points of view

As software engineers, we usually have a very confined working scope, where we only need to talk to designers and other developers about work. The downside about this is, you’ll find your mind confined as well if you don’t seek a way out.

Writing is the way out.

By writing for different audiences, for different purposes, you’ll have to see things from different perspectives, and thus you’ll be able to think in other people’s shoes. Such a rare trait will help you understand your clients better, and therefore write better codes and programs.

In addition, by sharing your viewpoints, the others are more or less likely to be influenced, taught, and inspired by you. How fascinating is that!

Writing allows you to see things from different perspectives.
Writing allows you to see things from different perspectives.

But, but, but

By now, I guess the voice in your head is more of “But I don’t know how to write.” than “I need to write NOW!”

No one is born a writer, just like no one is born a software engineer. It takes tremendous training, learning and practice, just like anything else.

And to eliminate the learning curve, you should always start from something you’re familiar with. Pick something you find most comfortable to talk about, and choose the writing app that won’t stress you out, then start from there. Our brains just love what looks and sounds familiar to us.

Markdown writing

For a software engineer, you’d find markdown writing most familiar and easiest to accept as one of the first steps that you start your writing as a learning path.

Why markdown, you ask? Because:

  • years of experience in the industry may have trained you to focus on the more important things, like how you can better think and type in a distraction-free environment;
  • your time is too valuable to be wasted on setting up the writing environment, getting familiar with all the bells and whistles in most of the WYSIWYG editors;
  • instead, you might want to add all of your formatting styles right into the text as simple inline syntax rather than using all the features.

This is basically what a markdown writing app does.

Among all the apps, Inspire Writer stands out. With its simplicity and core features, this markdown editor helps to build the distraction-free environment for you to write in, and you’ll find the writing process so smooth and entertaining: just you and your thoughts, and nothing more.

Inspire Markdown editor in Dark Mode
Inspire Markdown editor in Dark Mode

Download Inspire now to enjoy the most comfortable writing environment that it creates for you. It now offers a 7-day free trial, with all pro features waiting to drive your writing workflow.

Or you can purchase Inspire Writer if you find it of great help to your writing goal from here:

Buy Inspire Writer
Buy Inspire Writer

Over to you…

Do you think that software engineers should write more than codes? What are your suggestions for software engineers who’d love to write more? Feel free to share with us what you think in the comment section.

Happy writing! 🙂

Import Ulysses Markdown Files to Windows

Ulysses, one of, or to be more exact, the best writing app on the market nowadays, sure deserves its popularity among creative writers.

But, its exclusiveness to the macOS and iOS could be a headache for writers who prefer the Windows system. To be more exact, we write anywhere and anytime, on the sofa, at a coffee shop, and it’d be ridiculous if we can’t have access to our work just because we’re working in different environments, i.e. Windows, Mac, and iOS.

The External Folders feature on Inspire is the game-changer. How so? Read on and you’ll see.

One of the challenges for working on different platforms, or in different environments, is that app developers might not develop an app exclusively for an environment, so it’s sometimes impossible for you to use one single writing app on all your devices. Ulysses is a case in point: it has only Mac and iOS versions, but not Windows, which is the most popular operating system.

To make cross-platform possible, Inspire first allows you to sync your work on a third-party cloud service provider such as Dropbox and OneDrive. Then you can import folders from these cloud service providers to Inspire. By doing so, you’ll have access to all your work as markdown files, provided that you have them all synced to the cloud.

That said, it needs to be pointed out that Inspire doesn’t really store your files or documents. All the saving and syncing are done by your cloud service provider, all Inspire does is for you to grab the .md files and edit them in whatever environment.

Here, with the example for Dropbox as the cloud service provider, let’s see how you can edit your .md files on both Windows and Mac:

1) In your Dropbox folder, create a new sub-folder to sync your documents. Let’s call it MySheetsSync. Skip if you’ve already such a folder.

2) Click the Add Folder… button to add MySheetsSync to Inspire.

Now you have full access to .md files in the folder listed:

You can select a sheet for further editing, or, of course, create a new sheet in this folder.

3) All changes to your files and folder will be synced if you also have Dropbox installed on Mac. That is to say, you can edit the synced .md files with Ulysses when you also add MySheetsSync as the ‘External Folders’ to Ulysses on Mac.

This is how multi-platform writing is made possible on Inspire.

Enchanted? Download the latest version of Inspire  and enjoy the 10-day free trial!

Cross-platform Writing App on Mac and Windows For Writers

Switching back and forth from writing on Windows and Mac surely is a big headache, especially when your writing app doesn’t support cross-platform editing, which means more wasted time and less productive workflow…

This has gotta stop!

The good news is, if you’re an  Inspire user, the thing is a whole lot different since Inspire 3.0.

Starting from Inspire 3.0, we have added support for the ‘external folder’. That is to say, now you can load, edit and sync your markdown documents, even when they are from different platforms, such as Mac and Windows.

In other words, you can well write your work on Mac with Ulysses at work, and can continue with the same document with Inspire on your Windows PC when at home. Or vice versa.

You no longer need a ‘Ulysses for Windows‘ on Windows, nor do you need an ‘Inspire for Mac‘ either.

This is all made possible by cloud services such as Dropbox: your .md documents are stored in the cloud, therefore, you can easily access the .md files even when they’re from different platforms.

Note that Inspire doesn’t store your files or documents, it just allows you to edit them. All the saving and syncing are done by your cloud service provider.

Here is how you can edit your .md files on both Windows and Mac with the help of Dropbox as an example:

1) In your Dropbox folder, create a new sub-folder to sync your documents. We call it MySheetsSync. If you’ve already such a folder, just skip this step and move on.

2) Click the Add Folder… button to add MySheetsSync to Inspire.

Now you have full access to .md files in the folder listed:

Add external folder to Inspire Writer.
Add the MySheetsSync external folder to Inspire.

You can select a sheet for further editing, or, of course, create a new sheet in this folder.

3) All changes to your files and folder will be synced if you also have Dropbox installed on Mac. That is to say, you can edit the synced .md files with Ulysses when you also add MySheetsSync as the ‘External Folders’ to Ulysses on Mac.

External folder added for cross-platform editing.
External folder added for cross-platform editing.

This is how Inspire handles multi-platform writing.

Note: Please don’t edit the same file on both Mac and Windows at the same time, or you’ll see multiple copies of the file created by Dropbox to prevent ‘conflict’.