Zettelkasten Forum

Beginner needs help for (Multi)Markdown Workflow

Hello all,

I followed this forum for some weeks now, after I started to use The Archive. I love the topic of knowledge management and have some years of experience already (I studied Mathematics and an MBA man years ago).

I am just diving into the Markdown language, because I have seen my AmiPro or Word Files fade away :-)

I have two objectives in using The Archive:

  1. I use The Archive as my Zettelkasten (I have a large number of Zettels which I imported from ScribblePapers, which I created during years in my job). I have some experience in using a Zettelkasten, so my questions are more related to the second objective ....

  2. I do a lot of writing - mainly job-specific topics that do not require a lot of text formatting - BUT - I will start to study German Linguistic soon. This means: writing more papers / homeworks. I would need some things like insert pictures; tables; some simple mathematical formulas (for statistics); etc.

My questions: I am totally confused how to best process my (Multi)Markdown files to PDF and DOCX. I expect that DOCX will be required.

(a) Which "processor" should I use in order to be independent of program-specific features?

I use Typora which offers a lot of formatting, even mathematical formula. But if Typora would be gone, how could I convert my files?

I installed Pandoc. It does not support everything which I can do in Typora. Conversion to DOCX seems to be very limited (if I am not doing things wrong). Tables do not work at all.

I installed Multimarkdown Composer. There are even more "markdown features" that do not work.

(b) Is there a recommended minimum set of markdown features that I should use?

(c) Maybe my thinking or expectation is wrong .... would someone be willing to give a high level description of his/her workflow?

Thank you very much for any help you can offer ...



  • I'm not sure I completely followed your question. But in case it's useful, I offer an account of how I manage my writing using multi markdown, pandoc, the archive, etc.

    1. I try to write everything in pandoc flavored markdown (essentially the same syntax as multi markdown). That is, my source files are all plain text. Sometimes I generate these texts in the Archive. Sometimes I generate them in Bbedit. Sometimes I generate them in Scrivener (which requires an export, but that's beyond the scope of this post). This way my source files should be readable for the foreseeable future. (I have a bunch of notes from my graduate school days stored in a Microsoft Word format that is no longer readable; I don't want to deal with that problem ever again).

    2. Anything I write that needs to be shared will be piped through pandoc into pdf or docx. (Too often my coauthors only use Word). By default, pandoc converts markdown into LaTeX to generate pdf files. It has a serviceable word template for files that get converted into docx. These templates can be tweaked. I haven't had a need to do this.

    3. I keep references in a bibtex file (which gets created by zotero) and use pandoc's citeproc routine to include references in my notes. (Essentially, every bibliographic reference has a citekey such as [@stolte2001]. When converting a markdown file into pdf or docx, pandoc will convert the reference in text to (Stolte, Fine, and Cook 2001) and add a bibliographic entry at the end of the file as... Stolte, John F., Gary Alan Fine, and Karen S. Cook. 2001. “Sociological Miniaturism: Seeing the Big Through the Small in Social Psychology.” Annual Review of Sociology 27:387–413.

    4. So with this basic set of tools... Plain text source files, basic markdown syntax for headings and subheadings, bold and italics, links, and the citeproc referencing system, I have everything that I need to manage my research and writing. The Archive's feature set is fantastic for notetaking and I've found that I can just pull my various zettles into scrivener when I'm writing something long form and have a decent first draft of my paper done.

    Pandoc is a command line tool and requires you climb a learning curve. But once you get the hang of it it works pretty well for converting files into various formats.

  • @cjcolyer,

    thank you very much for your feedback and for the time you spend on writing such a long comment. In fact, you answered all my questions :-)

    Sorry that my original post was kind of unclear. Over the last two days I invested a lot of time and played with pandoc, LaTeX, Bbedit and The Archive. You have just confirmed that I am on the right track.

    • I learned, that I should use pandoc to convert my .md files - that means: I should mainly stick to pandoc markdown (this is what I meant asking for a "minimum set of Markdown features".

    • Furthermore I found some LaTeX commands to set the most important layout options like numbered headings, table of content, line spacing 1.5, etc.

    • You mentioned that converting to Word involves a Word template. I guess I understand what it does, and I will go and investigate that further.

    • I have also set up a .command file which contains the pandoc command with all the options and converts in.md to out.pdf. So the current work is always in in.md :-) Not an elegant solution, but it works (edit ... run the .command ... view out.pdf) - and when I understand better, I hope to set up an Apple Script which converts the current file and shows the resulting pdf.

    • Yesterday I was at a point thinking that writing my texts directly in LaTeX might be better. But I turned away from that, because it is very difficult to work directly in the .tex file.

    So .... I will continue this road and try to adapt my workflow as needed.

    Thanks again for your help,


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