All Posts

Published in General

Taking Notes the Smart Way: Markdown

By Scholarly

10 min read

Share this post


Taking notes is an essential skill for effective learning and information retention. Traditional note-taking methods, such as using pen and paper or word processors, can be time-consuming and lack flexibility. However, with the rise of Markdown, a lightweight markup language, note-taking has become smarter and more efficient. In this article, we will explore the history of note-taking, the benefits of using Markdown, best practices, pros and cons, comparison with other tools, common techniques, challenges, and potential online apps related to note-taking.


Past State

In the past, note-taking was primarily done using pen and paper. Students and professionals would jot down important information during lectures, meetings, or while conducting research. However, this method had limitations. Notes written on paper could get lost, damaged, or become disorganized. It was also difficult to make edits or revisions to handwritten notes.

With the emergence of word processors, digital note-taking became popular. Tools like Microsoft Word or Google Docs allowed users to type their notes, making it easier to edit, format, and organize information. However, these tools often came with unnecessary features and distractions that hindered the note-taking process.

Current State

In the current state, Markdown is gaining popularity as a smart way to take notes. Unlike traditional word processors, Markdown focuses on simplicity and ease of use. It combines plain text formatting with simple syntax to create well-structured and easily readable notes. Markdown files can be easily converted to different formats, such as HTML or PDF, without losing the original formatting.

Markdown is widely used by developers, content creators, and knowledge workers who need a lightweight and efficient tool for note-taking. Many text editors, like Sublime Text, VS Code, and Atom, support Markdown syntax highlighting and live preview features, making it easier to write and view Markdown documents.

Future State

The future of note-taking is likely to involve advancements in AI technology. AI-powered note-taking assistants could analyze audio recordings, extract key information, and generate structured notes in Markdown format. These assistants could also provide intelligent suggestions for related resources, generate flashcards, and even summarize lengthy texts. With the increasing integration of AI into productivity tools, note-taking will become even smarter and more valuable in the future.


  • Simplicity: Markdown offers a simple and intuitive syntax that allows users to focus on writing without distractions.

  • Portability: Markdown files are plain text files, which means they can be easily opened and edited on any device or platform.

  • Flexibility: Markdown allows users to add various elements to their notes, such as headings, lists, links, images, and code snippets, making it suitable for a wide range of purposes.

  • Compatibility: Markdown files can be easily converted to different formats, facilitating sharing and collaboration with others who may not use Markdown.

  • Version Control: Markdown files work seamlessly with version control systems like Git, allowing users to track changes, collaborate with others, and revert to previous versions if needed.


The significance of using Markdown for note-taking lies in its ability to streamline the process and enhance productivity. By using a lightweight markup language, note-takers can focus on capturing and organizing information quickly and effectively. Markdown eliminates the need for complex formatting options and distractions found in traditional word processors, enabling users to concentrate on the content of their notes. The simplicity and portability of Markdown files make them ideal for sharing, collaboration, and long-term storage.

Best Practices

To make the most out of Markdown for note-taking, consider the following best practices:

  • Consistent Formatting: Maintain a consistent formatting style throughout your notes by utilizing consistent heading styles, lists, and emphasis styles.

  • Organize with Sections and Subsections: Divide your notes into sections and subsections using appropriate headings and subheadings. This helps in navigating and reviewing your notes more efficiently.

  • Use Shortcuts and Macros: Take advantage of text expansion tools or keyboard shortcuts to save time and automate repetitive tasks in Markdown editing.

  • Utilize Tables: Markdown supports simple table formatting, which can be useful for organizing tabular information within your notes.

  • Utilize Code Blocks: Markdown allows you to include code snippets or blocks in your notes using backticks or triple backticks. This is especially useful for technical or programming-related notes.

Pros and Cons


  • Simplicity: Markdown has a simple and straightforward syntax that is easy to learn and use.

  • Portability: Markdown files can be opened and edited on any device or platform without the need for specialized software.

  • Readability: Markdown files are plain text files, making them easily readable, even without specialized software.

  • Versatility: Markdown can be used for a variety of purposes, including note-taking, documentation, blogging, and more.

  • Compatibility: Markdown files can be converted to different formats, making them compatible with other tools and platforms.


  • Limited Formatting Options: Markdown has a limited set of formatting options compared to dedicated word processors.

  • Lack of Advanced Features: Markdown does not support advanced features like spell-checking or complex table formatting.

  • Learning Curve: While Markdown syntax is relatively simple, it still requires some learning and getting used to, especially for users accustomed to traditional word processors.

  • Initial Setup: Users may need to set up a text editor or dedicated Markdown editor to take full advantage of Markdown features.

  • Dependency on Rendering Software: While Markdown files are easily readable, their appearance depends on the rendering software used to view them.


When comparing Markdown with other note-taking tools, it's important to consider the specific requirements and preferences of the user. Here are some popular tools often compared with Markdown:

  • Microsoft Word: While Word offers a wide range of formatting options, it can be overwhelming for simple note-taking tasks. Markdown, on the other hand, provides a more streamlined and distraction-free writing experience.

  • Google Docs: Google Docs allows for collaboration and real-time editing but can suffer from formatting issues and feature bloat. Markdown files, being plain text, avoid these problems and can be easily shared and version-controlled.

  • Evernote: Evernote offers rich formatting options and powerful note organization features. However, it can be resource-intensive and may require a subscription for certain features. Markdown, being lightweight, offers a more lightweight and customizable note-taking experience.

  • Notion: Notion provides a flexible workspace for organizing notes, tasks, and more. While Notion offers more features than Markdown, it can also be complex to set up and navigate. Markdown, on the other hand, is simple and easy to learn, making it accessible for users who prefer a more straightforward note-taking approach.

Common Techniques

  • Headers: Use hashtags or the underline symbol to create headers in Markdown. Headers provide structure and organization to your notes.

  • Lists: Create unordered lists using hyphens or asterisks, and ordered lists using numbers. Lists help break down information into manageable chunks.

  • Links: Use square brackets followed by parentheses to create links. Links help reference external resources or related information.

  • Images: Embed images into your Markdown notes using an exclamation mark, followed by square brackets containing the image alt text, and parentheses containing the image URL.

  • Code Blocks: Use backticks or triple backticks to create code blocks in Markdown. Code blocks help highlight code snippets or technical information.


While Markdown offers numerous benefits, it also presents some challenges:

  • Limited Formatting Options: Markdown has a limited set of formatting options compared to dedicated word processors. Users accustomed to advanced formatting features may find the simplicity of Markdown limiting.

  • Syntax Errors: Incorrect or mismatched syntax in Markdown can result in rendering issues or unexpected formatting. Users need to be cautious and double-check the syntax to ensure the intended formatting is applied.

  • Lack of Standardization: Markdown syntax can vary slightly between different implementations or text editors. This can result in inconsistent rendering across different platforms or browsers.

  • Limited Support for Tables: While Markdown supports basic table formatting, more complex tables require the use of external tools or custom CSS.

Potential Online Apps

Explore these online apps that enhance the Markdown note-taking experience:

  1. Notion: Notion is a powerful all-in-one workspace that supports Markdown. It offers a variety of features for organizing, collaborating, and sharing Markdown notes.

  2. Obsidian: Obsidian is a knowledge management app that uses Markdown as its underlying format. It allows users to interlink and navigate between notes, making it ideal for building a personal knowledge base.

  3. Bear: Bear is a note-taking app designed for macOS and iOS. It supports Markdown and offers a clean and distraction-free writing environment.

  4. Simplenote: Simplenote is a minimalist note-taking app that supports Markdown. It focuses on simplicity and ease of use, allowing users to sync their notes across devices.

  5. Joplin: Joplin is an open-source note-taking and to-do app that supports Markdown. It offers end-to-end encryption and synchronization across multiple devices.


In conclusion, Markdown provides a smart and efficient way to take notes. Its simplicity, portability, and compatibility make it a valuable tool for students, professionals, and knowledge workers. By adopting best practices, users can maximize the benefits of Markdown for better organization, productivity, and information retention. While Markdown is not without its challenges, the future holds exciting possibilities for leveraging AI to enhance the note-taking experience further.

Taking notes the smart way with Markdown is a game-changer. Try it out and experience the difference it can make in your learning and productivity journey.

Register now on Scholarly to take advantage of AI-powered note-taking features and unleash your full academic potential.


Try Scholarly

It's completely free, simple to use, and easy to get started.

Join thousands of students and educators today.

Are you a school or organization? Contact us