Fantastic Write up on Plain Text, thank you iA!
Thank you iA for writing this fantastic musing, and jotting down a very very important summary of the state of the art. Plus the main, big article on iAwriter has nicely summarized the importance of plain text, markdown, and multimarkdown for writing.
I’d like to add here, that there is a case to use Markdown for academic, and more serious non-fiction writing. It’s great to see scholars such Martin Fenner have extensively written about it. Besides, the availability of Scholarly Markdown has made it pleasing and convenient to write scholarly, deep text in Markdown without necessarily have to be bogged down with the complexity of writing LaTeX, or the problems of writing in Word like environment that you have so well pointed out. Scholarly, academic non-fiction writing is a special situation where authors need to depend on adding tables, lists, figures, equations, codes, and most importantly referring to citations and hyperlinks. Markdown meets some of these (for instance, hyperlinks, lists, figures, and code blocks) but does not fare well in other areas such as citation processing and tables. Multimarkdown is great at solving these issues, and Pandoc with Markdown can help create good workflow.
I have started putting together my musings in Medium in a serialised set of musings my thoughts on using plain text format (the latest article on the series here), starting with Markdown and then moving to LaTeX (but without necessarily dabbling with the complex syntax of LaTeX) to write academic papers and non-fiction incorporating all of the necessary elements of writing (particularly tables, figures, and citation support). It’d be a good idea to see how we can best use Markdown to write academic literature or at least writing that depends a lot on citing evidence and compressing complex information in the form of diagrams, figures, cartoons and tables, or using different elements that are usually not regularly used in writing opinion pieces.