Saturday, March 17, 2012

MultiMarkdown, RTF and Automatic Footnotes

One of the reasons I found MultiMarkdown attractive was that it promised footnotes in RTF. This seems to have been a false promise all along. The User Guide now states: "MultiMarkdown 2.0 had partial support for outputting an RTF file, and could do it completely on Mac OS X by using Apple’s textutil program. MMD 3 no longer directly supports RTF as an output format, but the Flat OpenDocument format is a much better option."[1]

In other words, I was led to believe that it produces automatic footnotes in RTF. It doesn't. In RTF the footnote references are superscripted and correctly numbered and they correspond to footnotes at the bottom of the text, but (I noticed yesterday) there is no actual connection between the list at the bottom and the superscripted reference in the text. You can delete either one without having an effect on the other. This means that it does not produce automatic footnotes in RTF.

Given hindsight, I don't know why I thought automatic footnotes were possible in this application in the first place. Like all applications that produce HTML first and foremost, it has no easy way to go from HTML-ased footnotes to RTF-based footnotes.

In a program like ConnectedText, footnotes are enclosed by "[!" and "!]". This can easily be reformatted into the strings "\chftn{\footnote \pard\plain \s246 \fs20 {\up6\chftn}" and "}" that mark automatic footnotes in RTF, as it did in my little script.[2] (It seems that Ulysses and Scrivener use this method as well.)

It would be good, if someone developed a special version of Markdown that incorporates "[! ...!] or something similar for RTF. In fact, I am wondering whether Brett Terpstra's recent musings mean that he is working on something like this. I hope he will, as Multimarkdown in its present incarnation is not very useful to me.[3]

1. I have not looked at the option Flat OpenDocument, but not even Open or Libre Office opens this kind of file without a plugin. And I do not use either of these programs.
2. See ConnectedText Markdown to RTF.
3. One other thing: MultiMarkdown Composer's syntax highlighter looks a bit garish. It would be good, if one could select more subdued (not to say: "subtle") colors.

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