Using Marxico to work with Markdown in Evernote

In my quest to find a decent way to work with Markdown in Evernote, I’ve already looked at Alternote, which was…okay, but only just barely. Today I’m going to write about Marxico.

Marxico is a paid app/service that has a free 10-day trial. During those 10 days you get the full Marxico experience with no limitations; after 10 days you’re no longer able to sync notes. Meaning, it becomes totally useless after those 10 days.

Marxico is available as a Chrome Extension, and desktop clients for Windows and Mac. I admit to being a bit concerned about just downloading the desktop client from the developer’s Dropbox account. I’d much rather see this in the app store, though then the developer would likely have to give Apple its cut of the Pro purchase.

Writing Interface

The writing interface for Marxico is pretty nice. You have two view choices available — split view and markdown-only view. When you choose the markdown-only view you get a nicely-centered column of text that seems just about right to me for writing.

Marxico split view
Marxico split view

 

Distraction free Marxico
Distraction-free Marxico

 

The colours are dark (perfect for me) but if you want something light you can dig in and write plain old CSS in Marxico’s settings to get that. This is less than ideal for sure, since so many people who love Markdown will end up muddling through CSS. But the feature is there…barely.

For speed, the UI is awesome, even handling a huge note that makes Evernote lag lots. Marxico had no issues with typing lag or with rendering the markdown in five seconds or so from the time I typed. I wish Evernote could do this.

One nice feature that you don’t always see in split-pane Markdown editors is that the two halves of the view stay aligned when you scroll in either one. So when I’m proofing in the rendered view, I can just move to my left to edit the markdown I should be editing. Many others scroll independently, which means you end up searching for the markdown that goes with the text you’re currently proofing. This is terrible user experience and totally frustrating.

Editing in Evernote

Editing is where Marxico falls down — you can’t edit your notes made with Marxico in Evernote. When viewing a note in Evernote, you get a little red bookmark in the top right corner. To edit, you need to click on this bookmark — which is actually a web link — and you’ll be taken to Marxico.

This means that you can’t edit your notes made with Marxico on your other devices that don’t have Marxico, like perhaps your iPad or iPhone. This, for me, makes Marxico a total fail, though I sort of understand why they do it.

See, when Marxico stores your note in Evernote it stores two copies of the note. The first copy is the regular note that you see. The second copy is stored where you can’t see it and is a complete copy of the markdown you just wrote, without editing. This is great for Marxico because it doesn’t have to send your notes through some reverse processing system to get back to Markdown when you edit a note a second time. This process also lets Marxico support everything that Markdown (and LaTEX) does without worrying so much about Evernote.

Simply convert the Markdown to a rich HTML file in Evernote on each save, and sync the new note and the associated Markdown.

This ‘easy for Marxico’ means that one of the hallmark features of Evernote (everywhere editing your notes) is totally lost. Also, since you can’t sync notes not made in Marxico back into it, any note you create from your iPad/iPhone/Android device won’t go into Marxico unless you do the copy and paste routine, rendering the note unavailable in the platform where you first created it.

Note Sync

The biggest issue, and the reason I won’t be continuing to use Marxico, is how it syncs notes. I have a whole list of notes sitting in my writing notebook in Evernote that I simply can’t edit in Marxico because the notes didn’t originate there. I have been unable to find a way to pull in a complete notebook to Marxico, short of copying and pasting every note into the editor then saving it so it syncs back to Evernote.

Now, you can take a Marxico note and use a special ‘markdown like’ syntax to place it in a notebook of your choice. This even comes with autocomplete as you type so it’s at least functional. This notebook completion also works with both my personal accounts and my business accounts, meaning I can push a single note from one account/subscription to the other.

Marxico also deals with offline notes by just storing them locally until you can sync the note, which means that not having an Internet connection is no problem.

Overall

So overall, I really want to like Marxico. If it allowed me to edit my notes in Evernote and sync down entire notebooks of notes that didn’t originate in Marxico, I’d have no complaints and would have a new Markdown editor.

Unfortunately that’s not the case, so I’m still looking.

photo credit: songzhen cc

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