Universally compatible markdown files?

My Objective: create md files that can be universally used in any app compatible with Markdown format, besides Obsidian.

  • I want my content to be independent from the editor I choose to work with.
  • I want to be able to change the editor whenever I want.
  • I want to use more than one editor simultaneously to work with my vault: maybe one is best for bulk editing and another just for writing or connecting the dots.

Unfortunately there isn’t a unique Markdown format definition. There are a lot of specs available:

Why did this happened? Because John Gruber’s canonical description of Markdown’s syntax does not specify the syntax unambiguously.

They all (sorta) share some Basic Syntax but there are additional features like the Extended Syntax for tables, fenced code blocks, footnotes, task lists, and so on. Beyond that, each app decides which one supports.

In order to achive my goal I should restrict my markdown to the most compatible syntax between all of them, but I enjoy highlights, tables, fenced code blocks. Needless to say, I decided against using HTML tags (HTML is not Markdown to begin with).

Highlights syntax (not syntax highlighting for fenced codeblocks) doesn’t have a single shared definition for Markdown variants: some of them propose ==double equal signs== (Joplin and Obsidian adhere to it), others just recommend you to use the <mark> HTML tag…

Obsidian uses Wikilinks by default, but I disabled that option. I usually open my vault with VSCode and had no problem working with Markdown links. I could even install a ‘Wikilinks extension’ if I wanted but I’d rather not to. Maybe another editor I switch to in the future won’t have that possibility. Dealing manually with internal links adds certain friction.

There are not such things as #tags in any Markdown spec. But a lot of apps implement them. They don’t disturb the content in any way and you can search/filter files with them with a powerful editor or just with a simple command-line grep.

I do not know exactly how different software treats YAML front matter. It seems to be suitable for handling metadata, but I haven’t started using it yet.

Mermaid for diagrams and Latex for math formulas are awesome, but both introduce dependencies to render or export md notes. Nevertheless, I use them too.

I do not have precise answers to this puzzle. I can only share my experience. I’d like to hear yours.


@andrezgz: your objective is a good one, in principle. Having tried out and switched to a number of different note-taking apps (Evernote, OneNote, CherryTree, Typora, VNote, Tiddlywiki, Obsidian) I became increasingly aware of the importance of portability from one app to the next.

When I discovered Obs last year I quickly fell in love with it and made use of the various useful features it offered. Moving my main vault from VNote (a good, almost unknown markdown app, not as good as Obs) reconfirmed that certain things will always be not quite so generic. And that seems to remain that way for the foreseeable future.

So, I came to the conclusion that I should I enjoy Obs with its myriad wondeful features and stay with it as long as possible - I am quite sick & tired of my longe note-taking app voyage. It is a risk but I am prepared to take it.

If for some reason I am forced to move away from Obs, then there will be certain of those non-generic features that will be an eye sore in the next app, but at least the essence of my notes will be preserved.

1 Like

Hi andrezgz and Klaas !
Thank you for your posts.
I’ve made more tests on compatibility of Obsidian md files with other md apps. With Wikilinks off, images are inserted in Obsidian note and other md apps read them fine. With local links I still have to learn more how to make them more safe and universal. Any advice will be appreciated.

My idea of a notebook is using major ZK principles : atomic, connected, well encoded and written preferably with my own words, using all Vozniak recommendations and many other smart advises I’ve digged out in internet up till now.

I’m ready to sacrifice some good features provided by soft developers like Obsidian to keep my notebook as simple as possible for my piece of mind to know that if I still have to switch soft I keep most of my work done before.

I hope I’ll manage to keep images this way or the other, but for the future notes I’ll try to minimize them. But most important for me of course would be to keep connection between notes and links to the local source files stored at the Attachment folder right under the vault.

For every project little or big (a book, an article, set of lectures, video interview, audio podcast, an internet research topic etc.) I plan to make so called structure notes, in which I’ll have links to all the atomic notes connected to the project. These structure notes will be in their turn connected into bigger scale structure notes and all the atomic notes will be also connected between themselves horizontally.

I’m also thinking to stick with Obsidian for now, that’s the best soft I’ve seen so far, but I’ll try to keep my notes as simple as possible mostly with basic markdown script .

Thank you again for sharing your thoughts on md options. It certainly saved me a lot of my time and trouble to chase for something which doesn’t exist. :blush:

1 Like

I talked about this same thing as well here Are we moving away from portability? How much is Obsidian locking our notes in?