Are you missing some Markdown? Maybe Simplenote is to blame.

I write a lot of short text notes, and for many years I have been storing these notes in the fantastically useful nvALT application on my Mac (this is a fork of the almost-as-useful Notational Velocity application). Making this tool even more useful is the fact that nvALT can sync all of the notes with the Simplenote service. This makes it easy to have your notes accessible from the web, or from a wide range of iOS, Android, and desktop clients. 

Recently, I made a change to how I worked with my notes. Rather than storing the notes in a single database file, I used the option in nvALT to instead store each note as a separate text file. This means that you can store all of your notes in Dropbox which in turn means that they can then be accessed by even more apps (especially on the iOS platform, Notesy and Byword being my two favorites at the moment). An important point to note — no pun intended — is that you can still sync notes via Simplenote in addition to syncing via Dropbox.

One final point to make is that I often write many of my notes in the excellent Markdown format. In a nutshell, this is a plaintext format which can be easily converted into HTML, but is often very convenient even if you don't mean to convert to HTML. In Markdown you can write a bullet point list like this:

+ item 1: link to [Apple's homepage](
+ item 2: some *italic* text
+ item 3: some **bold** text

And with the appropriate Markdown-to-HTML tool  — often an included feature in many of the text editors that work with Markdown — this text will render as:

  • item 1: link to Apple's homepage
  • item 2: some italic text
  • item 3: some bold text

So far, so good. What has been driving me crazy since switching to using Dropbox for my syncing is that my Markdown keeps disappearing. Not all of it though. So far this is a problem limited to the plus characters that are used to initiate list items. However, you can also create list items using asterisks. So earlier, I made a test note that looked like this (click to embiggen): 


And then I waited, and after about a minute, the note had mysteriously changed to look like this:


My pluses had been converted to space characters. At first, I thought this may be an issue with the new iOS note editor I was using (Notesy), but this is happening even when Notesy is not running on any iOS app. It turns out that the culprit was Simplenote. It's possible that it was due to the combination of syncing nvALT with both Dropbox and Simplenote, though I suspect that Simplenote alone was the culprit. Turning off the Simplenote syncing fixed the problem, and I guess this experience means that I will be sticking with Dropbox syncing in future.