I love HTML. That may sound either really dumb or really geeky. My time in college made me particularly disgusted with Microsoft Word and other WYSIWYG (What-You-See-Is-What-You-Get) editors. The concept is great, but beyond a 3-5 page paper the results can be maddening. Those of us who are a little OCD spend more time trying to make sure all our formatting looks good as we go along and less time thinking of what it is we need to write next. Not to mention the formatting and layout quirks that accumulate if your paper is of any length.
HTML on the other hand is consistent. There is a set way of entering content and it presents near universal consistency. All the emphasis is on content and layout, with any styling taken care of separately if desired. But…It is a little difficult to write with. Lets face it, placing HTML brackets around elements and lists and paragraphs is cumbersome and time-consuming–and not exactly beautiful. Markdown is a solution to this dilemma.
Markdown was developed by John Gruber and is intended to be a text to HTML conversion. This gives the benefits of the simplicity of a text file and the final effect of HTML. You are able to write quickly and unencumbered by text options and styles and yet still achieve a polished document. Markdown covers the entire HTML markup and also features inline HTML if you are ever unsure of yourself. The entire syntax is available for review at Gruber’s website.
By way of simple illustration HTML has several heading tags h1, h2, h3, etc. To do this in HTML you need to do:
The same result is achieved in markdown by using:
Similarly h2 and h3 in markdown are accomplished with:
##Sample h2 ###Sample h3
##Sample h2## ###Sample h3##
Same results with less typing and less worry about closing brackets. It is also much easier to read than staring at ugly tags.
Markdown is also being incorporated into a number of blogging platforms such as WordPress.com and can be incorporated into some self-hosted blogging programs such as WordPress by means of plugins including WP-Markdown (which incidentally was used in writing this article)
Hopefully this introduction to Markdown will revolutionize your writing, by allowing you to focus on what you are writing and not the way that your writing could look like. If you have a great Markdown program, app, or plugin feel free to mention it in the comments.