The Markdown Guide

8 March 2020, 11:33 pm by antelove

The Markdown Guide

The Markdown Guide


What’s Markdown?

Markdown is a lightweight markup language that you can use to add formatting elements to plaintext text documents. Created by John Gruber in 2004, Markdown is now one of the world’s most popular markup languages.

Using Markdown is different than using a WYSIWYG editor. In an application like Microsoft Word, you click buttons to format words and phrases, and the changes are visible immediately. Markdown isn’t like that. When you create a Markdown-formatted file, you add Markdown syntax to the text to indicate which words and phrases should look different.

For instance, to denote a heading, you add a number sign before it (e.g., # Heading One). Or to make a phrase bold, you add two asterisks before and after it (e.g., this text is bold). It may take a while to get used to seeing Markdown syntax in your text, especially if you’re accustomed to WYSIWYG applications. The screenshot below shows a Markdown file displayed in the Atom text editor.

You can add Markdown formatting elements to a plaintext file using a text editor application. Or you can use one of the many Markdown applications for macOS, Windows, Linux, iOS, and Android operating systems. There are also several web-based applications specifically designed for writing in Markdown.

Depending on the application you use, you may not be able to preview the formatted document in real time. But that’s okay. According to Gruber, Markdown syntax is designed to be readable and unobtrusive, so the text in Markdown files can be read even if it isn’t rendered.

Why Use Markdown?

You might be wondering why people use Markdown instead of a WYSIWYG editor. Why write with Markdown when you can press buttons in an interface to format your text? As it turns out, there are a couple different reasons why people use Markdown instead of WYSIWYG editors.

Markdown can be used for everything. People use it to create websites, documents, notes, books, presentations, email messages, and technical documentation.

Markdown is portable. Files containing Markdown-formatted text can be opened using virtually any application. If you decide you don’t like the Markdown application you’re currently using, you can import your Markdown files into another Markdown application. That’s in stark contrast to word processing applications like Microsoft Word that lock your content into a proprietary file format.

Markdown is platform independent. You can create Markdown-formatted text on any device running any operating system.

Markdown is future proof. Even if the application you’re using stops working at some point in the future, you’ll still be able to read your Markdown-formatted text using a text editing application. This is an important consideration when it comes to books, university theses, and other milestone documents that need to be preserved indefinitely.

Markdown is everywhere. Websites like Reddit and GitHub support Markdown, and lots of desktop and web-based applications support it.


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