Why I Love Markdown


Markdown is great. If you’ve found yourself composing a lot of HTML-based documents, you know how frustrating it can be to make sure you match all your tags and type all those less-than and greater-than signs that compose the tags. Markdown is awesome because it dispenses with all that.

I Mostly Love HTML

HTML is a fantastic format. I prefer it propriety things like Word or Pages documents for light markup in a document. Because HTML is free, and viewable in every web browser, the ease with which you can share it is as good or better than most web formats. It falls down a bit if you’re looking to create a printed page based document, but when composing content for the web there are just so many good reasons to use HTML.

The elegance of Markdown is that you can type it almost as fast as your can type and you can open and edit the text with just about anything.

When writing HTML, if you’re not eager to use the pure syntax — for either knowledge or typing reasons — you’ve got a few basic options. One is a so-called WYSIWYG (for “what you see is what you get”) editor. WordPress provides one of those out of the box, as do many other CMSes. WYSIWYG is unquestionably quicker and easier for someone who doesn’t know HTML to grasp than either HTML or Markdown. And even for old-hats at HTML, the convenience of a WYSIWYG editor is significant and nice. I can’t really claim that I don’t prefer the ability to click a link button to having to remember either the HTML or Markdown syntax to a link.

But Markdown’s Better

But where you don’t have a WYSIWYG editor, or don’t want one — which is where I typically live — your best option is to chose a syntax that’ll transition into HTML elegantly by design. There are alternatives to Markdown — Textile is probably the most famous alternative, and I believe predates it — but Markdown’s ubiquity and support makes choosing the alternatives quite an opinionated move.

The elegance of Markdown is that you can type it almost as fast as your can type, which is certainly not true with the syntactical games you’re forced to play with HTML, and you can open and edit the text with just about anything. Digging into Markdown has a bit of a learning curve, but it’s so so worth it if you’re regularly writing lightly formatted text that I can’t recommend it enough.

We’ll go over some basic Markdown syntax on the blog next week, so stay tuned. If I’ve been so persuasive you have to learn more NOW, you should probably start with MarkdownTutorial.com, which is just a fantastically fun and simple step-by-step tutorial about writing with Markdown.

Image Credits: ChrisL_AK

About David Hayes

David likes learning, solving hard problems, and teaching. He bikes a lot, and lives in (and loves) Colorado. You can find him on Twitter as @davidbhayes and check out his latest hobby-project, Quodid, a monument to his love for pithy bits of wisdom.

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