I’ve been introduced to Markdown by my co-worker through GitHub and the need to document the services we’ve been working on at Gizmo. And soon I’ve become a huge fan of Markdown. Honestly, I don’t think I would have been so productive writing blog posts, training manual and Rapid Prototyping with JS book without the help of Markdown and my favorite Markdown apps which I’ll list later.
Markdown is a lightweight text formatting syntax which allows you to write in a plain text, read what you’ve written, and convert marked text cleanly, without any additional mess, into HTML. It is a very accessible and efficient way of writing books, blog posts, articles, technical documentation and pretty much everything which is meant to be on the Internet. Markdown is de-facto a standard in a tech community, since it’s perfect for inserting code blocks and links. Also Markdown is gaining popularity in book publishing, e.g., LeanPub is accepting books only in Markdown.
Because Markdown doesn’t require typing too much extra code, like plain HTML, or using your touchpad/mouse, like Word, Pages, or Google Docs, Markdown is just a pure bliss. On the other hand if you’ve been dealing with plain HTML or WYSIWYG editors you know that it’s a matter of putting all those opening and closing angle brackets (<>) or cleaning up the extra mess. Really, who has time for that?
Here are the five most used styles, which according to 80/20 rule, aka Pareto Principle, will give you the most bang for you time:
- Headers: use
#,##, ###,…, e.g.,
# Markdown Post
- Links: use:
((), <>), e.g.,
[Cool blog](http://webapplog.com)will turn into Cool blog
- Emphasis: for Bold use
- Lists: just start with
* itemand follow by space
- Code: use
var a=;or tabbed line before.
In case you have to dive deeper in to the markup, here is the original John Gruber’s Markdown: Syntax.
Note: there are many flavors of Markdown, such as GitHub or LeanPub, but those five styles should apply to all of them as they are considered to be the foundation.
And finally, here is my favorite Markdown tools which I can’t live without:
- ByWord: apps which have nice UI/UX, tons of features, iCloud/Dropbox support, versions for: iPad/iPhone, and Mac OS X;
- iA Writer: and similar to ByWord, although apps have less features which I guess was made on purpose to keep attention on the writing, versions for: iPhone/iPad, and Mac OS X;
- Marked: preview app which supports multiple CSS files and many exporting functionalities, version for Max OS X;
- Mou: free The missing Markdown editor for web developers which has live preview, version for Max OS X;
- TextMate: plain code/text editor dubbed The Missing Editor for Mac OS X, version for Mac OS X.
And of course, you can use any text editor like Emacs, Vim, Sublime or Notepad for writing Markdown, — it’s just a text after all! Extra bonus: many websites and blogging platforms now support Markdown right off the bat, check with theirs FAQ/help.