What's up with Markdown anyway?

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Markdown is a lightweight markup language that you can use to add formatting elements to plaintext text documents. John Gruber created Markdown in 2004. Right now, Markdown is one of the most (if not the most) popular markup languages on the internet.

Using Markdown is different than using a WYSIWYG editor. The changes you make in a What You See Is What You Get Editor are visible in real-time, the moment those changes are made. For example, formatting in Microsoft Word.

On the other hand, when creating a Markdown-formatted file, you add Markdown syntax to the text to indicate which words and phrases should appear a certain way. Websites like Reddit and Github support Markdown.

I'll be writing a simple Markdown guide/cheatsheet soon, but here are some reasons why Markdown is really useful.

  • Markdown is highly 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. There is no propreitary format that you'd be locked into, like .doc or .docx.

  • Markdown is platform independent. Any operating system can be used to create or modify Markdown-formatted files.

  • Markdown is future proof. This means that hypothetically, if I saved my thesis entirely in Markdown, I would be able to use it indefinitely down the line, regardless of platform or software, or text editors.

How does Markdown work?

Markdown works by the principle of parsing. Initially, the Markdown-formatted document is saved with a .markdown or .md extension. Then, the file is processed in a Markdown application, which uses the Markdown syntax to generate an HTML file or print-ready document! Here's a quick breakdown of the process:

  • Create a Markdown file using a text editor or a dedicated Markdown application (.markdown or .md extension).
  • Open the Markdown file in a Markdown application.
  • Use the Markdown application to convert the Markdown file to an HTML document.
  • View the HTML file in a web browser or use the Markdown application to convert it to another file format, like PDF.

Voila! There you have it. Markdown - one of the most robust markup languages of our time.


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