Markdown - THE cool way of writing text?

published : 2017-05-26 changed: 2017-05-30

category: Computer --> programming

tags: markdown


What's that?

We do write a lot of texts every day. Everyone of us, who is working with computers. And we all struggle with formatting texts. Text without proper indentations, emphasizing or boldface is a bit boring to read and you lack an additional means of expression.

Most editors, even in web nowadays support "WYSIWYG": What you see is what you get. This is looking nice, most of the time it acutally works. But is hard to use (you switch between mouse and keyboard very often). Well, it annoyed me at least. Especially if you edit text, and after editing it, the italics are not at the right place anymore and vice versa.

So, why not put special sequences in normal text an have it rendered afterwords?

This is not really a "new" idea: Not so long ago, this was one of the prefered ways of formatting Text. You enrich standard text with so called markup codes to make it possible to define special formats and what not. Most of you probably use this but do not realize that: HTML is the most pupular version of a Markup Language. Of course, nowadays you see it in your browser, and not the code. So it became a lot more, than just "Hypertext".

One other well known (well, if you are a nerd emoji people:smirk ) implementation of a markup language ist LaTeX - this is a markup language especially concentrating on typesetting. So you will get a very good looking printout (but can use your favorite Text editor). Maybe that is one of the reasons, why it is so popular when using for master thesis or diplomas.

Those "languages" are a bit too complicated and complex to just create an email or so. And that is, where Markdown comes to help.

why that?

But why would you want to have your text enriched with command sequences, if you can do it with the mouse cursor?

Yes, it works using a mouse. But there are people amongst us, which type so quickly that switching between mouse and keyboard actually slows them down. And I am one of them.

And the beauty of markdown is, that the sequences being used for formating text, are easy to reach more or less standard characters (nothing special).

For Example: If I want something to be amphasized (italics), I just put an underscore _ before and after the sequence - done!

or I want to have a numbered list... I start a paragraph with a 1. - this will be indeted as expected and als subsequent lines accordingly.

But there is a lot more, a list of what is possible can be viewed here.

I for instance write everything here in the blog with Markdown! So I did not have to use a WYSIWYG-Editor for the Frontend. And texts are stored every "simple" and can be indexed quite easily. So no proprietary XML-Stuff or even worse some binary format.

Especially if you are a developer, Mardown does have advantages. If it is properly configured, your sourcecode (which are usually part of the documentation) can be highlighted (if markdown is configured properly):

Example Java Code
public static void main(String args[]){
     System.out.println("Markdown is colorful");
}
Example Bash-Shell script

#!/bin/bash                              
echo "and understands different languages"
                                         
for in $(ls); do                       
   echo "This is rocking $i"             
done                                     

I will add another post here some time, because in order to get the syntax highlighting to work with the markdown renderer library I use, I had to extend the software a bit.

cool, and now?

Well, if you want to use Markdown, you will have to learn those "commands" or Sequences. But, it is really worth it, to do. Especially if you are a touch typist and fast at it emoji people:smirk

There is a lot of tools to easily create stunning texts. And there is a huge community for markdown, who do come up with new features, new tools. So there is an extension fro Markdown like CriticsMarkup, or even board the exensions from multimarkdown.

All in all , this is a really powerful toolset which helps you concentrate about the thing that really matters: The Text!

here you can see a list of all standard functionalities in markdown.

Markdown on the Mac

on the mac there is already a list of good tools that support markdown or help with syntax highlighting. Those editors sometimes have a live preview and are able to export your text as HTML, RTF or PDF. I will create a couple of Test of Tools posts for those editors. Hier a little list about some tools I used:

Also most IDEs do support Markdown (Xcode, IntelliJ & Co). So, to create documentation in your Project directly, markdown definitely is an option.

Unfortunately the support in mail is a bit of a problem now. Right now, apple Mail does not support markdown. But you can use markdown-here to help minder the pain.

Of course, that is a bit inconvinient to use. Better use Mailclients that support markdown natively like MailMate or AirMail2 (the latter one does have some severy data privacy issues, but that is a different topic).

verdict

Markdown does have a lot of advantages especially because of the excellent tools available already. You just type your text, concentrate on typing. Formatting is done automagically. Afterwards you can export it as PDF, RTF or whatever.

So markdown definitely is an alternative not only for developers, but also for users who create a lot of texts like books, reports, emails and what not.

But you will have to get used to the tools, and you need to add the rendering of the document to your time sheet as well....

created Stephan Bösebeck (stephan)