Markdown is a syntax which is used to format an article for publishing on the internet, such as for a blog or website. It simply substitutes easily type-able characters for the more tedious HTML tags it is designed to replace. It then converts the markdown tags to regular HTML when the document is saved. Markdown is designed to be used while the article is being written instead of the more traditional method of going back through a document and marking it up in html after its completion. Making the whole process of formatting a document easier and more efficent.

Say I wanted to make a headline for this section. There are a few ways of doing this. One would be using the visual editor the blogging software or word processor provides– which deals with using the mouse and pushing a bunch of buttons–which takes time–and that time adds up…Another way is to type the actual HTML tags where needed. Sure this seems easy enough if you know HTML but again takes quite a bit of time. Usually the formatting and prepping of an article to be published is done by an editor. However, to alleviate the need for an editor and to speed up the formatting process, markdown was created, being readily accepted by professional writers and blogging enthusiasts alike.

For example, if I were to format a heading for this section, I could use HTML like this, <h1>This is an example of a headline</h1> or use the mouse and the visual editor. Both of which end up slowing me down considerably and also interrupts the writing process. Now, with markdown I simply have to add a pound sign at the beginning and/or the end of the headline to properly format it, like so: #This is an example of a headline . A headline is pretty simple, however if we needed to add links, images, abbreviations, tables, emphasis, italics, and the like, then HTML tags get exceptionally tedious and the visual editor quite time consuming. As one can see, markdown saves a considerable amount of time and is implemented with ease.

Get it?

What most people in the know about markdown will tell you is that it was created to take some of the bite out of formatting internet articles; giving the writer an ability to do their own formatting as the article is being written instead of going back through afterwards and formatting it, saving time and easing the burden for the editor.

Markdown pretty much does what Emmet or Zen Coding does for Web Designers. Emmet is for another article at another time, albeit it is sort of markdown on steroids, which ironically was created before markdown.

Learning a new way of doing things is sure to slow down the writing process in the beginning. However, markdown is super simple to learn, and once mastered, makes formatting articles for the internet unbelievably fast and easy.

We can thank the people over at Daring Fireball for giving us the basic precept of markdown, which has been forked, added to, expanded, and extended into many different flavors for those who need more than just basic formatting marks.

If publishing articles on the internet is a regular task for you, then markdown is a must. There are plenty of tutorials and cheat sheets in interspace which will turn your inefficient ways into productive ones.

The first place to look is Daring Fireball’s Markdown Basics It has a great tutorial and goes indepth explaining the precepts of markdown. Everyone probably starts here.

A few tips for writing in markdown which seemed to have worked for me are these:</h4>

  1. Set up your word processor to use Markdown, and use it for everything – school papers, essays, emails, even if it is not going to be published on the internet. This way you are easily learning it and it becomes second nature over night.
  2. Use Reference-Style links. It is so much easier to just type a number for each link as you are typing, then going back after finishing the section or paragraph and adding the links to your references. Generally I will do this after each paragraph or section, thus keeping up with my links.
  3. Markdown provides many different ways which produce the same results, pick one and stick to that particular one.
  4. Play around with StackEdit or the like to get the feel for editing already written pieces.

….and some reference material to get you going:

Markdown Flavors

Github PHP Extra #####Cheat Sheets A simple, slightly confusing, cheat sheet on Github Daring Fireball PacketLife (a good one for printing out) #####Tools StackEdit Dingus (Tools are online Markdown IDE’s which will let you write in markdown and converts your document automatically to html.)