If you are a developer, if you write a lot (really a lot) or if you use Jetpack modules or certain support systems (ie. ZenDesk) you probably already know what Markdown is.

If not, I’ll explain you what it is and why I like to use it.

What is Markdown?

Wikipedia says that Markdown is:

a lightweight markup language with plain text formatting syntax designed so that it can be converted to HTML and many other formats using a tool by the same name. Markdown is often used to format readme files, for writing messages in online discussion forums, and to create rich text using a plain text editor.

For how I see it, Markdown is a simplified version of a complex markup language like HTML, born for writers and for people who want to focus on the content instead of the markup.

If you have a website in WordPress and you are using Jetpack you should know that it has a module named Markdown. This module, when active, allows you to write your posts by using Markdown instead of plain HTML or the TinyMCE editor (visual editor). It also works in comments if you set it to do so.

From WordPress 4.3, Markdown is also supported by default in the visual editor. Did you check the release post? If not, you should check it, and make sure to read the section Formatting Shortcuts. Those shortcuts are Markdown syntax, and they are automatically converted by WordPress into HTML in your editor.

Show me an example

Sure, with pleasure!

There are various elements you can create with Markdown, not all of what HTML allows, but the most used tags have a Markdown pair.

Titles

You can create titles with Markdown by putting the character # in front of a line of text. You can use one or more #, up to six, to specify which heading you want to use. For example something like this:

# This is my title

Will be converted to:

<h1>This is my title</h1>

While something like:

### Another title

Will be:

<h3>Another title</h3>

Bold and Italic

You can quickly create bold and italic text by using the character *. If you wrap text in two *, that text will be bolded. An example is:

**this is bold**

which will be converted to:

<strong>this is bold</strong>

If instead you wrap a message in only one *, that text will be in italic:

*I'm Italic*

will result in:

<i>I'm Italic</i>

Lists & blockquotes

Lists are really easy to use, you can create them simply by using * or numbers in front of the line.

* First element
* Second element

will be converted to:

<ul>
    <li>First element</li>
    <li>Second element</li>
</ul>

while

1. First element
2. Second element

will be:

<ol>
    <li>First element</li>
    <li>Second element</li>
</ol>

To create blockquotes instead, you simply have to put a > in front of a block of text. In example:

> Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet

will result in:

<blockquote>Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet</blockquote>

Code blocks

You can create code blocks by using the back tick character `.
Inline code must be formatted with a single back tick like $this = 'is code'; and multiple lines code blocks must be formatted with three back ticks before and after the code block, like:

$var = 0;
var_dump( $var );

And many other tags, you can check this post for more info.

Why do I use Markdown

There are various reasons behind my choice to use Markdown. The first and most important is that I find it easy to use, and fast. I don’t need to type twice the tag to open and close it to format my text, that makes me lose time in writing. I could solve this by using the visual editor, there are buttons that will do it for me, but that means that I should leave the keyboard and stop writing to use the mouse and click the button. While by using Markdown, I never leave my keyboard while writing a post.

The second reason is that it’s easy to read.
If you take one of my technical posts and read their code and their Markdown version, you will find that reading the post is much more easier in Markdown then in HTML because HTML has words in it, and they distract the reader.

Also, I’m used to write in Markdown since ZenDesk uses it for the Agent UI, and I use ZenDesk like 6 hours a day, or even more.

Are there OS X/Windows programs to write in Markdown?

Absolutely.

On my Windows PC I always used MarkdownPad to write in Markdown. It is not so much evolved, but it does its work. As any other Markdown editor, it’s interface is split in two parts, on the left you have the unformatted Markdown text, while on the right you have the formatted text, so you can immediately see how your text will appear.

On OS X instead, I’m actually using MacDown. It’s exactly like MarkdownPad, but for Mac.

There’s another cool app for OS X, it’s Ulysses. It has a version for Mac and one even for iPad.
It’s a more advanced app, and it’s premium (44.99 €). The price is quite high for being an OS X app, but probably it’s worth all of it.

It has many more features than the other simpler and free editors. I’d love to give you more info on it, but I never used it because the price is too high for what I would use it for. I mainly write in my blog or on the company P2s, and they all support Markdown directly in the editor, so I don’t need to write my messages on an external editor before, so that would be a useless expenses for me.

But if you write books or you plan to use Markdown for your personal diary or to write the projects for your company, or a lot of documentation for your programs and web applications, you should definitely look at it.

Spread the word!

If you think that Markdown could make your life easier, why don’t you give it a try? Get one of the free or premium apps, install Jetpack on your site and activate the Markdown module.

You can even use Markdown in the comments on this blog!

And tell your friends about how faster and happy are you now that you write in Markdown!

2 replies
  1. Francesco
    Francesco says:

    Markdown is really useful and fast to adopt. Especially when you are developing a new website or writing many contents.
    But the problem is: how can I use Jetpack on a local develop WordPress platform?
    Of course you cannot connect the local website to the WordPress.com account… Any suggestions?
    This could be useful also to test all others functions of Jetpack locally.

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

You have to agree to the comment policy.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.