Why Should You Use Markdown?

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If I asked you to open up a file of a wordprocessing document that you were using 10 or 15 years ago that was really important and you needed to read and use what was in it, there is a chance that you might have some difficulty accessing the contents. What about if you are using WordPerfect which was a very popular word-processing program at one time, do you think you could get into that file and use it? Maybe, maybe not. Then again, if I asked you to open up a pure text file from 20 years ago, how do you think you would get on with that? To put it simply, straightforward text files have longevity so I can say with a high degree of certainty that any text/markdown files that I want to open tomorrow, in five years time or in 25 years time, I will be able to do so with ease. One good reason for doing your writing in Markdown in the text editor Mou.

Mou Markdown editor for web developers on Mac OS X

The same goes for Word documents

Word documents that only have text and some formatting are much bigger than they need to be (bloated) and also you might still have trouble opening the file up. There are different versions of Word documents such as Doc and DocX and even when you are using Windows and Microsoft products you could run into some problems. This is another reason why when you are writing I would suggest that you use pure .txt files or preferably use Markdown. You could even use MultiMarkdown.

What is Markdown?

Markdown is text that you have written that is just pure text. Using some of the extra characters you get some formatting. For example a * on either side of a word means it is italicised. You can write with Markdown in any text editor and with many text editors you get a view of what it looks like when it has been converted into HTML. The text editor that I like to use for writing Markdown is called Mou and it has two panes, one into which you do the writing and the other side gives me a up-to-date preview. When I have finished doing the writing in Markdown I can use a key combination to get a copy of the text but with all of the HTML code. This HTML will be properly formatted so that anything that I have designated to be in bold text will be bold and the same goes for italics. In Markdown if I want a header one I just have to put in the hash symbol # and if I want a header two I put in two hash symbols and so on. I can easily add links to a webpage and because it is done in all text without all the HTML code getting in the way, it is still very easy to read. Simplicity is the key.

It started off with a Daring Fireball

A fellow called John Gruber who runs a website called daring fireball is the person who invented Markdown and somebody else came along and added extra bits to it to give us MultiMarkdown. In MultiMarkdown you can add tables and a few other things too. I tend to just use Markdown for all of my writing. My workflow is such that I can dictate my words into DragonDictate and I can also include some of the Markdown symbols/syntax for things like headers as I go. When I have finished this first draft in DragonDictate I copy and paste it into Mou. It is when I have it in Mou that I will add the extra to turn text into italics or bold. I also add the links to other websites at this point of the process too.

MarsEdit 3 Desktop blog editing for the MacI could add pictures during this editing stage if I wanted to, but I prefer to add pictures by dragging and dropping them into the text area where I want them when I am using the blogging application MarsEdit. That is it, the job is done. I end up with a web post on one of my websites such as an Mac20Q.com that is perfectly formatted and has pictures and links included within it. Meanwhile, back at the ranch I still have a copy of the post in Mou which is still in plaintext, is perfectly readable and is my go to backup copy.

I could make my workflow one stage simpler by dictating directly into move and still have the file is saved as a text/markdown file on my computer. This is an addition to there being a copy, fully formatted finished a job on the website. If anything ever happened to the website then I would be able to still have all of the markdown files that are used to create all of the posts for the website.

Is it just for writing for websites?

It might well be that you want to create a document that you will print and so you will take into the application Pages and it can be completely formatted for that purpose. I still think that the best way to start out this process of writing where you are concentrating solely upon the words is to use plaintext. You can always take that text and put it into the word processor such as Pages or into Scrivener for the reformatting and finishing off. Many people prefer to write in a pure text because it means that they can concentrate on the words and what the text means without getting diverted into thinking about how to make it pretty looking.