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A Beginners Guide to Markdown

Markdown is a very popular plain text formatting syntax that can be used to create formatted text easily and convert it to valid HTML.

If you blog, write or create any form of text-related content for the web, you must already be aware of Markdown. It is a very popular plain text formatting syntax that can be used to create formatted text easily and convert it to valid HTML.

In easier words, Markdown is what you should use to make your life easy if you work with formatted text on a regular basis.

Introduction

So what exactly is Markdown? As already mentioned, Markdown offers a simple plain text formatting syntax that can convert text to valid HTML. Even though it is a decade old, Markdown has not shrunk in popularity, in fact it’s rising.

Created by John Gruber, Markdown can be used to write notes, documents, blog posts, technical specifications, and virtually anything else that might require a writing workflow.

Why would one use Markdown, you might ask?

Well, the obvious benefit of using a formatting syntax such as Markdown is that it can be used to render even heavily formatted text or documents, and at the same time, still have the plain text version highly readable and tidy. As such, you can use plain text to create complex pieces of text, and simultaneously retain the plain text version for reading as-is, if need be.

Mode of Operation

Alright, so how does it work?

Getting started with Markdown is fairly easy. Assume that we wish to write this given line of HTML using Markdown:

This is italicized text, whereas this text is bold.

The syntax in Markdown for the same will be as follows:

This is _italicized_ text, whereas this text is **bold**.

Simple, isn’t it?

Links, on the other hand, can be accomplished with Markdown like so:

[ThemeForest](http://themeforest.net)

And becomes:

ThemeForest

What about lists? Here:

+ Unordered List One
* Unordered List Child
+ Unordered List Two

Becomes:

  • Unordered List One
    • Unordered List Child
  • Unordered List Two

And for numeric lists:

1. List 1
2. List 2
3. List 3

This would render as:

  1. List 1
  2. List 2
  3. List 3

This post is not meant to be a full-fledged Markdown tutorial, but I have given you a basic idea of how the syntax works. For further reading, head to the Suggested Resources section of this post where I have mentioned some useful resources to help you get started with Markdown.

Observations

As is obvious, Markdown can help a big deal when it comes to simplifying writing for the web. Even though the markup itself is over a decade old, it has not changed much, and the overall syntax has remained stable. As such, once you get used to writing with Markdown, you can expect to get things done in a much more proficient manner, much like once you get used to your Qwerty or Dvorak keyboards.

For that matter, WordPress Jetpack does allow you to use Markdown as an optional replacement for the default TinyMCE WYSIWYG or HTML editor. Plus, Ghost, a new blogging tool, uses Markdown as the default standard for text workflow.

If you need to extend Markdown, you can also consider looking at MultiMarkdown, an extension of Markdown that brings additional features to the table, such as footnotes and citations.

Another flavor of Markdown is CommonMark, which offers unambiguous syntax specifications for Markdown.

Suggested Resources

Now that you have learnt a good deal about the basics of Markdown, you should consider digging deeper and going beyond basics.

  • Matthew Mitchell has written a very useful tutorial for Markdown users, and is backed by video guides as well. Check it out here.
  • Of course, the creator of Markdown too offers details about the what and how of Markdown.
  • If, however, you need a step by step guide of how to accomplish a specific set of things via Markdown, be it render your HTML documents in otherwise cleaner plain text, or prepare a scientific report for your college project, Markdown Tutorial is a dedicated website for the same. Do check it out, and even if you do not really need to master the A to Z of Markdown, it is still well worth a look.
  • Heck Yes Markdown, on the other hand, is a simple tool that converts a website from HTML to Markdown.
  • Lastly, MDwiki is a CMS or framework that can be used to create wiki websites and pages, and uses Markdown as the de facto method of input.

Finished

That brings us to the end of this brief article about Markdown. Do you use Markdown in your projects, or are planning to use it anytime soon? How has your experience so far been? Share it with us using the comments below!

For further reading you could head over to Tuts+, they have an indepth post that will teach you everything you need to know about the Markdown language.