Learning Markdown: Write For The Web, Faster
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Markdown is the best way to write in plain text but still create complex documents. Unlike more advanced markup languages, HTML or LaTex, for example, Markdown is simple to learn. Though initially made to export to HTML, you can export Markdown to PDF, RTF, and even DOCX depending on the app. There are different apps available for all operating systems. So you can get started today.

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Why Plain Text

When you are first learning to use a computer, you are taught to use Word Processors Google Docs vs. Microsoft Word: The Death Match for Research Writing Google Docs vs. Microsoft Word: The Death Match for Research Writing Online solutions are becoming the norm. We decided to see how Microsoft Word stacks up against Google Docs. Which one will do the better research paper? Read More to write. For producing the formatted reports that schools expect, these do a great job. However, Word Processors often rely on proprietary formats and are resource intensive. Not to mention the amount of time that messing with formats wastes.

Learning Markdown: Write For The Web, Faster WordvUlysses

Markdown allows you to work in plain text What Is Markdown? 4 Reasons Why You Should Learn It Now What Is Markdown? 4 Reasons Why You Should Learn It Now Tired of HTML and WYSIWYG editors? Then Markdown is the answer for you no matter who you are. Read More , and its syntax is simple enough that your document is still easily readable by humans. Also if you switch platforms or programs, you do not have to spend any time converting your files. You also won’t need to maintain a license for a program you don’t use anymore just to access your old work.

The Simple Stuff

The original Markdown is the most straightforward implementation of the standard. It has a powerful syntax that allows you to quickly do most things you would do in a word processor.

Learning Markdown: Write For The Web, Faster Basics
Image Credit: Barn Images via Flickr.com

For your first step, how about setting a word to bold or italics. You do this with an asterisk. One is for italics/emphasis and two for bold/strong Top 11 HTML Tags Every Blogger & Website Owner Must Know Top 11 HTML Tags Every Blogger & Website Owner Must Know The world wide web knows many languages and is coded in several different ones. The one language however, that can be found all over and has been around since the invention of webpages, is the... Read More .

*Plain Text* in Markdown as Italicized Text

**Plain Text** in Markdown as Bold Text

If you prefer, you can also use underscores for the same effect; it is a matter of personal choice.

_Plain Text_ in Markdown as Italicized Text

__Plain Text__ in Markdown as Bold Text

Creating headings for your documents is easy as well. Markdown takes its headings from HTML heading levels, so it is easy to remember. Each # that you have at the start of the line determines what kind of header it is. A single # is H1, and six # is H6.


###This is an H3 Heading in plain text.

This is H3 in Markdown

Lists are another easy to learn part of the syntax. There are two kinds of lists, ordered and unordered 17 Simple HTML Code Examples You Can Learn in 10 Minutes 17 Simple HTML Code Examples You Can Learn in 10 Minutes If you know the following 17 HTML tags (and the extra few that go with them), you'll be able to create a basic webpage from scratch or tweak the code created by an app like... Read More . These both descended from HTML. You create an unordered list by using a * followed by a space before each line. Begin each item in an ordered list with a number and a period. You can also use any numbers; they do not even have to be in order.


* Text Item

* Text Item

* Text Item

This converts to:

  • Text Item
  • Text Item
  • Text Item

1. Text One

2. Text Two

3. Text Three

These items become:

  1. Text One
  2. Text Two
  3. Text Three

The Advanced Stuff

With the basics, you should be able to create simple documents. When creating more complex documents, you need more advanced techniques. In most Word processors, these would be a menu option. Using Markdown instead, you can complete them without lifting your hands off the keyboard Some Cool Keyboard Tricks Few People Know About Some Cool Keyboard Tricks Few People Know About Your mouse disrupts your workflow. Every time you use it, you're losing a tiny bit of focus and time. It's high time to learn powerful keyboard shortcuts for Windows, your browser, and more. Read More .

Learning Markdown: Write For The Web, Faster HandsOnTheKeyboard
Image Credit: Home Thods via homethods.com

Adding inline links to your document is very easy. You put the link text inside brackets, and then paste the actual link next to it inside parentheses.


[This is your text that becomes a link](https://thisisyourlink.intext)

This is your link as Markdown

Adding images to your document is similarly straightforward 21 Quick Browser Tools to Search for Images Online 21 Quick Browser Tools to Search for Images Online What if you want to search for an image similar to one you see? Or, what if you want to quickly locate an image based on a word or phrase on a page? Read More . You just leave the brackets empty and put an exclamation point in front of them. If you are writing for the web, you can use the brackets to create Alt Text for your image. There’s no rendered example for this one, but your text should look like the following line.


![]( https://linktoyourimage.intext)

Also, if you need to use any of these defined Markdown characters in your text, you need to use a backslash in front of them. Some of the characters that need a backslash are asterisks, brackets, and underscores.

Learning Markdown: Write For The Web, Faster code
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There are many reasons why you might want to add some code to your document. However, you do not have to put backslashes in front of every single one of your example 7 Best Note-Taking Tools for Programmers 7 Best Note-Taking Tools for Programmers Good note-taking skills are key to staying organized as a programmer. Here are the best note-taking apps designed with coders and developers in mind. Read More s. Instead, you can display code in one of two ways. First, if you want to show code inline with text, you put it between tags.


This is your `<code>inline code in text</code>` 

This is your <code>in line code in Markdown</code>

If you want to break out your code examples into blocks, you indent your text with a tab, continuing each line that way until you finish your code.

Markdown Flavors

John Gruber originally invented Markdown; he has a thorough breakdown of the syntax. However, it was never a hard standard. It has been implemented in different ways. Though there is an attempt to ratify that standard using something called CommonMark. These implementations are called flavors and add features to the original syntax.

Learning Markdown: Write For The Web, Faster Flavors
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  • MultiMarkdown – MultiMarkdown adds more advanced document features like footnotes, citations, and tables. The tables are the most interesting, as you essentially draw a spreadsheet in plain text. Its eponymous editor gives the most support for professional editors. However, many other editors may support specific features.
  • CriticMarkup – This is one of the more interesting takes on markdown. There are no new features for document creation. Instead, CriticMarkup adds support for comments and marking text to add or remove. There is support for this flavor already built into some editors.
  • Fountain – This is proof that love of Markdown has moved beyond programmers and bloggers. Fountain is an attempt to break screenwriters free from Final Draft (an expensive app required to submit most screenplays). It is a standard for both writers and developers, already in use by many apps.
  • GitHub – Made for helping programmers, GitHub’s Markdown implementation Not Just for Coders: 9 Ways To Use GitHub For Creative Work Not Just for Coders: 9 Ways To Use GitHub For Creative Work GitHub is known for the great features it can offer programmers, but it's not only for them. There are plenty of other creative uses for GitHub. Here are nine you can explore. Read More adds some cool features. Its programming cred is due to improved code blocks. You use backticks to start and stop your code without having leading spaces. It supports building tasks lists in the same format as Taskpaper. You can mention other users in your comments with the @ symbol. Most importantly, it uses Slack’s text emoji standard.

Apps For Your Platform

Next Steps

Don’t pick a markdown editor right away. You can use the text editor that came with your platform to start creating. You can even stick with Microsoft Word if you want How Microsoft Word Can Be Your Favorite Markdown Editor How Microsoft Word Can Be Your Favorite Markdown Editor If you aren't using Markdown already, then you're missing out -- and with this nifty Word add-on, you can get the best of both worlds! Read More . You can then use Gruber’s original web converter to get your HTML or rich text. First of all, play around and get comfortable. This simple approach is going to be the easiest way to start using Markdown. Then as you get more experience with markdown, you can invest in an editor you enjoy. Finally, when you are working with Markdown for all your writing, you can even get fiddly with your style.

What has held you back from trying markdown? Is there a project you feel is perfect for plain text? Is there a better editor for your platform? Let us know the reason that it is better than our picks. Which markdown flavor is your favorite, and what makes it your favorite? Let us know in the comments.

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  1. dragonmouth
    November 21, 2017 at 12:47 pm

    "Using Markdown instead, you can complete them without lifting your hands off the keyboard."
    The big assumption you are making is that I am fluent in Markdown. If not, then I have to spent a lot of time looking up the appropriate codes, making any word processor easier and faster for me to use.

  2. Tim
    November 21, 2017 at 9:51 am

    Markdown is my preferred format for blog posts and note-taking, and I have two personal favourite Markdown editors: Byword on my iPhone, and StackEdit for Chrome (I use an Asus Chromebit as a secondary PC at home).

    Both apps can save MD files to a folder in my Dropbox, so I use this to keep documents in sync between Byword and StackEdit. This way, I can write on whatever device is most suitable at the time, and if I need to stop and switch devices, I can carry on where I left off.

    I wouldn't say either app is "the best" - that's a matter for each individual user to decide for themselves - but Byword and StackEdit are my personal favourites, and I'd recommend both of them (FWIW).

    • Michael
      November 21, 2017 at 7:57 pm

      Byword was another one of my erstwhile apps. And still what I use for standalone docs I don't keep in the Ulysses library.