HyperText Markup Language (HTML) has long been the official way to write content for the web. The pros use it to format text in ways that the average writer will never understand unless they take the time to learn it.
But there’s a tool some writers use and many more should be using when it comes to writing for the web. It’s called Markdown, and while it’s been around for some time now, many people still don’t understand how useful it can be.
Markdown, according to its creator John Gruber, is a “text-to-HTML conversion tool for web writers. Markdown allows you to write using an easy-to-read, easy-to-write plain text format, then convert it to structurally valid XHTML (or HTML).”
For web writers, XHTML/HTML can look like a complete mess and is difficult to read. Not only that, but it can be confusing with so many codes to remember and sprinkled about your writing. Writers might worry more about the HTML formatting than about the actual content.
Markdown is especially useful for web writers because it’s fast to type. There’s no highlighting, no dragging your mouse here and there, you simply use Markdown as you’re typing. It’s also easy to read. There aren’t tags and code in the way of what you’re writing.
Give it a shot using the online Dingus. Here is an example of something written in Markdown, using the very helpful “Syntax Cheatsheet” on the right-hand side of the screen on the online Dingus:
Then, click on “Convert” and you are shown the HTML Source, which is covered in code and other sometimes confusing markings:
And the final preview:
Markdown is especially great for web writers who don’t know HTML and even more useful for web writers who have no desire to learn HTML. Writing in HTML can be a huge, intimidating beast for new web writers, while Markdown is a kinder, easier way to write web content.
One of the reasons so many web writers love Markdown is that it uses plain text files. You can write it in any app or program you like and still be sure the formatting will stay the same if you switch to another program. It’s also easily compatible with a range of applications on your desktop, laptop, tablet, or smartphone. Search Google Play, the iTunes Store and online for a list of apps.
Using Markdown allows web writers to focus more on their content rather than the syntax of HTML. After all, it’s really all about the content, right? Using Markdown gives web writers the opportunity to type quickly while still formatting text. There’s no more switching from writing-mode to HTML coding-mode.
Besides being easier to write and easier to read, it’s also available free (as shown above), which is difficult to find these days. There are some more extensive versions of Markdown out there, which do cost a minimal amount, but for the average user, you can find it online for free. ~Natalie