Markdown Dogpile – Guest Post by Jim Sewell

Jim Sewell wrote this to me in an email in Markdown. He did this as an illustration of how he, along with Bart and just about everyone else, seem to think I’m missing the boat on using Markdown instead of html. I enjoyed it so I asked permission to share with all of you.

Thoughts about Markdown

Markdown logo

I just had to jump in on this! 🙂

  • (My favorite) The file format lasts forever. Who can open my old WordStar files?
  • The output of a well formed document is beautiful with very little effort and great tools to help (see attached example from ByWord).
  • Apps exist to help create Markdown. If you want to use the more advanced features they help a lot but still aren’t necessary if you just learn the syntax. There are apps on the iPad that put a row of symbols above the keyboard to help
  • It lets you focus on what you are saying and not messing with all the fiddly bits of font size, color, alignment, etc.
  • I noticed today that Skype bolds things surrounded by asterisks.
  • To turn markdown into a pretty PDF is the same as turning HTML into a pretty PDF. They both need a processor – a program like Marked for MD and a browser for HTML.

Consider someone starting from scratch trying to learn either. Would you rather explain that to bold something you have to put
(or is it bold, or b or ??) or just

The point was made that MD is different ways for different things. You need an ending # for a title or you don’t, but HTML is the same. You have to use <a blah>blah</a> but you don’t have <br>(what was that funny thing for a space?)</br> It’s just <br> or if you want the NEW way to do it <br /> – Why is the stupid slash AFTER the tag? Everything else is before </a>! Argh! Ok, it’s not that new but it has changed since I learned HTML and something changes every couple of years.

I can tell, Allison, you haven’t spent a ton of time in live chat, especially old school before 🙂 turned into animated graphical smiley faces. “Back in the day” it was just natural when you were “talking” rapid fire in a “room” with several people to say you *really* mean it or to _set something apart_ with stuff that looks suspiciously like markdown syntax.

Of course the more advanced syntax like for links is bizarro world to you because you don’t use it often, if ever. How bizarre was the first time you did:
<li> one </li>
<li> two </li>

or was that ol, or is li the outside and the ol is the numbered lines in the inside? Oh shoot, where’s that book!?!? I’m a programmer and I did that every time at first!

If you just want to bust out some text with a little formatting then Markdown is hard to beat.

Is there a point?

The bottom line is, as always, what Bart said – does it scratch an itch? If you write a lot and want it to look nice with almost no effort then you may want to consider spending the time to learn it. If you are happy as a bug in a rug doing HTML (bletch!) then by all means, torture, I mean, enjoy yourself with that!

Markdown is not a end-all-do-all language and no, it can’t natively do a target=“_blank” link but it is not meant for navigation among web pages, just sharing links relatively easily. You can’t make a lifelike image of the Eiffel tower with Excel, well, maybe you can since you are the Master of Excel, but none of the rest of us could because it’s not a graphics tool. By the way, you can make a link right in Markdown to open in a new tab by injecting HTML into your MD
<a href=“” target=“_blank”>Link in Markdown</a> by cheating and sticking the HTML right in your MD document – many tools handle that just fine.

For people like Frederico Vittici and John Gruber Markdown is a lifesaver I’m sure.

Then you have MultiMarkdown, but that’s a conversation for another day! 🙂

I don’t use MD as much as I’d like to but when I need to make a quick document (on my WinPC – yuck) that will impress folks and be big-and-pretty for my boss who doesn’t like a lot of words then I’ll throw it into MD with a few different headers, bold, italics and maybe a list and I’m done.

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