Complete Markdown Guide For Digital Writers And Web Publishers

It took quite a while, before I completely adopted markdown, not only as a syntax language that it really is, but more so like the way of thinking, phrasing, editing and writing my content.

So if you were a complete newb to lingo of the internet, in that case syntax language might sound odd. But even as a newb, I am convinced you’ve heard of HTML. Well HTML is that ugly wall of code that renders web pages front end, and if you ever blogged in WordPress (or some other blogging platform), I am pretty sure you’ve encountered HTML and it might have possibly gave you some headaches. It pretty sure did create headaches to me.

Here you will learn how to avoid those headaches!

What is Markdown anyway?

Well John Gruber from Daring Fireball came up with this amazing idea of simplifying the HTML for digital writers, such as myself. Instead of using convoluted rich text editors, he came to solution to convert simple text files in markdown into simple HTML text files. There would be no HTML errors, as Markdown itself was HTML, just rendered that way so human can read it as well.

We also have to acknowledge Aaron Swartz as a major contributor to Markdown syntax. We will miss him dearly, and all the major contributions he made for the web, like RSS and Reddit.

Wikipedia definition:

Markdown is a lightweight markup language, originally created by John Gruber with substantial contributions from Aaron Swartz, allowing people “to write using an easy-to-read, easy-to-write plain text format, then convert it to structurally valid XHTML (or HTML). The language takes many cues from existing conventions for marking up plain text in email. In other words, Markdown is a text-to-HTML conversion tool (for web writers).

What is markdown for me?

It became a way of thinking and working efficiently. It became a permanent style of writing, that allows me to formulate my thoughts with more ease and focus, while making my work look pretty!

So why should you use Markdown?

If you are a digital writer like me, or you are writing a lot, but want to format your writing faster, than this syntax will be your life saver. It certainly is to me, as I increased my writers output by at least 200%.

Still I am facing some quirks, but the longer I am with Markdown, the more I get out of it. The main benefit is eliminating the need to lift the fingers from the keyboard, as you will do all the formatting as you type.

If you want to see why you should not use markdown you might check this article. It explains to people in a humorous way, the benefits of markdown.

If you don’t have a lot of time, check out Terpstra’s 2 Minute Explanation on why you should use markdown. If you have even less time here’s the excerpt of some of the awesome reasons:

  1. It’s easy
  2. It’s fast
  3. It’s clean
  4. It’s portable
  5. It’s flexible
  6. It fits any workflow

How to start with Markdown?

So you’ve been reading this far, and you got into what markdown has to offer you, as a blogger and a digital writer, but you have no idea where to start. Where you are in the right spot, as this is the exactly the right spot to start!

Well the good starting point is to read Grubers syntax. It has the philosophy of markdown laid out there, and it’s highly recommended that you start from there.

Also, the application in which I write in Markdown the most, and the one that is praised by everyone else for it’s functionality and beauty is Byword. And they have an extensive tutorial on how to use markdown with or without their app.

The best Markdown tutorial on Youtube

This article wouldn’t be as complete if it didn’t include the video tutorial.

How Markdown empowered my iPhone for blogging

For a long time, I have been lusting to complete all of my work on a mobile device. While I am certainly not most efficient with my smart phone and writing, I am now able to accomplish a lot of things that I’ve thought are impossible.

This wouldn’t be possible without markdown. But I can also thank to two amazing applications:

  1. Poster – WordPress Editor for iOS that fully supports markdown
  2. Text Expander – This app lets me expand my text snippets into full sentences, and in this case create markdown shortcuts instead of me.

This blogging workflow has absolutely made me a production machine, as I am not facing any friction what so ever. If you are a blogger, you have to check these two tools out. Soon enough I will publish an article on how to combine these two for maximum blogging productivity.

How Markdown affected my Mac publishing

For Macintosh it’s slightly different experience. As my MBA is my main creation machine (no matter how much I’ve loved my mobile devices). And here I have the absolute freedom of working in an environment that can bring me the most results quickly.

First of all I have a couple of tools that I am using:

  1. nvALT – Bret Terpstra’s modification of Notional Velocity
  2. Byword – Gorgeous Minimal Text Editor

Now both of these tools are slightly different text editors. nvALT is like .txt notes on steroids, with amazing keyboard shortcuts and search functionality. While on the other hand Byword is the most beautiful text editor I’ve ever used. And Michael Schechter from Bettermess.com came up with a way how to marry these two and get best of the both worlds. Accessibility AND beauty.

Final words

I’ve spent a lot of time gathering these resources and compiling them in one place. And during all of that time, I was using markdown and improved my already pretty awesome workflow that is sticking.

Sooner or later, you will want to know more about markdown. If you are reading this blog, and you follow similar topics, you will see the insane number of productivity bloggers using markdown already, and raving about it, as if there is no tomorrow. So save your time now, and save this article in your Evernote for later reference ;)

On the final note I want to tell you that Markdown is not for everyone. It’s not for lazy people that don’t want to put in effort to permanently transform their online writing skills and up their game.

What are you waiting for? Are you getting ready to mark it down?

Comments

  1. says

    Great post as always, Bojan! Never really looked into venturing down the markdown path but the post gives a great preview of the utilization and how to get started with writing in markdown. Thanks for this!