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Markdown: Vintage Type for the Modern World


Marked and Byword

Before we had the word processor with all it’s fancy formatting capabilities and gadgets, the world relied on pen and paper, and the typewriter, for all of their written communication. These were simple mediums that lent themselves to having deeper meaning because the words commanded the writer’s focus. Adding beautiful colors, pictures, and graphs, wasn’t as important (and really wasn’t much of a possibility without spending too much time).

Today, the written word can sometimes be overrun with extremes in formatting that, while it looks nice and often keep us interested, can sometimes distract the writer from focusing enough on their message. This often leads to a watered-down message that looks good on paper, but doesn’t have very much real meaning.

Another problem is that words don’t only exist on paper anymore, but on a variety of different mediums (such as the web and mobile devices). The document may exist in many places, but require the same, or similar, formatting.

The Solution

Recently, the Markdown has been gaining momentum in the writing community because of it’s almost universal compatability and it’s simple syntax.

Markdown uses simple symbols such as hashtags, asteriks, and dashes to tell markdown editors to format enclosed words as headers, italicized, and as list items, respectively. This simple approach to document formatting is very intuitive and requires very little effort to learn, even for those who don’t have a web or computer language background.

Where to Start

I had never used Markdown or a Markdown editor before coming to the Daily Mac View, but now i’m fascinated by the approach to word processing that Markdown provides.

I learned how to use it in about an hour using David Sparks book, Markdown. I found it very useful because it really starts you at the very beginning of what Markdown is, how it’s used, and why you should consider it. He then spends a large portion of the book teaching simple syntax and ways it can be used. The ebook includes several screencasts as well, which can also be very useful.

Markdown Editors


David Sparks gives several reviews and tips about different Markdown editors in his book, so i’ll just mention a couple tips.

My editor of choice is Byword. I love it’s clean, simple interface and the stark contrast of the words on the page. Using it in full screen mode leaves me with no distractions so I can focus on my writing, while still being able to apply simple formatting.

Byword also has a wide array of exporting options, including HTML, RTF, and PDF. It also gives you the option to upload directly to your blog or website. On top of all this, Byword also offers a great iOS app for both the iPad and iPhone, so you can start, continue, or publish your document anywhere you are.

Markdown Previewers

Besides Markdown editors, you’ll also find a large selection of Markdown Previewers that allow you to preview your changes and formatting as you type. My choice is Marked 2, which allows you to drag and drop your file into it and get into your writing quickly.

Make sure that as you’re looking at different Markdown Editors that you don’t mistake them for Previewers. They aren’t the same thing. Previewers don’t allow for editing your document.

Markdown is for Everyone

The really beautiful thing about Markdown is that it’s not limited to a specific group of people or software. We all compose documents for work, school, fun, and many other times. You also don’t have to buy any software if you don’t want to. Just open up your favorite text editor, get the book or look up a tutorial, and start writing!

As the internet age continues to progress, being able to format a document for the web is becoming increasingly important. Markdown is the answer to the problem.

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