Monday, December 07, 2015

Markdown and Pandoc

Over the past decade, the simple Markdown text formatting syntax has gained a lot of popularity. Many bloggers and web writers have shifted to using Markdown, though a few still use word processors or WYSIWYG editors.

A good introduction to Markdown can be found here - http://readwrite.com/2012/04/17/why-you-need-to-learn-markdown

John Gruber, the inventor or Markdown gives the below explanation for creating Markdown -

"The overriding design goal for Markdown’s formatting syntax is to make it as readable as possible. The idea is that a Markdown-formatted document should be publishable as-is, as plain text, without looking like it’s been marked up with tags or formatting instructions."

This is the reason that Markdown has become popular for web writers who publish their content on to the web or other digital channels.

Markdown text can be converted to HTML or many other formats (e.g. PDF, Word, etc.) using tools such as Pandoc. There are also online editors for Markdown such as http://dillinger.io/, that shows you the formatted HTML side-by-side. Blogging platforms such as Wordpress have also started supporting Markdown syntax. Even the Ghost blogging platform supports Markup.

But  there are limitations on what you can do in Markdown when it comes to complex formatting. Hence the format allows you to embed HTML code inline whenever you want some complex formatting.

It's important to understand that Markdown is good for creating content, but would not be a good fit to be used as a generic purpose web site creation tool . As John Gruber says in his philosophy:

"Markdown is not a replacement for HTML, or even close to it...The idea for Markdown is to make it easy to read, write, and edit prose."

Pandoc can also be used for reverse translation - i.e. to convert HTML, Word docx files to Markdown format.