Why Markdown? A two-minute explanation

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Stopwatch illustration

Anyone who’s read this blog, used my projects or has talked to me about anything nerdy for more than five minutes knows I’m a fan of Markdown. The question doesn’t come up often, but occasionally someone dares to ask–despite the apparent probability that it will lead to a lengthy explanation–why I use Markdown in so many of my workflows. I give just about the same response to seasoned nerds as I do to my not-so-computer-savvy friends. This isn’t the Markdown what, it’s the Markdown why

It’s easy: the syntax is so simple you can barely call it “syntax.” If you can use an emoticon, you can write Markdown.

It’s fast: the simple formatting saves a significant amount of time over hand-crafted HTML tags, and is often faster than using a word processor or WYSIWYG editor. It speeds up the workflows of writers of all ilk, from bloggers to novelists.

It’s clean: Markdown translates quickly to perfectly-formed HTML. No missing closing tags, no improperly nested tags, no blocks left without containers. You also get 100% less cruft than exporting HTML from Microsoft Word. There’s no styling inline, nothing that will otherwise break a site’s design or mess with the XSLT formatting for PDF output. In short, it’s foolproof.

It’s portable: your documents are cross-platform by nature. You can edit them in any text-capable application on any operating system. Transporting files requires no zipping or archiving, and the filesize is as small as it can possibly get.

It’s flexible: output your documents to a wide array of formats. Convert to HTML for posting on the web, rich text for sending emails or importing into a layout program for final arrangement or any number of other proprietary formats.

It fits any workflow: You can make Markdown work with any workflow. It can speed up just about any writing-related process with very little setup. It can also be scripted all to hell, if you want, because plain text is the most flexible of any format known to computer-kind.

And there it is, my two-minute explanation. I’ll be printing this on T-shirts which will be available soon. No, not really. I’ll just keep making Markdown as easy as possible with Marked and nvALT (yes, shameless plugs).