Do yourself a favor: learn Markdown – Episode 2

In Episode 1: Markdown is easy we saw how Markdown can simplify and streamline the creation of documents while working in easily readable plain text.

In this episode we’ll explore:

• Markdown variations
• Markdown (free) software
• Markdown documents are easily converted to other formats

Markdown variations

Since its original inception in 2004 by John Gruber, famous Apple commentator and online blogger as a plain text-to-HTML conversion tool, there has been a few extensions and variations. Some of the most common variations are listed below. They retain the main core syntax but add more elements of functionality or formats. (Excerpt, links are explanations on iana.org.)

Markdown is widely used in Academics. Fountain is a Markdown editor specific to writing screenplays. With the appropriate settings, a Markdown document can display complex mathematical formulas. Here is an example made on my Mac with MacDown (see more below.)

Equations are written with the MathJax syntax (here is a quick list of example formulas.)

Markdown (free) software

There are many options of (free) Markdown software available and many are “triple-platform” for Mac, Windows, and Linux. There are also version that are “online-only” that save directly to cloud drives such as Dropbox, OneDrive, or Google Drive.  I prefer Markdown editors that offer a split display: Markdown on the left and HTML on the right. Having a split screen makes it easier to write and see the results immediately. I often use “MacDown” (Mac only) for this reason, Windows users may enjoy the (Windows-only) MarkdownPad, while Haroopad is available on all 3 platforms.

Free Markdown editor apps

Here are a few free options to choose from that are free that work on the main 3 platforms. Paid options exist as well as versions for iOS.

Markdown Editor Platforms Supported
Typora Linux, Mac, Windows
ghostwriter Linux, Windows, (Mac*)
MacDown Mac
Remarkable Linux

* Mac version needs compilation so it’s not for casual Mac users

Linux users might be interested in this blog entry: 11 Best Markdown Editors for Linux
(Last updated October 29, 2020)

Online Markdown Editors within a web browser:
1. HackMD
2. StackEdit
3. Dillinger

There are more online editor options in this list: Best Free Online Markdown Editors That Are Also Open Source (Last updated August 28, 2020.)

For a more “geeky” in depth view of these variants see Choosing the Right Markdown Parser by Ray Villalobos  (Updated on Mar 13, 2019.)

Markdown exported as…

Markdown is becoming a de facto standard for anyone editing text and a lot of free software is available (see above.)

In Academia we are more interested in “Office-like” formats. For example Typora supports exporting to file formats that include Docx, Rich Text Format, OPL, OpenOffice, PDF, Epub, LaTex, HTML, and more.

But some software can help with more web-related tasks. For example Haroopad can export and post directly on Facebook, Twitter, HN Vote, LinkedIn, and Digg from a single “Share” button.

In Episode 3: Advanced Markdown usages: writing a book, creating a web site, writing reproducible science reports…

Other source credits:

Background image credits: blue arrows by geralt, pixabay.com