Introduction to Markdown

12-06-2011 | Remy van Elst

Table of Contents

Markdown is a lightweight markup language. In this article I'll introduce you to Markdown, give a few examples and an overview of markdown-related software.

What is a lightweight markup language?

A lightweight markup language is a markup language with a easy and simple syntax, designed to be easy for a human to enter with a simple text editor, and easy to read in its raw form.
Lightweight markup languages are used in applications where people might be expected to read the document source as well as the rendered output. For instance, a person downloading a software library might prefer to read the documentation in a text editor rather than a browser.
Another application is for entry in web-based publishing, such as weblogs and wikis, where the input interface is a simple text box. The server software converts the input to a common document markup language like HTML or XHTML.

Wikipedia Article

What is Markdown?

From the creator of markdown:

Markdown is a text-to-HTML conversion tool for web writers. Markdown allows you to write using an easy-to-read, easy-to-write plain text format, then convert it to structurally valid XHTML (or HTML). [][2]  

MarkDown lets you write for the web, using simple syntax which is understandable even if it is not converted to HTML.

Advantages of markdown

  • Write articles and texts faster than in HTML
  • Easy to read when not converted
  • Very fast to learn
  • HTML can be embedded very easy
  • A lot of applications compatible with it

Disadvantages of markdown

  • No Table support (some dialects have it, but the standard does not).
  • No text colour options (you need to use html for that)
  • Some dialects support more options than others.
  • Targeted at web style markup

Applications & Websites

There are a lot of sites that support and use markdown. I will also mention a few editors with markdown support.
Altough every text editor is a markdown editor, these applications have extra features like live preview or a handy button bar.

Official Markdown Page

Websites that support markdown as a markup language
Online markdown editors
Offline Markdown editors

This is a list sorted by Operating System

  • ReText
  • Any of the online editors


Below I'll give some examples, both HTML and Markdown code.


In Markdown:

# This is an H1   
## This is an H2    
###### This is an H6  


<h1>This is an H1</h1>
<h2>This is an H2</h2>
<h6>This is an H6</h2>
Unordered Lists

In Markdown:

* unordered list 
* item 2
- Dashes
* or stars
+ or Plusses
  * also subitems
  - in sublists
* Doesn't matter, all lists 


<li>unordered list </li>
<li>item 2</li>
<li>or stars</li>
<li>or Plusses</li>
  <li> also subitems</li>
  <li> in sublists</li>
<li>Doesn't matter, all lists</li>
Ordered Lists

In Markdown:

1. Item 1
2. Item 2
1. Item 3
3. Item 4
  1. Subitem 1
  2. Subitem 2
4. Item 5


<li>Item 1<br>
<li>Item 2<br>
<li>Item 3<br>
<li>Item 4<br>
  <li>Subitem 1</li>
  <li>Subitem 2</li>
<li>Item 5</li>

In Markdown:

> blockquote. Lalalalalala
> second line of blockquote
> and third line


<p>blockquote. Lalalalalala<br>
second line of blockquote<br>
and third line</p>
Horizontal Lines

In Markdown:

- - - - 


<hr />
<hr />
<hr />

In Markdown:

[link name](
[link name 2][id]

(elsewhere on the page)
[id]: http://address.ext "title of the link" 


<a href="httpx://linkaddres.ext">link name</a><br>
<a href="httpx://address.ext" title="title of the link">link name 2</a>

Tags: introduction, markdown, markup, tutorial,