Markdown Is Cool

I'm using Markdown to write this blog entry. I've converted all my other entries to use Markdown as well. Markdown is cool.

One of the annoying things about Blosxom (and perhaps other blogging tools) is the need to write the entries in HTML. Now, I have nothing against HTML and, as I've mentioned before, I insist on having full control over the HTML that gets used on my site, especially for layout purposes. But for writing actual text, I find the markup a bit tedious, especially since I always end up using the same tags over and over again.

The markup in my blog entries consists almost entirely of paragraph, emphasis, list, and link tags. These tags (with the possible exception of links) all represent natural artifacts in written language. And these artifacts all have natural textual representations.

If you wanted to write an essay using nothing but Emacs or Notepad (i.e. not Word), and you wanted a paragraph break, how would you add one? The obvious thing to do is to put in an extra newline. How would you emphasize a word? What I do, and it turns out this is very common, is to put asterisks around the text I'm trying to emphasize. What if you want a bulleted list? The tendency is to choose some sort of texual marker, like an asterisk or a dash, and prepend it to your list item.

This is where Markdown comes in. Markdown will convert all those natural typographic conventions into their HTML equivalent so that they get displayed properly in a web browser, allowing you to write your content in (what I consider to be) a natural way. And while I normally abhor auto-generated HTML, the HTML that Markdown generates is so light and so close to what I would normally write anyway, that I can comfortably relinquish control in this particular instance.