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Building The Future of Freelance Software / slashdev.io
Master Markdown: Essential Writing Tool for Programmers/
Software engineers spend a lot of time refining their environment to improve their productivity. They have their favorite IDE, debugger, and performance monitoring tool. But what about their tool for writing documentation, manuals, and reports? Writing takes a significant amount of time, so it’s crucial to get serious about the writing tool.
As a technical person, navigating menus, toolbars, and ribbons to format text with WYSIWYG editors may not be the best option. What if you could add all your formatting styles directly into the text with simple inline syntax to yield fully formatted text? This is where Markdown comes into play.
When More is Less
Word processing software is designed to satisfy an extensive range of users and use cases, and therefore, it provides all sorts of functionality. But only a small subset of that functionality is relevant to each individual user. For most users who want to author a document (and don’t need to design a marketing brochure or poster), only a small subset of the many options available are relevant.
Indeed, more can sometimes be less when it comes to ease of use and productivity. Microsoft realized this a few years ago when they redesigned the user interface of Microsoft Word into distinct functional groupings that they called “ribbons”. Interestingly, most users found the new interface more confusing and difficult to navigate than its predecessor.
When Less is More
Software engineers are not graphic designers. They just want to write manuals, technical documents, or reports and be done with it. Basic formatting capabilities such as headings, bulleted or numbered lists, code blocks, and font formatting (bold, italics, etc.) would be helpful. That’s about it.
What is Markdown? John Gruber created the Markdown language in 2004, with contributions from technical guru and Internet activist Aaron Swartz. The goal was to enable people “to write using an easy-to-read, easy-to-write plain text format, and optionally convert it to structurally valid XHTML (or HTML)”.
Unlike text formatted with a markup language like RTF or HTML, which can be hard to author and hard to read in its raw format, Markdown was designed to be readable as-is, without looking like it has been marked up with tags or formatting instructions.
Markdown allows you to write using an easy-to-read, easy-to-write plain text format, that can then be converted into structurally valid HTML. So, to be precise, Markdown is two things:
- A plain text formatting syntax
- A software tool (the first version of which was written in Perl) that converts the plain text formatting into HTML.
Markdown incorporates a handful of simple, intuitive, and easy-to-use syntax conventions. For software engineers, Markdown can indeed be the path of least resistance between what they want to write and getting it written.
Markdown Syntax Conventions
Markdown incorporates a handful of simple, intuitive, and easy-to-use syntax conventions. Especially for software engineers who are not put off by needing to learn and use these basic syntax conventions, Markdown can be the path of least resistance between what they want to write and getting it written.
The following are some of the basic syntax conventions in Markdown:
You can specify six levels of headings in Markdown by using hash symbols (#). To create an H1 heading, add one hash symbol before the text (# Heading), and to create an H2 heading, add two hash symbols before the text (## Heading), and so on.
Markdown allows you to create both ordered and unordered lists. To create an unordered list, add an asterisk (*) or a hyphen (-) before each item on the list. To create an ordered list, add a number followed by a period before each item on the list.
To emphasize text in Markdown, simply add asterisks or underscores before and after the text. For example, to make text italic, add one asterisk or underscore before and after the text (italic) and to make text bold, add two asterisks or underscores before and after the text (bold).
To display code in Markdown, add three backticks (“`) before and after the code block. You can also add a specific programming language after the opening backticks to enable syntax highlighting.
To create a link in Markdown, add the text you want to hyperlink in square brackets, followed by the URL in parentheses. For example, to create a link to Google, type Google.
To insert an image in Markdown, use the same syntax as for links, but add an exclamation mark before the first square bracket
Markdown is Easy to Learn
Markdown is easy to learn, and you can learn the basics in just five minutes. Once you have a basic understanding of the syntax conventions, it will quickly become second nature, and you can use as little or as much as you like.
Markdown is also highly customizable, so you can create your own syntax conventions to suit your needs. You can even create your own custom CSS styles to apply to your Markdown output.
Markdown is a lightweight markup language that is easy to learn, highly customizable, and perfect for software engineers who want a simple, efficient way to write documentation, manuals, and reports. Markdown’s simple syntax conventions make it easy to add formatting to your text without the need for complex menus or toolbars, and its plain text format ensures that your documents are readable and accessible to everyone.
Whether you’re new to Markdown or already familiar with its syntax, learning Markdown can help you boost your productivity and take your writing to the next level. So why not give it a try today?