Markdown - the advantage and afterall why?

In addition to the reasons given by everyone else, for me it ultimately comes down to a sort of aesthetic preference. I used MS-Word for many years, over many different versions, and still probably know it better than most people using it today. But when I’m using MS-Word, it’s like working with a prima donna who continually hogs the spotlight. There are just so many doo-dads that seem to continually scream at me that I’m not just writing – I’m creating a Word document! But for the most part, these days, I couldn’t care less about creating a Word document – I just want to write! And so for me it just feels a lot better to ditch the bloated, over-featured word processor and pick any one of several Markdown-flavored text editors that just get out of my way instead of continually interrupting my focus. But this is obviously a highly personal decision, and admittedly not one that’s right for everyone.


For me the discovery of markdown was a little bit resurrecting the old days of SGML (does anybody here remembers?): write once - publish many.

Only create one canonical source of a document. Even on the go. Track it with git. Then convert to whatever floats your boat. The pandoc settings for styles with the use of a reference document (odt and docx formats) are easy to setup and use. This works even crossplatform OS X/ Windows/iOS.

My resume: incredibly useful for nearly any of my writing, the rest is done with Word/LibreOffice/Pages.


I forgot to mention my writing apps:

  • Byword on iOS
  • Coteditor and MacDown on Mac
  • VS Code and Typora on Windows
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There have been a lot of hypes and myths around Markdown, but tracing to source it’s but a syntax to add formatting attributes to a plain text environment; all discussions on its advantages and disadvantages are actually on those of the plain text format: lightweight, cross-platform, …, you name it.

It should be noted that many “advantages” of Markdown are actually unfounded. For example, it’s not universal — there are so many “flavors” and implementations that the difference between rendering results of two Markdown tools can be more conspicuous than one between an office document as opened by Pages and Word. And never believe marketing claims that whimsical features like dark mode or focus mode can make one a better writer.

The rule of thumb: worth trying; but if you are comfortable with the rich text, feel free not to follow the hype to switch.


Wise words! Not just the above quote, but your full post actually.


I have not switched and still, I use Markdown, too. And I agree with a lot of things @platyhsu has written. So, what’s that supposed to mean? Well, …

If you are comfortable in writing in Word or in Pages or wherever else and if your writings will never leave Word or Pages or whatever program and if you want to control 100% of the layout up to the last detail in this environment, then I agree: do not bother with Markdown for this type of writing. Do not follow the hype…

Given this scenario, Markdown might even be more work than less work. If you are a Word power user and you have everything set up properly, you will be able to get accurate DTP results that are just impossible to achieve with Markdown alone because Markdown is “just” plain text with some markup information. For accuracy, when it comes down to styles and layouts, you will have to use something that processes your Markdown writings. Depending on the tools or apps you use with Markdown, you will achieve the same accuracy as with Word or whatever, but you will have to do some more work in order to write your own templates or styles. If you want to have an individual template that is. Using Markdown with already built-in templates like in Ulysses or tools like that is very easy, though.

If you are writing something that you just need to get out of your brain and into your Mac or iPad without knowing where to go next, consider Markdown.

If you are writing something that will end up in several places at the same time like on your blog, in an email, in a Word/Pages document, in a PDF and wherever else, consider Markdown.

If you want to store text for the ages in order to get back to it in 40 years, consider Markdown.

If you want to use Markdown because “all the cool kids do”, then do not deal with it.

To me, Markdown is a nice concept to enable you getting texts out quickly and with the possibility to process them afterwards for several use cases. Markdown is nothing new. Concept-wise, it is like LaTeX and LaTeX has been around for almost 40 years now. Of course, LaTeX has a different background and a different purpose. But the concept is similar. Web writers are Markdown’s target audience. And writing for the web is just great with Markdown - even here in the Discourse forums.

Regarding the different Markdown flavours, I would recommend to just use Markdown like explained directly at the source:

This will provide you with 100% consistency across all platforms and across every app.

If this is not enough, you could use Markdown Extended in addition to Markdown:

I use Markdown Extended and I am quite pleased with it because it provides me with more possibilities than Markdown does and still, it is quite universal.

What I personally do not like very much, is to extend it even more in order to make it even “better”. For instance, Ulysses uses something they are calling Markdown XL (wich equals to Markdown plus Markdown Extended plus even more stuff). My understanding is that nobody uses Markdown XL outside of Ulysses. So, using Markdown XL may cause your writings to lose one of their biggest advantages of Markdown: universality. But that is not a real problem: just limit yourself just to Markdown or Markdown Extended in Ulysses and you are fine everywhere, too.


Can I just enable regular Markdown in Ulysses instead fo Markdown XL so things are compatible? Is there anything else I need to do or should my documents in Ulysses then auto-convert?

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Yes, there’s an option for that in the preferences.

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This article shows how to convert existing Ulysses sheets to a different Markup language.

The floating window with the Markup commands will also change to show the new syntax that will be available.


I am late on this discussion…sorry!
Not sure if anyone mentioned it, but blogging system can parse Markdown format without any special handling (plain text and files)…
And if your blogging system is file based (like Kirby or other States site generators), that’s even easier and easier, you throw the file, and it gets rendered.

For me, Markdown is an overkill, as you actually type more, but I learned to appreciate its power and beauty.

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There are really a lot of good and interesting views on Markup and while some have a similar point of view, there is always another argument concerning Markdown - this is really a great forum, thanks!

So for me it comes down to the intended use of the text written - I have actually 4 areas of writing:

  • in my job: here I am destined to use MS Word as the whole company of 130K people is using MS Office :frowning:

  • a new business: I am helping out to get a restaurant up and running in the south of Germany and for this I am writing in two areas (1) for the online presence and all around Social Media - this is good opportunity for Markdown - and (2) for the menu cards, special offerings, etc. with a lot of design - here I am using Pages.

  • book project: I have started a book project recently and here I have a completely different workflow, but the actual writing happens in iA Writer and this for the only reason that I love the pure simpel interface; no distraction, no menu bar and a wonderful simple duo space font. I see here no need for Markdown.

I think I will use Markdown for the web publishing stuff, blogging, etc. - that seems to be the right area :wink:

Thanks a lot for all the feedback - really valuable!

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Creating documents in a powerful editor like BBEdit (and its ilk) is generally faster than in Word. I’ve found MS Word since the early 1990s (when it became bloated) to be unstable and error prone (crashes, unpredictable changes of style, bugs in cross-referencing, etc.), and to have difficulty with long , complex documents. It’s difficult to recover from errors in Word and its kin.

As long as I just need what Markdown can provide (which is most of the time), it is the obvious choice for me. Powerful editors are,…, powerful tools. One of their major advantages is the ability to quickly search and replace text using regular expression over one or many documents. I normally have upward of 50 documents open at a time in BBEdit , many quite long, with never any performance problem…

Another major advantage of Markdown is how it handles inline comments.

There are simply too many advantages of editors/markdown to list here.

Yes, it is true that there are many dialects of markdown. But learning dialects is quite easy. For instance, my two Cognitive Productivity books are written in Markdown and published with Leanpub. Leanpub developed the Markua variant of Markdown, “a simple, coherent, open source, free, plain text format for a book manuscript”. If you’re not writing books, however, you don’t have to bother learning Markua.

I used FrameMaker in the 1990s, which overcame some of Word’s problems, but after acquiring its developer, Adobe canned the Mac version :(. I gave LibreOffice an honest try; but I had problems with it; and it constitutionally does not have the advantages of a powerful editor. Since 2010-2012, I’ve been using Markdown for

  • all internal technical documentation at CogZest and CogSci Apps Corp, (and my SFU projects),
  • writing books (per above)
  • most of my blogging, and
  • taking notes (though I still use OmniOutliner for reasons I mentioned elsewhere).

Many academics like LaTeX, but it’s complex and overkill for most books and articles. More recently, I have switched to writing academic papers in Markdown too.

I use Brett Terpstra’s Marked2 for previewing markdown on macOS.


I don’t use it lots but my email program (MailMate) which uses Markdown makes it OH SO EASY to put in a URL link. I love it for that alone.


This has been an interesting line of conversation. Since it started I have added a new use for Markdown.
I already use it in writing iThoughts HD on iPad and iThoughtsX on Mac. I write most of my daily journals and service and sermon notes - yes I am a church leader - using Markdown. Lately I have added to my workflow.
Simply write the following in a text editor like BBedit or Sublime or Atom, and open it in

# Hymn 630
## Blest are the pure in heart


have a **good** look
So you can *see* what we mean
^ this is a presenter note which is visible on the displaying computer, not on the screen.


![fit](/Volumes/Spare HD/deckset/word.png)


Rather than creating huge keynote files with big graphic and video files in them, and spending time moving text and graphics around on screens, everything is done in simple markdown text. I am enjoying using it and with three weeks experience I am able to have a ready to display presentation. I also use omnioutliner to create outlines, not using markdown, and then using a textfactory file turn it into a deckset ready format.

@mikeschmitz did a ScreenCastsOnline introduction, there is a free snippet

Sent from my iPad

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Typora hasn’t gotten any love here yet. It has the ability to create flowcharts, Gannt Gantt charts, etc. all from plain text.


You might appreciate this set of scripts I cooked up for converting Keynote to Markdown.

I haven’t worked on them for a while but was thinking of moving to Deckset for lectures.


I still use GML / Bookmaster - which my mainframe code confects. SGML I definitely remember as being derivative of GML / Bookie, though the syntax is rather different.

Yes, Markdown does remind me of (X)HTML and XML and SGML and GML / Bookie. All the advantages of these apply to Markdown, though it is a simpler, almost invisible, format.

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The purpose of Markdown is to make it much easier to write narrative text for the web - sentences and paragraphs. If you’ve ever had to write narrative text in HTML, you know that it is a pain. Just making a word bold or italic requires typing 7 characters, 5 of which are punctuation marks – here is what is needed for italics: <, i, > <, /, i, >. And if you mess up or forget one character, the rest of the text is messed up. For example, leave out the /, and all of the rest of the text will be italics. In Markdown this is super easy, just put asterisks around the word or phrase that you want to appear as italics.

Also in Markdown it’s much easier to just start a new paragraph, no messing with <p> or <br> tags. All those angle brackets!!! Ouch.

Markdown is also much easier to read than plain HTML, and this was a goal of the original Markdown design.

I decided to write this post tonight because today I needed to do some work on a web page directly in HTML. I usually work in Markdown and the contrast is nite and day. I had been following this thread, and the answer to the original question hit me over the head every time I typed an angle bracket!

@sven, I’m guessing you don’t usually create HTML content. If not, then you probably don’t need Markdown. When I want to print something or create a PDF file, I usually turn to something like Pages or Nisus Writer. But for creating web content that is primarily text (like the posts on this forum), Markdown can’t be beat.

In a way, you answered your own question by using Markdown to create your original post!

Note: Of course, if you need to do fancy web styling stuff then you need to drop into HTML/CSS/Javascript. But whenever possible, I try to isolate that stuff and set it up so that the main text content is created in Markdown – it is so much simpler and faster that way. For example, I’ve created several thousand pages of documentation for my current product all in Markdown (see link below), using a template that contains all of the CSS & Javascript needed. Virtually all of the content in this documentation is created in Markdown, it would have taken so much longer in straight HTML that I don’t know if it would even be finished yet!

Also since the documentation is written in a public format (Markdown) rather than something private like Word, I was able to set it up so that users could access the documentation source directly, and edit it and submit changes. This has been very successful with nearly a thousand changes submitted in the past 3 years. I suppose this could have been done with straight HTML, but that would have been more difficult for users to learn, and then we would have had to be more vigilant about possible malicious input. In fact, that is another reason why forum software like Discourse use Markdown – if they allow HTML input then there is the possibility of malicious forum users injecting JavaScript into the forum. So Markdown is not only easier, but safer.


Thanks Derick @dfay

The system works very nicely: certainly from my initial attempt to use it for keynte to markdown. It is rare that a script works first time so well!! Now to try md to kn . . .

I recommend others try your script too, and tweak it for particular needs of their lectures or talks.

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When the modifier key (shift) is taken into account, the difference between writing HTML and markdown is all the greater.
I count 11 key presses in the above, 8 of which are simultaneous in pairs (chords).

Contrast this with typing two asterisks, which is four key presses in 2 pairs.

Eleven key presses, four chords, vs. four key presses, two chords.

From a motor-efficiency viewpoint, markdown wins.