Sergio Álvarez

Why we use Markdown for almost everything

If you’re following our repositories or you are using Odyssey.js you will have discovered that we’ve been using markdown a lot during the last few months.

The Markdown language was created in 2004 by John Gruber, with substantial contributions from Aaron Swartz. Its goal is to allow people “to write using an easy-to-read, easy-to-write plain text format, and optionally convert it to structurally valid XHTML (or HTML).” Because Markdown text files are plain text, you can use almost any text editor to open them.

Markdown allows you to write using an easy-to-read, easy-to-write plain text format.

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Why did we choose Markdown initially, and why do we use it increasingly more each day?

  • It’s easy

    The syntax is really simple. If you know how to compose a hashtag or make an emoticon, you can use Markdown.

  • It’s fast

    The simple format saves a significant amount of time when thinking about formatting and aesthetics. With Markdown you can focus on the content, not on the shape. It speeds up the workflow of everything, from development to management tasks.

  • It’s multi-platform

    With Markdown your documents are cross-platform by nature. You can edit them in any plain text editor, or directly on GitHub. There are also a wide-range of Markdown editors out there.

  • It’s solid

    When converting to HTML, Markdown translates quickly to perfectly-formatted documents; no missing closing tags, no improperly nested tags. No need to explain complex things like classes or nodes.

Are those real advantages on a daily day basis?

Yes, definitely. We use Markdown for almost everything. From writing content on our websites to creating internal documentation, from telling stories with maps to creating to-do lists. Even this post has been written and reviewed in Markdown! By using it, the less technical people on the team (like the person editing this post) can contribute directly to our repos or create content that is later translated to something more visual, without having to worry about breaking stuff.

Although you may have already encountered Markdown if you’re using Github, Stack Exchange, iA Writer or Simplenote, here are a couple of links that might be interesting for you if you’re just starting to learn it: the official Markdown syntax website and this course at Code Academy.

Happy mapping!

About the author
Sergio Álvarez

Sergio has spent years bridging the designer-developer divide and making products to improve the way that decisions are made. He has a background in computer science and currently researches data visualization, information design, and interface design with a special focus on data interaction.
In 2009, Sergio co-founded Vizzuality, a company dedicated to visualization, analysis, and cloud-based services for large amounts of data, with offices in Madrid and New York.

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