Markdown is an excellent solution for content creators that want to quickly punch out content without having to worry about advanced formatting syntax. It is a simple text format that is easily converted into rich text and HTML, while also being easily read as-is.
With Markdown-powered tools and services growing at an incredible rate, having a good editor and/or set of tools in your toolbox to work with content written in this format can give you a significant edge.
Markdown was created in 2004 by John Gruber with the intention of taking the flexibility of popular markup languages at the time (HTML, for example) and putting them in a format that can be easily read and modified. It takes popular syntax such as bold, italic, and title tags and turns them into simple, streamlined characters that can be found on a standard keyboard.
For example, instead of having to type out
<strong>text</strong> to create a bold section of text, you can simply type
**text** to achieve the same result. Likewise, anything written in Markdown can be easily converted to HTML using a markdown-to-HTML tool.
One valuable benefit of Markdown is that it is inherently limited. You can open your site to receive content from a large number of independent resources while maintaining a consistent look across your site. Content creators are limited in what they can do with text formatting, leaving aspects like text size, color, and other potentially conflicting features in the hands of the site developer.
There are several flavors of Markdown available, as the absence of standardization has kept the door open for multiple variants to thrive in the open market.
One flavor of Markdown that is becoming increasingly popular is GitHub Flavored Markdown (GFM) which adds several key features to the original Markdown syntax such as: fenced code blocks, syntax-specific highlighting, and full support for tables.
At RocketTheme, we use GitHub extensively in our documentation. By using GFM-styled Markdown files hosted on GitHub, we are able to open our documentation up and allow our community to add and/or make changes to make it better and significantly more useful. Because it uses a simple Markdown format, the learning curve required to make clean additions to existing documentation is significantly reduced.
There are a lot of text editors out there that support Markdown natively. In this article, we are going to list some of the ones that we use here at RocketTheme, or have some experience with through testing. We are constantly looking for better tools to get things done, and if you have any suggested solutions that are not in this list, please feel free to let us know in the comments section below.
Syntax highlighting is extremely configurable in Sublime Text, and you can even find several third-party extensions (MarkdownEditing, SmartMarkdown, etc.) to make it very easy to get up and running with minimal customization required on the part of the user.
This is the solution several members of the RocketTheme team use, as this single program can be used to edit just about any file we need to work with throughout the day. It also features a huge set of keyboard shortcuts and advanced find and replace tools which make it incredibly useful for editing large projects with many individual files.
LightPaper is an incredibly versatile text editor that features native support for Markdown, MultiMarkdown, and GitHub flavored Code Blocks. It is geared towards serious writers that have to push out a ton of written content and would benefit from features like live preview, PDF and HTML export, and a Distraction Free Mode that removes many distracting elements so the writer can concentrate on creating content.
Mou is a Markdown editor for Web developers. It is clean, simple, and filled with features that matter to Web developers, including: syntax highlighting, live preview, sync scroll, autocomplete, powerful actions, and more.
It is available free for OS X.
Ulysses is a powerful text editor for OS X that focuses on flexible formatting and presentation. The app itself is elegant, and its abundance of export options (HTML, PDF, RTF, Word, and ePub) makes it a great solution for writers that want to create clean, beautiful documents.
Markdown editors aren’t just an OS X thing. MarkdownPad is a powerful, robust solution for Windows users that want an advanced text editor with many of the best features of several of the most popular solutions for OS X.
This program features instant HTML preview, custom CSS capability, HTML and PDF export, and more.
If you are searching for a good editor for Windows, this is definitely a solution worth checking out. The Pro version of the program allows for unlimited open docs, GitHub flavored Markdown support, and Markdown Extra.
ReText isn’t the only solution in this list that is Linux compatible, but it is one of the more popular choices for Linux users looking for a free solution that doesn’t skimp on features.
It preserves many of the features you’d expect in an advanced text editor, such as live preview and multiple export options. It also supports custom CSS and Google Docs uploads, which makes it a very well-rounded choice.