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Markdown as an universal writing ecosystem

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Markdown can be used for a lot more then creating web pages

Markdown

Markdown is a plain text formatting syntax originally invented for easy creation of HTML documents.

The markdown syntax is very light and easy to learn. It is inspired by the way people wrote email messages in the plain text email messages era.

The overriding design goal for Markdown's formatting syntax is to make it as readable as possible. The creators succeeded very well in this goal. The result is that text in markdown syntax can be read and shared without any conversion.

Markdown was created by a two famous persons:

For more information see the Wikipedia page on Markdown.

Plain text

Markdown can be written on any operating system with any editor.

Because text files written in the markdown syntax are still plain text files there are no special actions needed to share these files among different programs. Files can be shared without problems between any computing device.

Efficient writing

Markdown is a very lightweight syntax and documents created in this syntax are plain text files. All you need to write a markdown file is an editor. There are many very powerful editors, the most famous are Emacs and Vim.

Markdown doesn't get in your way when writing documents. Because you don't have to think about markup you can complete focus on the content of your writing.

Your attention on the part your are writing can benefit a lot if the editing program you are using provides some kind of outlining mode. Both Emacs and Vim have very good outlining modes.

Pandoc

pandoc was created by yet another famous person, John MacFarlane.

Pandoc multiplies the possibilities of using markdown

Pandoc is a program that can convert files from one markup format into another. There are many cases of usage where pandoc provides a lot of added value.

Markdown is one of the many input formats of pandoc. Pandoc can convert markdown to many other formats. There are many cases of usage where pandoc provides a lot of added value.

Markdown is one of the many input formats of pandoc. Pandoc can convert markdown to many other formats. Below follow some more interesting formats for writers.

  • OpenOffice/LibreOffice ODT
  • OpenDocument XML
  • Microsoft Word docx
  • Ebooks EPUB
  • TeX formats LaTeX, ConTeXt
  • PDF
  • Many others, like Emacs Org-Mode, DocBook et cetera

Pandoc converts markdown to any of these formats very well and also astonishingly fast.

Write efficient at any time and anywhere

In this era of many devices and cloud computing markdown can be a used as your swiss-army knife on document creation.

Use markdown to create word documents

An example workflow

Start creating a new document at the workstation on your desk. This could be any kind of system, like a Linux system, FreeBSD, iMac or even a windows PC. Just ramp up your favorite editor and start writing a markdown document. Save the file in a dropbox folder.

Leave your office and go for a latte at your favorite coffee bar. Take out your Android tablet like the Nexus7 or an iPad mini. Using the wifi from the coffee bar sync your dropbox folder. Now open the document with the editor of your choice on that tablet and continue working on your text. When done save your work and sync with dropbox.

Back at the office, open your document again from the dropbox folder and continue working.

When your new masterpiece is finished, convert it with pandoc in the final format. This could be anything from LibreOffice odt to Microsoft Word, or even Latex or just PDF.

Generate your documents

A totally different approach could be computer generated texts in markdown syntax.

Because the markdown syntax is extremely simple it will not be difficult to write a program in your favorite scripting language that produces a markdown document. The script could end in an automated conversion by pandoc. Or --if you need to enhance the generated text with some personal writing-- edit the document before running it through pandoc.

Mindmaps and markdown

A mind map is a spiderdiagram used to visually outline information.

Mindmapping can be done with pencil and paper. But is also can be done using a computer program. Most mindmap programs will allow you to undo actions and edit previous created and saved mindmaps. Some mindmap programs can also collapse some parts of your mindmap which can be useful when your mindmap becomes larger.

There are a lot of mindmap programs available. Select one that can export your mindmap to text. Some mindmap programs can export to Latex or to markdown.

Creating a mindmap before your start writing can be very helpful. You can explore your thoughts this way very freely. When your thinking process is finished export the mindmap to text. This will give you a structure that could purpose as a basis of your document.

When your mindmap program is capable of exporting to markdown, you will end up with a text file in markdown syntax with the outline of your thoughts. Multiple levels of headers are sitting there, ready for you to fill in the texts in between them.