Updated Oct 7, 2020 · 5 min read

What is Markdown?

Markdown is a lightweight markup language, created by John Gruber and Aaron Swartz in 2004, for formatting plain text documents. It’s often used to create readme files and online documentation. The language has become one of the world’s most popular markup languages.

Working with Markdown includes adding elements to plain text to indicate the words you want to format. As an example, to format text as a heading, you can add a number sign before the text, such as # Heading 1. To format text in italics, you can add an asterisk before and after the text, such as *This text is bold*.

Purpose of markdown

A key feature of the Markdown language is that the syntax was designed to be readable and unobtrusive. Writers of Markdown are able to read text files even when they’re not rendered on a web page. In this sense, the language differs from other markup languages, such as HTML, where plain text is marked up with tags that are less readable.

Many teams choose to use Markdown over a WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) editor because it’s easy to write. But Markdown is also highly portable and platform-independent. In other words, writers can create files written in Markdown and open them on most applications using any operating system. This enables teams to more easily transition to new applications. For these reasons, many websites like Reddit and Github support Markdown.

Markdown editors

There are several web-based applications that allow you to get started writing in Markdown. Dillinger is a great online cloud-enabled Markdown editor to get you started. You can type Markdown on the left and Dillinger will render the Markdown syntax on the right.

Related Terms

Hypertext Markup Language (HTML)

Hypertext Markup Language (HTML) is the standard language for building web pages. The language provides the structure for content...