# On Markdown

## In the beginning, there was LaTeX

As a former mathematics student, I have an unusual soft spot for LaTeX. Despite it's obscenely verbose and quirky syntax, it was more than a breath of fresh air compared to Word's Equation Editor. (It required a highlighting, 4 clicks, and keyboard input to create an exponent, if I remember correctly.) But not only does LaTeX keep your fingers on the keyboard, it's output is the most beautiful thing I've ever laid eyes on. I mean, just look at this inequality:

Even using a slew of macros and shortcuts, reading LaTeX code is burdensome at best, and this will forever keep it's use out of the main stream. Worse, making formatting changes in LaTeX is onerous. Luckily for math students their are really great one's already created that are perfect for your homework, and journals traditionally provide their own. (My University library did not, however. Spent at least 8 hours and an argument with the librarian working on the Title page with spots for my advisors' signatures'.) Because of this, LaTeX will never be a mainstream word processor.

However, I think there is one core design aspect of LaTeX that is far more ideal than traditional word processors: separation of corpus and design.

## Enter Markdown

Markdown was created in 2004 with the idea to "make writing simple web pages, and especially weblog entries, as easy as writing an email" (quote from the late Aaron Swartz's blog post announcing the release.) It has gained a deal of popularity in web culture on sites such as reddit and GitHub, as well with some excellent hacker tools like iPython Notebook and Octopress***. (This site is powered by Octopress and each post is written in Markdown.)

There is a more thorough example on wikipedia Wikipedia, but for example *italics* renders as italicts, **bold** as bold, and [links](http://skien.cc) as links.

The really clever thing here is that for most documents, there is very limited formatting to add. For web documents, like blog posts and comment sections, you mostly need sections, paragraphs, italics, bold, links, inline images, and inline quotes. Developers like the ability to add in text code and

inline code blocks.


Best of all, you don't have to write in HTML (Who want's to write an article in raw HTML? Ain't nobody got time for that.) and you can achieve a great deal of formatting.