Created by John Gruber in 2004, Markdown language can be defined as a minimal markup language that uses its own simple plain text formatting syntax to allow web users to easily convert plain text to HTML or XHTML, a hypertext markup language used to write on the web.
The language has been designed with the key aim to create a simple language that can be read even in the absence of tags and formatting instructions as is the case with HTML or Rich Text Fromat(RTF).
It’s quickly becoming the writing standard for academicians, writers and other general and advanced content developers as it helps web designers and developers build styles into the project and define how basic elements, like headers and links will appear.
Documents written in the Markdown language are generally written and edited in a basic text editor depending on the operating system such as Notepad for Windows and TextEdit for Mac which is then converted to HTML/XHTML/PDF with the help of a Markdown language editor. However, there are also specially designed editors that preview the files with styles, which are available for all major platforms.
Today, Markdown language is being commonly used to format readme files and for writing messages in online discussion forums.
However, a lack of a well-defined Markdown standard, apart from the original one by John Gruber has led to creation of new and improved variations of the language by different vendors to eliminate limitations and add missing features such as tables, footnotes, definition lists, and Markdown inside HTML blocks which are not available in original Markdown syntax. Some of such improved variations are Markdown Extra, MultiMarkDown, and the Pandoc Markdown extension.
Some of the top Markdown editors used and recognized by developers today are discussed below:
- Mou - Mou is a Markdown editor for Mac OS X and features live preview, sync scroll, auto save, auto pair, custom themes and CSS, HTML and PDF export, enhanced CJK support and more.
- nvALT- nvALT has undoubtedly some of the best features that make it a powerful and fast note taking tool. It easily syncs with Dropbox and applications such as SimpleNote. One can search and create text, easy file name tagging, ability to link from one note to another with wiki-style links, it also helps collaborate documents to grant other people the ability to work on a file with you.
- Markdown Pad - is a full-featured Markdown editor for Windows that allows users to view a real-time preview. It also allows easy formatting with keyboard shortcuts, Customizable color schemes, fonts and sizes, freedom to use one’s own CSS stylesheet, easy HTML documents export and a convenient distraction-free mode.
- WriteMonkey – is best for Markdown experts who don’t need WYSIWYG (What You See is What You Get) styles to get work done. It is a simple program, but has a lot of elegant features hidden in it. In fact, some unique features like text replacements, auto-backups, word lookups, and much more. WriteMonkey is a free, Windows-only, standalone application that requires Microsoft .NET 4.0. You can run it from a USB drive and this is the only editor in the lineup which is standalone.
- ReText – is a simple, lightweight and powerful Markdown editor for Linux and other POSIX (Portable Operating System Interface)-compatible operating systems and also works as a reStructuredText editor Some of the most fascinating attributes include a Simple and intuitive GUI, highly customizable, easy file syntax customization and configuration options, supports use of multiple mathematical formulas and enables export extensions.
- Vim-Instant-Markdown-Plugin – Vim is a powerful, popular and open-source text editor for Linux and is great for coding purposes. It is also highly pluggable to enable users add several other functionalities to it, including Markdown preview.
- Caret- for Mac / Windows / Linux is ideal for profeesional Markdown writers. It efficiently supports syntax and provides syntax assistance to perform various functions, automatic backup, provides spellchecks, easy editing and navigation of commands, five different modes to work on to suit your needs.
- Haroopad – is a platform independent app that works well on Windows, Mac, and Linux. It is fully-featured and uses split-screens, supports many languages and color highlighting, Vim key-binding, fenced code blocks, GitHub style syntax, tables, multi-markdown (underline, superscript, subscript), audio/video embed, math, and more.
- Dillinger- is a free online markdown editor that supports syncing with Dropbox, Google Drive and Github.
- Dingus- is a web application that allows the user to type their own markdown-formatted text and translate it to XHTML.
- html2text- is a Python script that helps convert an HTML page into an easy-to-read Markdown.
- Stackedit- is a full-featured, open-source Markdown editor based on PageDown, the Markdown library used by Stack Overflow and the other Stack Exchange sites.
- MarkPad – is a split-screen editor that is an open source, Windows only, .NET 4 project using Microsoft WPF technology for the UI. It uses vanilla Markdown with an option to enable a few additional enhancements.