I have got something for you today that I am pretty excited about. Well, about as excited as you can get about text editing.
You may have read my recent article on Why You Hate The WordPress Text Editor and What To Do About It. In that post I covered several alternatives to the default WordPress text editor, which is a royal pain in my ass. I also asked you to make your own suggestions. And just a few days ago, Mark Hesketh left a comment on that post, suggesting that we try out something called Markdown.
Confession: Markdown has actually been covered by WPMU before in this post, albeit briefly. I thought it deserved a post of its own.
Anyway, I started checking it out, and it didn’t take me too long to see the potential benefits of using Markdown as a primary means of HTML markup. Here’s what it’s all about:
Markdown is a text-to-HTML conversion tool for web writers. Markdown allows you to write using an easy-to-read, easy-to-write plain text format, then convert it to structurally valid XHTML (or HTML).
That may sound a little complicated, but in practice, writing in Markdown is about as straightforward as you get. I will take you literally a few minutes to pick up the basics, which are well-covered here.
Two Birds, One Stone
Whilst I see Markdown as an excellent option for WordPress (and I am going to be testing it out on my own blog), where it could really excel is in drafting newsletter emails in AWeber. There are two reasons for that:
- AWeber’s text editor is actually worse than WordPress’ (yes, that is actually possible)
- You are likely to want to draft your emails in HTML and plain text format – this is a cinch with Markdown
Recently, I have been completely avoiding AWeber’s text editor. I draft my emails in WordPress, add <p></p> tags, then transfer the whole thing into AWeber’s HTML editor. I then have to copy the email into its plain text editor, add markup headers, URLs, and so on. So I essentially have to format each email twice. Again, royal pain in my ass.
But with Markdown, I can simply draft my emails in WordPress, copy and paste the HTML source into AWeber’s HTML editor, then copy and paste the Markdown code into the text editor. The Markdown markup (is this getting confusing yet?) doubles beautifully as a functional form of plain text formatting:
I’m not yet ready to call Markdown the optimal replacement for the default WordPress text editor (although I would certainly consider it an improvement), but it is definitely a fantastic solution for drafting AWeber emails.
Getting Markdown up and running on your WordPress blog is a piece of cake. First, install and activate the Markdown for WordPress and bbPress plugin. Then click on Users > My Profile in your sidebar, and check the “Disable the visual editor when writing” box (that feels good, doesn’t it?).
And that’s it! You can now start using Markdown in your Page/Post screens in the HTML editor. Enjoy!
Creative Commons photo courtesy of Lili Vieira de Carvalho