As a blogging platform, WordPress offers a variety of themes and plugins to enhance your publishing experience. WordPress users can further enhance their experience with Markdown, a markup language similar to HTML but simpler and easier to write (and read). Incorporating Markdown into WordPress is as simple as adding a plugin, but first you may ask, “What exactly is it?”
What is Markdown?
Like HTML, Markdown is used to format text for publishing on the Web, e.g. to make headings, italicize text and format blockquotes. Developed by John Gruber in 2004, it’s a way to markup your text with a formatting syntax that is simple and readable while portable across a variety of publishing platforms. You simply write your post with the desired syntax, and your chosen publishing tool (such as WordPress’s built-in post editor) converts it to HTML for publishing on the Web.
Markdown’s main advantage is that it’s easy to learn as well as type. As opposed to HTML’s cumbersome tags, Markdown’s syntax is minimal. For example, italicizing a word only requires two asterisks (*) around it
**This is bold**
This is bold
And H2 and H3 headings only need a preceding “##” and “###”, respectively.
## Heading 2 ### Heading 3
A full guide can be found at this Markdown cheatsheet.
Enabling Markdown on WordPress
Beginning in version 4.3, WordPress introduced Markdown-like shortcuts in their editor, allowing users to use some of Markdown’s syntax, though not nearly all. In previous versions of the editor, you had the option of enabling true Markdown in Settings, but that option no longer exists. To enable full Markdown support in WordPress, you must install a plugin. Fortunately, there are several available with their own unique strengths.
WP-Markdown may be old, but it’s like fine wine to Markdown enthusiasts. After installing, you can activate Markdown for posts, pages and/or comments. WP-Markdown disables WordPress’s visual editor, but adds the unique feature of a help bar, giving you one-click formatting options and a preview box.
Jetpack is a multi-featured plugin that also supports Markdown Extra, an enhancement of the original Markdown that adds some extra elements. Activating Markdown is as simple as finding it in Jetpack’s settings and clicking “activate.”
PrettyPress is the Markdown plugin that’s best for beginners. That’s because PrettyPress has the unique selling point of a live preview in the text editor. As you type on the left side, you see a real-time preview on the right.
There are many more plugins, of course, and many more uses of Markdown. The best way to discover it’s many uses is to dive right in. That’s the true elegance of Markdown-it’s easy to learn and nearly effortless to start getting your feet wet in.