Review: Markdown by Example

Cover - Markdown by Example

Author: Tim Steinbach
Publisher: Leanpub
Published: 2012
Pages: 214

Introduction

I got my first experience with using Markdown close to a year ago, and wrote about what I had learned so far a few months ago. While Markdown isn’t a complex topic, I still wanted to have a tutorial to go through, since the official documentation is more of a reference. After some searching, I found Markdown by Example.

The Markdown Breakdown

The book is broken down into three main sections, each with multiple chapters, and an appendix. The first section introduces Markdown, its origin and intent, available editors, installation of supporting software, and references to the book website and code samples. The installation sections covered OS X and Linux – Windows was noticeably absent.

The middle section has two chapters: one for learning the Markdown syntax – it really is simple and straightforward, only one chapter is needed! – and one for a syntax reference. The latter chapter surprised me, coming directly after the instructional chapter; since it is a reference, I thought it might be better located at the back of the book, in the appendix, rather than in the middle, or even as a separate printable PDF.

Markdown is such a simple syntax that it hardly needed any coverage – really, just one chapter to provide the syntax details! However, the meat of the book follows in the third section. This section consists of twelve chapters, covering numerous uses of Markdown for different purposes. These examples include generating HTML output, building websites and blogs, building presentations, writing for WordPress and Wikis, and writing books. That last one, on writing books with Markdown, illustrates how the author prepared this very book and collaborated with Leanpub. It goes to show that for a knowledgeable person who enjoys writing, self-publishing is in reach with publishers like Leanpub and tools such as Markdown!

One other thing of interest is that Markdown is at its heart quite basic and simple – it’s great for text formatting, inserting links, and basic document layout. It does not, however, provide for document elements such as tables, footnotes, and mathematical formulae. There are some extended Markdown implementations out there which to some extent provide functionality beyond the core syntax; the book covers two in particular, namely, GitHub-flavoured Markdown and MultiMarkdown. I’m aware of at least one other, Markdown Extra, so was a little surprised it didn’t receive any coverage like the other two.

The book’s companion website has links to purchasing printed and electronic copies, a book wiki, and a repository of code samples shown and referenced in the book.

Conclusion

Overall, the book is concise and well-written. I have minor issue with the placement of the reference chapter, as well as the incomplete coverage of the Markdown supersets. Combined with the provided code samples, there’s much here to get a Markdown novice underway!

The bottom line: Markdown by Example is a worthwhile and inexpensive read for anyone wanting a gentle introduction to the Markdown format, as well as its possible applications. I recommend it for any Markdown beginner.