Text files created with Markdown language dialects is saved with .md or .MARKDOWN file extension. MD files are saved in plain text format that uses Markdown language which also includes inline text symbols, defining how a text can be formatted such as indentations, table formatting, fonts, and headers. MD files can be converted to HTML with a program called Markdown. Markdown language is released by John Gruber.
MD files can also be categorized as developer files which are mostly used by Markdown, for converting text files to HTML versions so that users can create files that are easy to read and write. Following are the applications that can open an .md file:
A word of caution is that do not rename the extension of .md files. If so this will not change the file type because there are special conversion softwares available for changing a file from one type to another. As discussed above .MD files are the extensions of files created Markdown language software. Markdown is a lightweight markup language intended for one purpose, to be used to format text on the web with plain text formatting syntax. Let it be clear that Markdown is not a replacement for HTML because its syntax is very small, containing a very small subset of HTML tags. The reason behind the Markdown is to make it easy to read, write and edit prose. In other words we can say that HTML is a publishing format while Markdown is a writing format.
Markdown is now one of the world’s most popular markup languages. While using Microsoft Word, formatting words and phrases are through clicking buttons and changes are immediately visible. But Markdown isn’t like that. When Markdown formatted file is created, Markdown syntax is added to the text to indicate which words and phrases may look different. For example, to show a heading, a number sign is added before it (e.g. # Heading One). For making a bold sentence, two asterisks are added before and after it (e.g., this text is bold). Markdown syntax can be seen after while in the text.
John Gruber and Aaron Swartz in 2004 created the Markdown language with the idea of enabling people “to write using easy to read and write plain text format and with the option of converting it to XHTML or HTML. The goal behind its design is readability – language is readable as it is, without looking like it has been tagged or added with formatting instructions as done in markup languages like RTF or HTML where tags and formatting instructions are obvious. The basic inspiration is using existing conventions for marking up plain text in email.
Since then Markdown has been re-implemented by others as well like in a Perl module available on CPAN and in various other programming languages. It is distributed under a BSD-style license and is included with, or available as a plugin for, several content-management systems.
Technical Specifications of MD files
When something is written in Markdown, the text is first stored in plaintext file with an extension of .md or .markdown, then markdown application such as Dillinger is used for processing of Markdown file to convert Markdown formatted text to HTML for displaying it in web browsers. Markdown applications uses a //Markdown processor// (also commonly referred to as a “parser” or an “implementation”) to take the Markdown-formatted text and output it to HTML format. The flow diagram of the process is as below:
In short it is a four step process as follow:
First, creation of Markdown files with a text editor or Markdown application with an extension of .md or .markdown.
The Markdown file is then opened in a Markdown application.
Markdown application is used to convert the Markdown file to an HTML document.
HTML file is then viewed in a web browser or Markdown application is used to convert it to another file format, like PDF.
Markdown is fast and easy to take notes, content writing for website, produce print ready documents, for publishing books, generating presentations and making documents.
Some of the versions in markdown had a substantial impact on other versions so much that one will often see them quoted as part of other versions. E.g. libraries mention support to CommonMark (GFM). Let’s have a brief look at those.
Markdown is so popular with developers because the open source sharing platform Github accepted and extended the language with a version called Github Flavored Markup (GFM) which include fenced codeblocks, URL aultolinking, strikethrough, tables and create to-dos.
Markdown developers recently tried to standardize markdown, they joined together to create a version, tests and documentation for the language which is more robust and is called CommonMark. This format is a bit new and doesn’t support a lot of features, but soon many MultiMarkdown features will be added.
Multi-Markdown added various features to the language which are supported by other versions. Originally it was written in Perl, but later moved to C. It supports fenced codeblocks, syntax highlighting, tables, metadata, fragments/cross references links, footnotes, strikethrough, definition lists, math.
MD files are popular choice of use for the following reasons.
Simple Syntax: Markdown uses a simple and intuitive syntax, which is easy to learn and write. The syntax is designed to be readable as plain text, making it accessible to users who are not familiar with HTML or other more complex markup languages.
Platform Independent: Markdown files can be created and edited on any platform, including Windows, Mac, and Linux, as they are just plain text files. This makes them a popular choice for collaboration, especially in distributed teams where different team members may use different operating systems.
Portability: Markdown files are portable, which means they can be easily converted to other formats such as HTML, PDF, and Word. This makes them an ideal format for creating documentation, blog posts, and other types of content that may need to be shared in different formats.
Version Control: Markdown files can be easily tracked and managed using version control systems such as Git. This makes it easy to collaborate on documents with other team members, track changes over time, and revert to earlier versions if needed.
Accessibility: Markdown files are accessible to users with disabilities as they can be easily converted to other formats such as Braille, audio, and screen-readable text.