Marking Up and Marking Down

I surprised a young man at work the other day when I told him that I use plain text editors with Markdown for all my writing outside of work. He wasn’t surprised because of the choice itself, as he does the exact same, but rather the fact that someone a few years older than him knew about Markdown and didn’t tap things into Microsoft Word using only his index fingers.

The truth is, I’m like anyone else who pays attention tech these days. I abhor the overhead and unnecessary bloat of Microsoft Word (and even Google Docs, for that matter), and I know what Markdown is because it’s impossible to pay even the slightest bit of attention to computers and not know what it is. I don’t know if that’s more of a Mac thing than a Windows thing — for all I know, even savvy Windows people don’t use Markdown to the same extent that savvy Mac owners do. But in the technically knowledgable Mac community, Markdown use is extremely common.

My employer is a successful semiconductor related company, but a lot of our software is pretty terrible. We have web-based HTML documentation for all our technical procedures followed by the manufacturing side of things. It’s all under the purview of our document control system, but it’s ridiculously based on Microsoft Word. I say ridiculous because the document editor writes their document using Word and a non-modifiable template, and then the document is converted into HTML when it’s checked back into the system to go through the approval loop.

Converting Word documents to HTML is such a 1997 thing to do, and it was terrible even back then.

Never confuse the words with the presentation. Markdown allows that separation because it can very easily be output to one of many different formats. In addition, anyone can read it and edit it in any text editor, because it’s plain text.

I’ll leave the Word documents and the templates and the horrendous conversions to big companies that don’t trust their users to learn new things, or that simply haven’t updated their tools in several decades. In the meantime, I’m glad I’m a Mac user in a community full of smart people who know about things like Markdown and the ancient technology known as plain text.