The Power of Markup Languages

An Anecdote

Recently, I’ve been trying to make myself learn how to write rich documents within plaintext files. I want to do this for a few reasons:

  • I can write everything in vim. Let’s face it — Word processors are pretty ugly. I really don’t like working on documents in Microsoft Word or LibreOffice when I can instead work on my documents in vim. Not only the look, but also the speed. I am able to edit so much faster using vim than any other editor on the market.
  • Portability is key. Have you ever received a paper from a colleague only to be found that it is in some format that you can’t read? (Cough Pages Cough). I, personally, really hate when this happens. In order to solve the problem, why not just write everything in plaintext and distribute it that way?
  • It prepares for the future. In the future, Microsoft Office, Pages, LibreOffice, and the like will probably be out the window. In fact, Windows, Mac OSX, UNIX, or anything you hold dear in the computing world will probably be thrown out the window. If this is the case, the text that we write needs to be unformatted. That way, the text can be viewed on any operating system with any text editor.

The Solution

The solution, I have found, is to write everything using Markdown (Using the CommonMark Spec) and LaTeX. In this way, I will be able to express all of my thoughts in a clear, succinct, portable, and easy-to-read fashion.

One of the great things about these two markup languages is that they are everywhere. You don’t really know until you start using it without thinking, but almost every program supports it. It’s great expressing your thoughts in Skype or GChat because you can bold important words or italicize others. What a good way to express your thoughts!

Because of my recent change in heart, I will be writing all of my blog posts in plaintext from now on and leaving it to the WordPress text rendering system to render everything (hopefully properly). There are also many, many plugins making LaTeX and Markdown rendering possible. It’s really great.

Look how easy it is to express my favorite finite automata:
$M_{favorite} = {Q, \Sigma, \delta, q_{0}, F}$
M_{favorite} = \{Q, \Sigma, \delta, q_{0}, F\}

I will probably report back about this venture as I learn more.

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