No, not a clearance sale, I’m talking about MarsEdit’s support for Markdown, the easy-to-read text formatting language invented by John Gruber. Using Markdown, you can format your text using old-fashioned ASCII symbols like you might have done on bulletin boards or USENET. Once Markdown gets a crack at your asterisks, hyphens, and hash-marks, it translates them into sparkling HTML that will fit right in alongside the rest of your web content.
MarsEdit is an application for editing web content, the vast majority of which is HTML. So naturally it supports editing and previewing HTML text right in the application. But something not everybody knows is that MarsEdit also supports editing and previewing Markdown text right in the application:
I see Markdown as a response to a major problem with WYSIWYG HTML editors: they overpromise and under-deliver, almost guaranteeing disappointment. If you can get your content to look the way you want it to, you’ll probably be horrified to see the HTML code that has been computer-generated to make it happen. Markdown strikes a nice compromise by providing a predictable set of rules so that you know exactly what you’re going to get.
Most Markdown users configure their blogs to do the Markdown “rendering” as needed for web presentation, but keep the text of the post in Markdown format for easy re-editing. This is where MarsEdit’s “pure text” editing becomes a great asset. What you see is what you send. This makes it great for editing the content of whatever system you’re using. If you’ve got a custom formatting script of your own, just install a copy into MarsEdit’s text filters folder, and you’ll have built-in previewing for your format, too!
While most publishing systems don’t support Markdown “out of the box”, the tide may be turning. As Daring Fireball noted today, TypePad not only supports the technology, but has added a thorough article explaining how to use it. I’m hoping to see increasing support in other systems over the coming months. If your system doesn’t support it by default, do a quick search for “markdown plugin” and I’m betting you’ll find somebody has a solution waiting for you to install.