MD File Documentation

MD, or Markdown, files store text documents created in the Markdown language. It may be noted that the Markdown language has several different dialects.

Files with the MD extension are most often used by the Chaos Desktop program, which offers the ability to manage various documents. This application creates data and metadata using the information contained in templates. The metadata created in this way is saved in a file with the MD extension.


Feature Value
File Extension .md, .markdown
Media Type text/markdown
Developed By John Gruber and Aaron Swartz
Initial Release 2004
Standardization None (Various Flavors)
Encoding UTF-8 (Recommended)
Header Syntax Uses '#' for headers
List Syntax Hyphens, asterisks, or plus signs
Link Syntax [Link Text](URL)
Image Syntax ![Alt Text](URL)
Inline Code Wrapped in backticks (`code`)
Code Blocks Triple backticks or indented by four spaces
Table Support Yes (in extended flavors like GFM)
Footnote Support Yes (in extended flavors)
Task List Support Yes (in GFM)
Software Support Widespread (IDEs, Text Editors, CMS, etc.)
Conversion Tools Pandoc, Marked 2, etc.
Readability High (Human-friendly syntax)

Definition and Purpose

Markdown (MD) files are plain text files that use a set of symbols and characters as a lightweight markup language to format text. The primary goal of Markdown is to make writing for the internet easier without having to write cumbersome HTML tags for formatting. Essentially, it allows writers to focus on their content rather than the presentation while still producing easily convertible documents that can be transformed into professionally styled HTML pages. The simplicity and readability of Markdown files make them particularly popular among writers, programmers, and content creators for creating documentation, notes, web content, and much more.

The main reasons for its popularity are:

  • Easy to learn: The syntax is simplistic and intuitive, which makes it accessible even for individuals with no background in HTML or programming.
  • Portable: Being plain text, MD files can be opened and edited with any text editor on any platform without losing formatting.
  • Version control friendly: The simplicity of Markdown files makes them ideal for tracking changes in version control systems such as Git, facilitating collaboration among multiple users.

History and Evolution

The conceptualization of Markdown traces back to 2004 when John Gruber, with substantial contributions from Aaron Swartz, designed the Markdown language with the goal of writing using an easy-to-read and easy-to-write plain text format, which then could be converted into HTML for the web. The inspiration behind Markdown was to create a format that is as readable as possible in its raw state, without appearing as if it has been marked up with tags or formatting instructions, which is commonplace in other text formatting languages like HTML.

Since its inception, Markdown has evolved significantly. Its simplicity and the growing demand for more efficient writing-on-the-web tools have led to the development of several Markdown variations, or "flavors", such as GitHub Flavored Markdown (GFM), which adds additional features like tables, footnotes, and task lists, making it more suitable for software development documentation. Despite these variations, the core principles of Markdown remain intact: readability and simplicity. This adaptability and ease of use have cemented Markdown’s position as a favorite tool among content creators, developers, and writers globally.

Moreover, the evolution of Markdown has seen it being integrated into many content management systems (CMS) and blogging platforms, allowing for seamless use without the need for direct HTML editing. Its usage extends beyond writing, as it now also serves as a format for slides, books, websites, and documentation, proving its versatility and adaptability in various digital content creation scenarios.

Basic Structure and Syntax of Markdown

Basic Structure and Syntax of Markdown

Markdown's appeal lies in its simplicity and ease of use, offering straightforward syntax for users aiming to format their text efficiently. Below, we explore the foundational elements that constitute the Markdown language, covering everything from headers to code blocks.


In Markdown, headers are created by preceding text with one or more hash symbols (#) corresponding to the header level desired. For example, # for an H1 header, ## for H2, and so on, up to ###### for H6. The importance of headers stretches beyond providing structure; they also enhance accessibility and improve SEO for online content.

Paragraphs and Line Breaks

To create paragraphs in Markdown, simply leave a blank line between text blocks. For line breaks without starting a new paragraph, users can end a line with two or more spaces before pressing return. This allows for greater control over the text's appearance without the need for additional formatting.

Emphasis: Bold and Italic Text

To add emphasis to text, Markdown employs asterisks (*) and underscores (_). For italicized text, use a single asterisk or underscore (e.g., *italic* or _italic_), while bold text requires doubling up these symbols (e.g., **bold** or __bold__). Combining both yields bold and italicized text, enhancing the way users can express emphasis.

Lists: Ordered and Unordered

Markdown supports both ordered (

    ) and unordered (
    ) lists, critical for presenting information in a clear, structured format. Unordered lists are created using asterisks, plus signs, or hyphens (*, +, -), whereas ordered lists are generated by numbering each item. Lists can be nested within each other, allowing for complex structures.

    Embedding links and images is streamlined in Markdown, promoting rich content creation. Links are inserted via [text](URL "title"), and images follow a similar syntax, prefixed with an exclamation (![alt text](URL "title")). This method facilitates linking to external resources and embedding imagery directly within the document.


    To create blockquotes, Markdown uses the greater-than symbol (>) at the beginning of the paragraph. Blockquotes are useful for distinguishing quoted text or emphasizing excerpts, providing visual cues to readers regarding the text's nature.

    Code: Inline and Blocks

    For including code, Markdown offers two styles: inline and block. Inline code requires wrapping the code with backticks (`), useful for mentioning code elements within a sentence. For lengthier code snippets or formatting entire blocks of code, indenting each line with four spaces or placing three backticks (```) before and after the code block preserves the original formatting and distinguishes the code from the surrounding text.

    Example Markdown File Structure

    Example Markdown File Structure

    In this section, we'll explore a typical structure for a Markdown (.md) file, designed to make your content readable, both in raw and rendered forms. A well-structured Markdown file not only helps in maintaining consistency across documents but also enhances readability for both authors and readers alike.

    Basic Structure

    A Markdown file often begins with a title, represented by one or more hash (#) symbols followed by a space and the title text. The number of hashes represents the level of the heading, with one hash for the title or primary heading and increasing hashes for subsequent subheadings.

# Title
## Subtitle
### Section 1
#### Subsection 1.1

Following the headings, the body text can be added. In Markdown, paragraphs are separated by blank lines. Text can be emphasized using asterisks (*) or underscores (_) for italicized or bold text. This allows for clear distinction of different sections and key points.

Lists and Tables

Organizing information into lists and tables is crucial for readability. Markdown supports both unordered (bullets) and ordered (numbered) lists. Unordered lists use asterisks (*), plus signs (+), or minus signs (-) as bullet points, whereas ordered lists simply use numbers followed by dots.

  • Unordered list item 1
  • Unordered list item 2
  1. Ordered list item 1
  2. Ordered list item 2

Tables in Markdown are created using pipes (|) and dashes (-) to delineate columns and rows, respectively. Aligning the text within cells can be done using colons (:) on the header row.

| Header 1 | Header 2 | Header 3 |
| Row 1, Col 1 | Centered  | Right-aligned |
| Row 2, Col 2 | Text      | More text     |

Code Snippets and Blockquotes

For including code snippets, Markdown uses backticks (`). A single backtick is used for inline code, while triple backticks are used for multi-line code blocks. Optionally, a language identifier can be added after the opening triple backticks for syntax highlighting.

`inline code`
def example_function():
  return "This is a code block with syntax highlighting"

Blockquotes are created using the greater-than sign (>). These can be nested and are especially useful for highlighting quotations or emphasizing specific pieces of information.

This is a blockquote.

Understanding and utilizing these basic elements can significantly enhance the clarity and visual appeal of your Markdown documents. By adhering to a structured approach, you ensure that your content is easily navigable and comprehensible to your audience.

Example Header

Example Header

In this section, we're diving into the practical uses of Markdown syntax to create structured and easily understandable documentation. Markdown's simplistic markup language offers an intuitive approach for both technical and non-technical users. The example provided aims to illustrate the versatility and functionality of Markdown features when drafting documents.


The subheader shown in the example introduces a new section within the document, signaling a shift in focus or topic. Here, we explore the basic formatting options Markdown provides:

  • Bold text is used for emphasis, making certain words stand out.
  • Italic text, similarly, adds emphasis but with a subtlety that can differentiate between types of emphasis or denote titles of works.
  • Bulleted lists offer a way to organize information in an easily digestible format.

Links and images are seamlessly integrated with simple syntax, enriching the document with external resources and visual aids, respectively. The ability to add blockquotes allows for highlighting quotations or important pieces of information.

Explanation of the Example Structure

This section deciphers the example given, elucidating how each element contributes to the document's clarity and visual appeal:

  1. The subheader acts as an organizational tool, guiding the reader through the document.
  2. Emphasis through bold and italic text not only breaks the monotony of plain text but also signifies importance and tone.
  3. The use of bulleted lists structures information in a manner that's easy to scan, making the document more user-friendly.
  4. Hyperlinks provide additional context or direct readers to external sources without cluttering the document.
  5. Images and blockquotes enhance the visual appeal and engage the reader with visual evidence or highlighted information.

The Markdown syntax, through its simplicity, brings a clean structure and consistency to documentation, making it accessible and maintainable. This example demonstrates the balance between aesthetic appeal and practical functionality, showcasing Markdown's potential as a powerful tool for writers and developers alike.

Using Markdown in Different Environments

Documentation and Note-Taking

Markdown has emerged as a preferred writing syntax for technical documentation and note-taking due to its simplicity and readability. Whether you're documenting software usage, writing tutorials, or keeping track of research notes, Markdown's plaintext formatting makes it easy to create structured documents without the overhead of complex formatting tools.

  • Software Documentation: Teams can collaborate more efficiently by using Markdown to create comprehensive documentation. Platforms like Read the Docs integrate seamlessly with Markdown, enhancing the workflow of software documentation.
  • Research and Academic Note-Taking: Researchers and students can leverage Markdown to structure their notes and bibliographies efficiently. Tools like Zotero support Markdown, helping to keep academic references organized.

Blogging Platforms and CMS

Blogging and content management systems (CMS) have embraced Markdown for its ease of use and flexibility. Creators can focus more on content rather than formatting. Markdown simplifies the process of writing and editing online content, and many platforms automatically convert Markdown syntax into HTML, rendering beautiful web pages.

  1. WordPress: With plugins like WP Markdown, users can write posts directly in Markdown, enhancing the editorial workflow.
  2. Ghost: Designed with a Markdown editor at its core, Ghost offers a seamless writing experience for bloggers, making content creation intuitive and efficient.

Code Repositories and README Files

In the realm of software development, Markdown is extensively used for creating README files and documentation within code repositories. GitHub, Bitbucket, and GitLab, among others, use Markdown to help developers provide essential project information in a readable format.

Platform Feature
GitHub Automatically renders files to display project overviews.
Bitbucket Supports Markdown for repository documentation and issue tracking.
GitLab Extensive Markdown support in wikis, snippets, and READMEs.

Markdown Editors and Tools

Standalone Markdown Editors

For those who thrive in a distraction-free environment, standalone markdown editors provide a serene platform for content creation, focusing solely on your text and markdown syntax. Tools like Typora and iA Writer seamlessly blend the writing and preview modes, allowing users to focus on their content without the constant switching between views. This ease of use fosters a more efficient writing workflow, especially for users who appreciate the simplicity of markdown. Each editor comes with its own set of features, such as focus mode in iA Writer, which dims everything except the current sentence or paragraph, helping you stay in the zone.

IDE Plugins and Extensions

The integration of markdown editing into Integrated Development Environments (IDEs) with plugins and extensions has significantly enhanced the developer's experience. For instance, Visual Studio Code (VS Code), a favorite among developers, offers a plethora of markdown plugins such as Markdown All in One and Markdown Preview Enhanced. These extensions add valuable capabilities to the editor, like live preview, table of contents generation, and even LaTeX support for those requiring mathematical expressions in their documentation. Leveraging these tools within an IDE not only aids in producing well-documented code but also streamlines the workflow by keeping everything in one application.

Online Markdown Editors

For those who prefer the flexibility and accessibility of working from any device, online markdown editors like StackEdit and Dillinger are a godsend. These cloud-based platforms offer a seamless writing experience without the need to install any software. Users can easily export their documents to various formats such as PDF, HTML, and even directly to platforms like GitHub and WordPress. The real-time collaboration feature present in some online editors, such as StackEdit, transforms them into powerful tools for team projects, enabling multiple users to edit the same document simultaneously from anywhere in the world.