Packt Publishing contacted me last week after reading a few posts on my blog and offered me access to their recently published book, Instant Markdown by Arturo Herrero, and asked if I was interested in reviewing it for my website. Being the Markdown enthusiast that I am I eagerly accepted. What follows is my brief review of the book. Be sure to read the end of this post for instructions on how to win one of the 3 digital copies of Instant Markdown that Packt Publishing has offered up to readers of my blog!
Packt has an entire line of books they call "Instant" and Instant Markdown is a book dedicated to Markdown that is part of that "Instant" series. The tag line for the Instant books is "Short | Fast | Focused", and this book most definitely delivers on that promise. I read the entire book cover to cover (digitally speaking of course) in well under an hour. Speaking of formats, the Instant line of books published by Packt come in both physical print form and multiple eBook formats. I chose to go with the Kindle format and sent the Kindle book to my iPad Kindle app. This was the first time I had used the Kindle app on my iPad and it worked really well. The one constraint I found a bit annoying with the Kindle app was the inability to copy text from within the app and use the text in another app (something I am able to do with Apple's iBook app & it comes in really handy when writing a book review like this one). However, that one annoyance aside, I found the Kindle format to be very intuitive to navigate and read.
Chapter 1 of the book starts with a statement saying that the book provides all the information you need to setup Markdown. This statement made a pause a little when I read it. I have been using Markdown for about 6 months and have always thought of Mardown as more of a syntax than a program or a language...but in reality it is all 3! The setting up of Markdown that is referred to is talking about setting up the official Markdown converter tool, which is a script written in Pearl. I have to admit that up until now I have not ever used this script, I have several 3rd party apps that do most of the conversions I need when working with Markdown. I like this approach because it introduced the reader to Markdown starting from its origins...the original script written by John Gruber. Another thing that jumped out at me while reading the book was how examples of Markdown were compared to the HTML that Markdown would then produce. The book kept referring to the Markdown text as code and up until this point (as I just mentioned) I have not really thought of Markdown as "code" because it is so naturally easy to read and understand...but the author is absolutely correct, it is code! The book has the following main topics it covers:
- Setting up the Markdown Pearl script on your computer
- Writing in Markdown (a definition of the syntax used)
- Top 8 Uses for Markdown
Who is this book for?
If you are a regular reader of my blog you have probably seen my post on Future Proof Your Writing: Markdown where I reference the iBook Markdown the Mac Sparky Field Guide. Instant Markdown and Markdown the Mac Sparky Field Guide are both excellent books and I would argue that each book is written for an entirely different audience. Markdown the Mac Sparky Field Guide is a very in-depth book that covers many different facets of Markdown...going into suggestions for 3rd party apps, providing embedded video tutorials and it even has audio interviews. Instant Markdown on the other hand is a very quick but focused look at using Markdown...gets you the essentials of what you need to know and FAST! So who is Instant Markdown best suited for? I would recommend Instant Markdown for anyone with a technical background (knows some kind of programming language or syntax fairly well) and would like to get started with Markdown. I really like how this book takes you back to the basics of Markdown and starts out with getting you using the original Markdown Pearl script. However, if you are less "tech savy" (especially if you don't know or care what HTML is), then installing and working with a Pearl script and using command line based tools might not come naturally to you. So my recommendation is:
- "Techies": Buy and read Instant Markdown and if Markdown really suits you think about buying and reading Markdown the Mac Sparky Field Guide
- "Non-Techies": You are better off going with Markdown the Mac Sparky Field Guide and then buying Instant Markdown once you are more comfortable with the concept of Markdown.
As for me, I am really looking forward to trying out some of the tools and resources described in this book that I wasn't aware of...things like:
- How to easily write/send emails in Markdown
- Creating To Do lists in Markdown
- Creating presentation slides in Markdown
- Converting Markdown to other formats (using tools other than those I already use)
- Sharing Markdown documents with others
How to win a free copy of Instant Markdown
- Visit the Packt Publishing Instant Markdown website and read the description for the book
- Post a comment at the bottom of this blog post about what interests you the most about this book (be sure to include your email address in the post input form email field so I can contact you if you win...don't worry, your email address won't be included in your posted comment)
- I'll choose the best 3 comments and those readers will receive a free eBook of Instant Markdown
- Contest ends on Sunday September 15th at 11:59 pm Eastern time, so post your comment before then!
- On Monday September 16th I will notify the winners
By the way, I wrote this entire blog post in Markdown on my iPad mini while on an airplane. I was able to post this to my Squarespace blog directly from my iPad using the Squarespace iPad app before I even got off the plane. Markdown really is a powerful tool!