Moving from markdown to asciidoc

11 Apr 2015

Markdown is probably the most popular markup language in the tech community. Often used in comment sections, blogs (such as jekyll), readmes on github or even documentation. Its popularity can easily be explained by its simplicity and extensibility, but this simplicity is both it’s advantage and it’s biggest weak point. Markdown is so simple that most of its users often extend it into a dialect and that’s why there are so many versions of markdown (github markdown, stackoverflow markdown, etc…). If you are interested in markdown, it is worthwhile to check out CommonMark which is a positive step in trying to standardize markdown and specify many of its extensions.

I have been using markdown for a few years and unless I am writing a long form document with rich formatting, I am often writing in markdown. It is very readable, easy and quick to write, and the fact that github renders markdown are the main reasons for why I use it, but I have been noticing some problems when it comes to writing slightly longer documents with structure such as notes. Breaking out LaTeX would not be very productive, so I found a solution: asciidoc.

Asciidoc is also a readable document format which has equivalents for any of markdowns constructs and more. Things such as table of contents, continuous blocks can be grouped in elements, etc. It feels just as simple as markdown with much more power for richer formatting if needed. I have already converted some of my documents over to asciidoc and the process has gone swimmingly well.

Here is a simple readme in asciidoc:

= Readme
Author Name <[email protected]>

== Heading 1

collatz 1 = [1]
collatz n
        | even n = n:chain (n `div` 2)
        | odd n = n:chain (3*n + 1)

=== list of stuff:
* Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur
* Donec lorem purus, vulputate et elementum tempus
* Ut blandit sagittis arcu, sit amet

Some quick references while writing your asciidoc documents: