I am putting together a system for writers/editors to efficiently add — fairly rich — content to a website.

I've previously used standard WYSIWYG editors but find that often what you see isn't what you get. I've seen this lead to frustration and bad code.

Has anyone implemented Markdown to write articles? If so, how did you find it? I like the idea of saving articles in markdown as it keep HTML separated from the content.

Has anyone implemented any other systems?

  • 4
  • Please don't cross post exactly the same question to multiple sites.
    – ChrisF
    Aug 1, 2011 at 12:34
  • calling Jeff... Aug 1, 2011 at 12:56
  • I felt the question would yield different results from each group… UX, Tech and Writers. All of whom are a consideration in this process.
    – Ad Taylor
    Aug 1, 2011 at 12:56
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    @Ad there's nothing wrong with posting the question tailored to each audience, but here you've posted exactly the same question on three sites.
    – ChrisF
    Aug 1, 2011 at 13:10

4 Answers 4


Doesn't Wikipedia count as "large content editing"?

I think they have successfully proven that markdown can work for large content, so you could look at how they implement it. Bare in mind that the user group that creates and edits articles is not the consumer group, and what they find simple may not apply to most users.

  • Wikipedia does not use Markdown, they use their own wiki markup invented around 2001, sometime before Markdown (2004).
    – Robert
    Dec 19, 2013 at 0:52

At Imazen, all of our own websites are created with a mix of 95% Markdown (Kramdown) and 5% Slim.

The trouble with any XML-based solution is that it's resistant to versioning, diff generation, and automated merges. Only context-free syntaxes (such as Markdown, Wiki/Creole, etc) can effectively be used in a distributed version control system (like git) or an offline/organic workflow.

We started the Repositext Initiative to offer publishers and large-scale content managers a better solution. Our first publisher to use the system translates content into 70 languages and has several thousand books which are translated from English to other languages. Many translators on the African continent lack internet connections in their city, and have to mail USB drives or commute to an internet cafe in a different town.

The master version of all content is stored in Markdown form (the MultiMarkdown/Kramdown variant, in order to support named paragraph and character styles).

Using context-free tokens allows us to preserve additional metadata attached to the text (such as indexing hints, translation segmentation marks, and paragraph/record identifiers). These can be automatically merged as content changes, using the Suspension library

Enabling repeated import from Word, InDesign, and other formats enables the system to support any type of workflow that happens - no linear process is enforced, and users can use the tools they prefer.

Our feedback from authors on the Markdown syntax has been extremely positive - not only for the simplicity and readability, but for the ability to see all data at once, and to detect formatting changes visually within diffs.

On a large scale, Markdown is even better than on a small scale.


The best solution I've ever seen for editorial content is Xopus. (Disclaimer: Xopus was originally created at my company). It's an XML authoring environment used by many companies around the world. An example is Philips, who use it internationally for writing the content of instruction manuals they provide with their products. Here's a description from the website:

SDL Xopus is a WYSIWYG XML Editor that runs in your browser.

SDL Xopus enables authors to work with structured and complex content without the need for technical knowledge. By using a friendly interface to XML, the author cannot break the XML structure or write content that does not conform to the XML Schema.

Why it's great:

  • Content is saved in XML, which means it's structured semantically
  • However, editors never see or know they're writing XML, because Xopus provides a WYSIWYG interface to that XML
  • This is achieved by using XSLT to transform the underlying XML into a view that corresponds with whatever the editor is working on. In Philips' case, editors see the layout and design of the instruction manual they're writing for.
  • The XML is validated against an XML Schema, meaning the document can never be invalid. Xopus prevents users from doing anything that's impossible in the Schema, like adding more than one title or trying to create a hyperlink where you don't want them to be able to.
  • It's online and web-based, meaning you can install it in one place and people can access it from anywhere

It's easily licensed and affordable. The only downside is that you have an upfront implementation cost that you need to invest in. You'll need a development team to specify your XML Schema so Xopus knows what constitutes valid documents, and then you'll need to write the XSLT to transform your XML into a view your editors can work with. But once you have it up and running, editors can get started writing content, and you'll end up with clean, valid XML that your development team can feed into any publishing platform they want.

Take a look at some of the demos where you can try it out and see how it works for yourself. (Note: Webkit browsers are not supported)

  • It's a pity it does not seem to support just some 'minor' browsers Chrome and Safari. I got on this page with Safari and it shows the compatibility table xopus.com/demo/simple Aug 26, 2011 at 11:37
  • @Marco Yes, Xopus is so complex that some operations are hard to port across browser engines. I'm sure they're working on it, but since it's essentially a tool you use within enterprises, it's not that hard to ask your writers to use Firefox or IE.
    – Rahul
    Aug 26, 2011 at 13:01
  • FWIW I tried the Try Anyway in Chrome, and it does at least open, who knows what all works though. I'm surprised they don't support Webkit browsers though.
    – Ben Brocka
    Aug 26, 2011 at 13:28
  • @Rahul dictating that the user avoids using the browser with the highest marketshare is pretty much the opposite of a usable system.
    – Racheet
    Dec 19, 2013 at 9:57

Consider the concept WYMIWYG – What You Mean is What You Get. There's an editor called WYMeditor which I rather like, but it's getting long in the tooth. Markdown etc are in a similar vein.

If you're crazy you can use DocBook, TEI, or some other heavy-weight publishing markup system. These are designed for books, so they're overkill for a website, and have a learning curve.

Consider also basic RTF (Rich Text Format), like you get in Mac OS X's TextEdit.

Or what about plain text?

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