Mark down my email

2 minute read

Here's my weird-but-yet-interesting idea of the day...

In most mailing lists (including non-geeky ones), HTML mail is usually discouraged but the newbies still want to make use of bold and italics and the rest.

So, here's my simple solution:

Allow the user to use a rich text box to get all their HTML-coolness but instead of sending raw HTML, send across the text formatted in Markdown syntax.

The advantage is that the recipient actually has a choice of seeing a plain text view or a HTML fancy view. This also encourages "clean mails". Power-users will like this feature as well.

P.S. Of course, Markdown is not the only choice of semantic text styles, there are many choices such as reST, Textile and the plethora of wiki syntaxes. I just find Markdown to be the simplest and most readable of the ones I've used.

I write all my posts using Markdown and it has never gotten in my way of writing and yet works well. That says a lot about its good design.


Ian Bicking says:

Another related option is for mail clients (or mail readers or whatever) to do better rendering of the HTML as text, using normal conventions like *italic* and whatnot. In my server-generated HTML emails I've used Lynx to create text alternatives, but those kind of suck, and lately I've been using a custom HTML to text renderer, and writing my HTML email with that renderer in mind (since it's quite limited right now).

Personally I think we'll eventually see mail clients with better HTML support, which includes normalizing HTML and ignoring sender styles. In modern mail clients HTML mail is still annoying because it creates non-uniformity in an otherwise uniform environment; but it doesn't mean HTML isn't still a good rich format for email, just that we need to acknowledge that email isn't the web, and the renderers have to target a different reading style.

Swaroop C H says:

Ian: I agree with you. Making HTML look like decent text is a good way, but most of the times the HTML is so bad that even text converters throw up sometimes.

Swaroop C H says:

Vikram: My posts are *always* in Markdown syntax. The [PHP Markdown plugin]( converts them to XHTML on-the-fly and presents it to you :)

Use the [Markdown Dingus]( to try Markdown.

Vikram Sujanani says:

You mention 'I write all my posts using Markdown' - do you mean that the posts on this blog were initially written in Markdown syntax... and Wordpress some how got the html of it and posted on the blog - If this is what you mean, then this is really cool.