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This tutorial covers how create and format Markdown files.

Learning Objectives

At the end of this activity, you will be able to:

  • Create a Markdown (.md) file using a text editor.
  • Use basic markdown syntax to format a document including: headers, bold and italics.

What is the .md Format?

Markdown is a human readable syntax for formatting text documents. Markdown can be used to produce nicely formatted documents including pdf’s, web pages and more. In fact, this web page that you are reading right now is generated from a markdown document!

In this tutorial, we will create a markdown file that documents both who you are and also the project that you might want to work on at the 2016 NEON Data Institute.

Read more about the Data Institute Capstone Project.

Markdown Formatting

Markdown is simple plain text, that is styled using symbols, including:

  • #: a header element
  • **: bold text
  • *: italic text
  • `: code blocks

Let’s review some basic markdown syntax.

Plain Text

Plain text will appear as text in a Markdown document. You can format that text in different ways.

For example, if we want to highlight a function or some code within a plain text paragraph, we can use one backtick on each side of the text ( ` ` ), like this: Here is some code. This is the backtick, or grave; not an apostrophe (on most US keyboards it is on the same key as the tilde).

To add emphasis to other text you can use bold or italics.

Have a look at the markdown below:

  The use of the highlight ( `text` ) will be reserved for denoting code.
To add emphasis to other text use **bold** or *italics*.

Notice that this sentence uses both a code highlight “``”, bold and italics. As a rendered markdown chunk, it looks like this:

The use of the highlight ( text ) will be reserve for denoting code when used in text. To add emphasis to other text use bold or italics.

Horizontal Lines (rules)

Create a rule:


Below is the rule rendered:

Section Headings

You can create a heading using the pound (#) sign. For the headers to render properly there must be a space between the # and the header text. Heading one is 1 pound sign, heading two is 2 pound signs, etc as follows:

Heading two

## Heading two

Heading three

### Heading three

Heading four

#### Heading four

For a more thorough list of markdown syntax, please read this GitHub Guide on Markdown.

Data Tip: There are many free Markdown editors out there! The editor is a powerful text editor package by GitHub, that also has a Markdown renderer allowing you to see what your Markdown looks like as you are working.

Activity: Create A Markdown Document

Now that you are familiar with the Markdown syntax, use it to create a brief biography that:

  1. Introduces yourself to the other participants.
  2. Documents the project that you have in mind for the Data Institute.

Add Your Bio

First, create a .md file using the text editor of your preference. Name the file with the naming convention:

Save the file to the participants/pre-institute2-git directory in your local DI16-NEON-participants repo (the copy on your computer).

Add a brief bio using headers, bold and italic formatting as makes sense. In the bio, please provide basic information including:

  • Your Name
  • Domain of interest
  • One goal for the course

Add a Capstone Project Description

Next, add a revised Capstone Project idea to the Markdown document using the heading ## Capstone Project. Be sure to specify in the document the types of data that you think you may require to complete your project.

NOTE: The Data Institute repository is a public repository visible to anyone with internet access. If you prefer to not share your bio information publicly, please submit your Markdown document using a pseudonym for your name. You may also want to use a pseudonym for your GitHub account. HINT: cartoon character names work well. Please email us with the pseudonym so that we can connect the submitted document to you.

Got questions? No problem. Leave your question in the comment box below. It’s likely some of your colleagues have the same question, too! And also likely someone else knows the answer.