What is Markua?

The Before Times

In the olden days, people used to write books on paper.

Formatting

It’s easy to get focused on how different these technologies — pen and paper, or typewriter and paper — are from the digital technologies we use to write books nowadays.

Desktop Publishing

To any particularly sharp readers, the nature of difference between then and now, is why it wasn’t a mistake when we wrote a few sentences back about “the tools we use to write books nowadays”: with the advent of what’s called “desktop publishing”, it now does actually make sense (well, kind of) to talk about actually “writing” a book, as opposed to only writing the manuscript for the book.

Plain Text

As we’ve said, in the past, an ordinary pen-and-ink writer’s ordinary manuscript had no formatting, ordinarily. There was nothing in bold. There was nothing in italics.

Markup

As we’ve already mentioned, old-timey writers wrote their book formatting instructions directly in their manuscript, indicating manually what they wanted to be in bold, and what they wanted to be in italics, just to pick those two popular ways of formatting words in books.

Markup Syntax

Now, over time, writers and publishers got bored of spelling things like this out (sorry) explicitly, over and over again.

Plain Text, Computers Edition

OK, remember earlier when we asked experts in these things to give us a pass, when we talked about handwritten or typewritten things being “plain text”? That was a misleading anachronism, but also a very tempting analogy, and we gave in to that temptation, since the image conveys something important about formatted versus non-formatted letters.

What Computer People and Literary Archivists Have in Common

Now, at this point, if you’re into books and writing, you might be thinking something like this:

Markdown

Good proof that people who write and format text for publication, and hence for presentation to other people, won’t put up with writing out lengthy repetitive instructions for formatting things, is something called Markdown, that was invented by a person named John Gruber.

So, What is Markua?

All right, with all that behind us, we can now go ahead and answer this question, saying:

Writing in Markua

Just like with Markdown, Markua is meant to make things simpler for book writers.

OK, What Now?

It’s easy to get started writing a book in Markua! Just go here to create a new book:

Finally, Some Technical Stuff

The complete Markua manual is free to read online here:

Finally, For Real This Time

The history of the book is a fascinating subject in its own right, and of course goes back way before typewriters and even pens, which is where we dropped into the timeline at the beginning of this article. If you’re interested in the real story, you may want to start your journey on Wikipedia here or here.

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