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Would you like them?

You could have Markdown to have a popup appear to insert the footnote's text [*].

EDIT: you can use a symbol and then <sub></sub>, but that won't give you a link between the place where the footnote occurs and its body text.

[*]: A popup similar to when inserting links (and here having a different, smaller, font)

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Just as a reference: footnote extension to PHP-Markdown at rephrase.net/box/word/footnotes/syntax –  Arjan Feb 23 '10 at 10:21
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And: PHP Markdown Extra seems to be used quite often too (like in Drupal filters), and uses the same [^n] syntax. –  Arjan Feb 1 '11 at 13:14
    
Related feature request: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/5199/… –  Mechanical snail Nov 22 '12 at 6:19
    
Then we need <small>, @Shog9... ;-) –  Arjan Apr 5 at 10:37

7 Answers 7

up vote 10 down vote accepted

I don't think you need those. This isn't Wikipedia [citation needed], so generally a footnote can consist of just a *. No reason to try to formalize* it. You can then use <sub> to make it a smaller font [rcar].

*: AKA Eating up the dev team's time.

See, works great! Just remember, use \* when posting those. Otherwise, you get italics.

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[citation] Page Name: Podcast #17 (responses); Primary Author: Jeff Atwood; Secondary Author: Unknown; Citation: "Again, I know you are not Wikipedia..." –  Robert Cartaino Jul 14 '09 at 13:56
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@rcar: Brilliant. Simply, brilliant. –  Eric Jul 14 '09 at 14:26
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Yes, I only wanted a different font for footnotes –  John the Seagull Jul 14 '09 at 15:59
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@Vinko Vrsalovic - An horizontal rule (<hr>) followed by a subscript tag (<sub>) would probably do nicely. –  Robert Cartaino Jul 14 '09 at 19:28
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The <hr> was way too spaced out, but the <sub> tag worked great. Good call. –  Eric Jul 14 '09 at 19:51
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No need for <hr> - a few dashes works too... --- –  Marc Gravell Jul 14 '09 at 20:15
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I dislike using <sub> or <sup> to format text -- for me that breaks separating content from design. –  Arjan Nov 9 '09 at 11:48
    
@Arjan <sup> and <sub> are content tags. –  random Dec 9 '09 at 14:09
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@random, indeed. That's why I dislike using them for formatting... The text of a footnote is not the same as superscript or subscript. –  Arjan Jan 16 '10 at 19:08
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Well, bold or links aren't needed either, are they? It's not about need, but convenience. The ability to make footnotes using markdown would be useful, whether or not it is essential. Asterisks, or <sup> can *look ok, but it'd be nice to have the functionality too. Links back and forth between the footnote and the text it refers to –  jalf Jun 21 '11 at 19:13
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The correct HTML element to use would probably be <small>, as <sub> is intended for semantic subscripts, that is, removing the <sub> tag would result in a change in meaning. –  chharvey Jul 22 '13 at 6:00

I would definitely like them. Although they could be hacked on via font-work, it would definitely enhance usability.

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And visual consistency. –  Prof. Falken May 2 '13 at 6:48
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It would certainly have spared me a lot of time looking up markdown footnotes, only to find out on meta that they are not supported. Don't forget to vote this up if you feel the same. –  owlstead Jun 22 '13 at 13:41
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Like others, maybe not needed for SO, but for my *.SE contributions, I could often use them. Also, if the PHP Markdown Extra solution was adopted, it would mean that you wouldn't need to worry about manually adjusting footnote reference numbers when adding a new note "above" existing ones. AND you would have the note and intext reference hyperlinked. SO many plusses! What's the down-side? I can't think of one. –  Davïd Jan 14 at 1:18

Here's what I do1 to simulate footnotes:

These lines are _going to_ intersect<sup>1</sup>!

...

--------

**Footnotes:**

1. See Euclid's 5<sup>th</sup> postulate.

It's not that hard to do, but it's still a pain and the results aren't ideal. There's no easy way to set up links from the footnote mark to the footnote text and back again. Also, the footnote text ought to be smaller than then text in the body, but adding <sub>...</sub> tends to break the numbered items and I don't bother to play with it usually. It also gets tricky when editing in a new footnote since you need to manually adjust the numbering of notes that come after. Compared to using advanced links, roll-your-own footnotes seems practically barbaric.2

PHP Markdown Extra has a really cool footnote syntax3 that I'd like to have available on Stack Exchange:

These lines are _going to_ intersect[^1]!

...

[^1]: See Euclid's 5<sup>th</sup> postulate.

Just writing that example makes me yearn for footnote support; even the Markdown code looks clean! The output is more professional looking than my manual footnote technique and includes all sorts of niceties like auto-numbering and inline footnote text.


Footnotes:

1. All the time!

2. So why not just use links or parentheticals instead of footnotes? Because we aspire to the sort of answers expected in academia where footnotes are de rigueur. Plus it looks like you know what you are talking about and therefore encourages upvoting.

3. Suggested in the comments by Arjan.

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Maybe they're not really useful on SO, but there are lots of places on *.SE where they could come in handy (e.g. cstheory).

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I would say science sites would find this especially useful when citing papers –  Rory Feb 28 '12 at 22:45
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cstheory, physics, history, linguistics, chemistry, biology Mi Yodeya (they do a lot of citation) and many others. –  TRiG Feb 13 '13 at 23:38

I don't know 1.

1 I just use superscript on it 2.
2 Looks nice to me.

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Not hyperlinked back and forth. And <a> element doesn't support neither "name" nor "id" attributes. –  Jakub Narębski Jul 17 '09 at 14:19
    
And what is preventing it to get supported? –  kd304 Jul 17 '09 at 15:02
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+1 for not using <sup> in the text of the footnote. Still, like in the question, many abuse <sup> in the actual footnote itself. Also, using numbers implies one might need to re-number when inserting another footnote at a later time. –  Arjan Feb 23 '10 at 12:08
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@jakub-narebski <a href="#myid"> will point just fine to <div id="myid">. –  Jarkko Laine Aug 18 '11 at 7:07

As we near the four-year mark since this Question was first asked, has the development team made any progress yet?

Footnotes are still a pain! And not only because jumping back and forth between text and footnote does not work. It is quite simply a usability nightmare! Here is an example where <sub> was used as a work-around to make footnote text:

Screenshot showing too-small footnote text circled in red

On a normal notebook screen, who can read the text circled in red without getting severe eyestrain? Not I.

While we wait for a footnoting feature to be introduced, how about enabling the <small> HTML attribute so that footnotes can be the exact same point size as the text in comments (small but still readable)?

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Need footnotes in community wiki mode. You don't want to disrupt the flow of someone else's discussion unnecessarily.

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Do you have an example of this? –  random Dec 9 '09 at 14:08

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