Here on SO you need to know Markdown. On most other forums there is BBcode, or HTML.

It strikes me that this is considered good practice among developers.

Personally, I think it is bad practice. Basically, you are saying: We cannot create any decent WYSIWYG UI to edit comments or questions. So, learn our language or do not use such a language at all (and don't use any markup).

Shouldn't we as competent developers provide the user with a decent UI, so the users are not required to know such a language?

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    WYSIWTF most of the time... Commented Dec 31, 2009 at 12:08
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    I voted to close this and move it to Meta, but on re-reading it, it just seems subjective and argumentative. I consider Markdown a completely reasonable UI for editing. Not perfect, perhaps, but we've seen improvements in the last few days, and will probably see some more.
    – pavium
    Commented Dec 31, 2009 at 12:10
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    Name a decent WYSIWYG UI. Name one non-trivial WYSIWYG editor that you'd consider half-way decent. I gotta hear this...
    – Shog9
    Commented Dec 31, 2009 at 12:55
  • Easy. Microsoft Word, OpenOffice.org, Microsoft Write, there are dozens, maybe even hundreds.
    – Ruudjah
    Commented Dec 31, 2009 at 13:37
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    I have never seen anyone use any of those programs without putting in some real effort to learn them first. Even if you ignore the numerous menus, dialogs, and odd little geegaws that clutter the screen of MS-Word, there are literally hundreds of toolbar buttons, many of them initially hidden, most of them activating functions that require at least some previous experience. Contrast this with SO, where you can pretty much get away with treating it like a dumb typewriter and still get good results.
    – Shog9
    Commented Dec 31, 2009 at 14:07
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    Everything requires some training.. why are we having this debate again? Commented Dec 31, 2009 at 14:49
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    Agree with Shog9: WYSIWYG is a bust. However I would also agree that many of the markup languages commonly in use at community sites are pretty awful too. Users typing HTML is always a disaster. BBcode isn't much better. Markdown-like text-markup languages are much better, although I don't think Markdown or MarkdownSharp are quite there yet, primarily because of the way HTML is lurking inside it. Ideally a text-markup language should look exactly like how you normally type plain text, so for the simple use-cases there is nothing to learn.
    – bobince
    Commented Dec 31, 2009 at 15:06

4 Answers 4


No, you don't need to know markdown. I've written this reply just using the buttons at the top of the edit box.

EvenMyCode() {...}


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So what is the requirement to know markdown? There's even a


Besides which, on "stackoverflow", allowing users to know markdown and type it directly is a pretty reasonable of making the users more expressive and effective.


Heres a nice article

Forget WYSIWYG editors - use WYSIWYM instead

The main idea behind WYSIWYM editors is Separation of presentation and content


But SO is not your average forum: it's a Q&A site for programmers.

If your users are programming types, then it's probably not unreasonable to expect them to know a (markup) language.

And the entry requirements for Markdown are so low as to be not much of an obstacle.


Markdown is so much easier to use (type) than BBCode or HTML (at least on a German keyboard), and there is almost nothing to learn, just use the toolbar.
a bit late I know...

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