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Markdown vs YAML: What are the differences?


In this article, we will discuss the key differences between Markdown and YAML syntax formats and their usage in websites.

  1. Syntax Structure: Markdown is a lightweight markup language that uses plain text formatting to create rich content. It uses simple symbols and characters to denote text formatting such as headers, lists, and links. On the other hand, YAML (YAML Ain't Markup Language) is a human-readable data serialization format that uses indentation and colons to structure data in a hierarchical format. It is commonly used for configuration files.

  2. Purpose and Functionality: Markdown is primarily used for creating and formatting content, such as blog posts or documentation, with a focus on readability and ease of use. It allows users to write structured content without worrying about complex formatting. YAML, on the other hand, is used for storing and transmitting data with a focus on simplicity and elegance. It is often used for configuration files, data serialization, and interchanging data between programming languages.

  3. Extensions and Compatibility: Markdown has different flavors or extensions, such as GitHub Flavored Markdown (GFM) or CommonMark, which add additional features and compatibility with specific platforms. These extensions enable users to include advanced formatting elements like tables, task lists, or code blocks. YAML, on the other hand, has a standard specification that remains consistent across different implementations and programming languages. This allows for seamless data interchange between systems.

  4. Data Representation: Markdown primarily deals with text content and formatting. It is not designed to handle complex data structures or store metadata. YAML, on the other hand, has built-in support for more complex data types like lists, dictionaries, and nested structures. It allows users to represent data hierarchically, making it suitable for configuration files or data serialization scenarios.

  5. Syntax Flexibility: Markdown offers a more limited range of syntax options, focusing on essential text formatting elements. It provides a consistent and straightforward set of rules for creating content. YAML, on the other hand, offers more flexibility in terms of syntax. It allows for more intricate structuring and organization of data using indentation and colons. This flexibility, however, also requires more attention to detail and can lead to more complex markup.

  6. Parsing and Processing: Markdown is parsed and rendered into HTML for display in web browsers. It is designed to be easily readable and editable by humans, without requiring specialized tools. YAML, on the other hand, is parsed and processed by applications or scripts to load configuration settings or manipulate data structures programmatically. It is typically processed using YAML libraries or functions provided by programming languages.

In Summary, Markdown is a lightweight markup language used for content formatting, while YAML is primarily used for data serialization and configuration files. Their syntax structures, purposes, flexibility, and data representation methods differentiate them from each other.

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Pros of Markdown
Pros of YAML
  • 345
    Easy formatting
  • 246
    Widely adopted
  • 194
  • 132
    Github integration
  • 41
    Great for note taking
  • 2
    Defacto GitHub lingo
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    Cons of Markdown
    Cons of YAML
    • 2
      Cannot centralise (HTML code needed)
    • 1
      Inconsistend flavours eg github, reddit, mmd etc
    • 1
      Limited syntax
    • 1
      Not suitable for longer documents
    • 1
    • 1
      No right indentation
    • 1
      No underline
    • 1
      Unable to indent tables
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      What is Markdown?

      Markdown is two things: (1) a plain text formatting syntax; and (2) a software tool, written in Perl, that converts the plain text formatting to HTML.

      What is YAML?

      A human-readable data-serialization language. It is commonly used for configuration files, but could be used in many applications where data is being stored or transmitted.

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      What companies use Markdown?
      What companies use YAML?
      See which teams inside your own company are using Markdown or YAML.
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