The wonders of the Markdown language and LaTex

If any of you have gone to GitHub (and since I have posted code there I will assume that is everyone reading this 🙂 ) you have seen output generated using the Markdown language.

All the ReadMe files in GitHub use it. But what is it? According to its Wikipedia page located here, it is “Markdown is a lightweight markup language with plain-text-formatting syntax.”

What does that mean? Basically, you are using text to state what your want your text to look like. Much the same way that HTML is used to state how you want your page, and the text in it, to look.

I am not going to go into the exact syntax of the Markup language, as that is covered in many other sites including the Markdown Guide, but there is one part that I just came across that is pretty amazing. Markdown allows you to use LaTex to specify mathematical formula.

Unless you have had to write an advanced math paper in college, using symbols most people would think come from an alien language which can lead to issues like this, you probably have never heard of LaTex. If you have had to write advanced math papers in college, I feel your pain. I used to be good at math until I got to the level where they stopped using numbers 😉

LaTex is also a text based text formatting system and was used when I was in college. Now, I am not going to say how long ago that was but my state of the art computer was using an 80386 chip and VGA was cutting edge graphics so it was a while ago :). One of my first jobs was in a computer lab and I had to learn it to help other students with formatting their documents. There was no What-You-See-Is-What-You-Get (WYSWYG) text editors for it, so the only way to see if you got it right was to print it out in a laser printer, which was also new technology at the time and not very cheap. So it benefitted you to know the language and to get it right the first time.

But I digress. The reason I am writing this blog post is that I have started to do some deep-dives into Azure Sentinel notebooks (and will creating some blog posts soon), which uses the Markdown language, and noticed that some of the samples show some advanced math in their Markdown boxes. I did some digging and found out that they use LaTex to do it! It is nice to see it is still around and kicking even after the 30 years since I used it. Heck, now there are even online LaTex interpreters which I lot of grad students would have loved to have had way back when.

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