I've started to use the Markdown Syntax few months ago. I really like it, because when you write your hands never leave the keyboard, searching for the menu bar or buttons to underline or bold or create headers. Markdown is easy to use, helps you to focus on the text and it's simple to learn. For these reasons I would like to introduce you to this syntax.
What Markdown Is
To better understand what Markdown is, I quote few passages written from its creator, John Gruber:
" Markdown is a text-to-HTML conversion tool for web writers. Markdown allows you to write using an easy-to-read, easy-to-write plain text format, then convert it to structurally valid XHTML (or HTML). […] The overriding design goal for Markdown’s formatting syntax is to make it as readable as possible."
Guides to Markdown Syntax
There're lots of guides about Markdown online, including the guide of its creator, but I prefer the guide made by the authors of the app Day One (which is an app that I use a lot and I love. Maybe I'll write about it in the future).
Markdown for me it's much easier that Microsoft Word, because it allows you to focus on the text and think about what you're writing. You forget the buttons and the shortcuts when writing in Markdown, simply using the Markdown Syntax. For example, you don't have to select the text and press continuously a button to make it bold or italic: with Markdown you simply use one or two asterisks and you're done!
Apps to Use
On my Mac I use iAWriter to write in Markdown. It's a beautiful app because it allows you to focus completely on the text, without distraction. When you open it, you have a complete white screen, no menu bar, no buttons, no colored graphics. It also has a wonderful feature: the focus mode. When you activate this feature, the text you're writing becomes light grey as soon as you proceed writing the text: basically it helps you focus on the single phrase you're writing making the rest of the text less visible. It's really simple, but incredibly useful, especially when you're writing a long text. Furthermore, in the last update of the app they added the possibility to export the markdown text in Microsoft Word format: this is a very useful feature when you write in Markdown and you're not writing for the web, i.e. when you're taking notes or other things that you need to be readable as plain formatted text (as a Word Document). There're other apps on the market, as ByWord or Mou, but I'm happy and satisfied using iAWriter.
In my opinion Markdown it's a great way to write, because it allows you to "keep your hands on the keyboard and your mind in the text" (quote by iAWriter). You should give Markdown a chance (maybe using Mou that it's free), but don't forget that, as every new thing, you'll need a little bit of exercise to completely become fluent and enjoy its benefits.