Note: Not Mac OS specific, if you have an HTML5 capable browser, you’re good to go.
Note: Not Mac OS specific, if you have an HTML5 capable browser, you’re good to go.
Adventures with Mac Markdown: So many applications, round and round in circles I go…
Warning: Comparing Markdown app features has been known to boggle the brain.
My dizziness (round and round in circles reference) began when I discovered an excellent HTML preview app called Marked – "Markdown preview for any text editor". I blame Brett Terpstra, the developer of the Marked app, for making it really easy for me to test a variety of Markdown/MultiMarkdown composers.
Mac Markdown apps I’ve played with:
"… write using an easy-to-read, easy-to-write plain text format, then convert it to structurally valid XHTML (or HTML)."
"The idea is that a Markdown-formatted document should be publishable as-is, as plain text, without looking like it’s been marked up with tags or formatting instructions."
MultiMarkdown, created by Dr. Fletcher Penney, is a ‘superset’ of Markdown’s syntax. My gut feeling is that MultiMarkdown messes with the "easy," not-marked-up paradigm that defines Markdown.
"Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not one bit simpler."
— Albert Einstein (1879 – 1955)
These days, I write almost exclusively for the web and I very rarely have a need for tables, footnotes and citations. Likewise, I don’t require LaTeX, OPML or OpenDocument. Wouldn’t folks who use these features all the time be best served by an app like Ulysses?
My conclusion is that Markdown is a good fit for what I do; I rarely, if ever, need MultiMarkdown.
Q: So, after testing quite a few Mac apps, do you have a favourite?
A: I have two and another app I’m watching closely.
Mac Markdown Favourite #1: Byword + the Marked preview app with ‘Markdown Compatibility Mode’ checked in preferences. I wish the Byword app had a Markdown only mode. Otherwise, it does exactly what I need it to do.
Mac Markdown Favourite #2: I’d love to use Mou all the time. Mou is an elegant, single window, Markdown-only app with a split screen; one pane for composition and the other for live HTML preview. It’s very easy to use. Chen Luo, the developer, is crafting a terrific Mac app. His beta:
I enjoy writing with the preview pane hidden most of the time. I use Shift + Command + I to toggle the preview window and I use Moom to reposition and resize Mou’s window quickly.
So, what is the Mou app missing, why isn’t it my #1? The big things are:
Update: Mou has very quickly become a full-featured markdown composition/preview app that’s great fun to use. Check out what I had to say when I wrote ‘Markdown Theme.’
MultiMarkdown Composer is now available in the Mac App Store. When I wrote Markdown Shakedown, I suggested that the arrival of MultiMarkdown Composer would herald the beginning of a shift away from the Markdown standard toward a new MultiMarkdown era and that many people would choose Composer rather than purchase a full-featured text editor, like BBEdit, Sublime Text or TextMate. Was my postulation nothing more than bold hyperbole or could it actually happen?
Q: Is Fletcher Penney’s MultiMarkdown Composer likely to gain traction in an already crowded Markdown/MultiMarkdown application marketplace?
A: It might, but only if Doctor Penney is as determined as his competitors.
What I liked most:
See the full list of features here.
Interestingly, the ‘Syntax Highlighting as You Type’ would have seemed like a breakthrough feature had I not seen Mou‘s implementation three weeks earlier.
FYI, my favourite composers are:
My ‘go to’ app combo has been Byword and the Marked app,
but it’s very likely that I’ll be using MultiMarkdown Composer with Marked more and more as the days pass.
Update: I’ve had an opportunity to play with MultiMarkdown Composer today and I’ve discovered that I really miss a couple of Byword’s keyboard shortcuts:
Example: Let’s assume I have just pasted the following text into a document
Step 1. Select text from BBEdit up to and including TextMate
Step 2. Use shortcut ‘Command + L’
The result would be
* iA Writer
* Markdown Pro
* MultiMarkdown Composer
* Sublime Text
and, similarly, shortcut ‘Command + Option + L’ would create
3. iA Writer
7. Markdown Pro
9. MultiMarkdown Composer
10. Sublime Text
I wasn’t able to uncover similar keyboard actions in Composer; it’s possible they’re there but I haven’t found them. I’ve sent an email to Fletcher Penney asking if they exist and, if not, requesting they be added to Composer’s Format menu.
Update: Dr. Penney replied, “… this is not a bad feature. I’ll look into adding it.”
Ends up, I also prefer Byword’s subdued syntax highlighting. If I get my keyboard shortcuts, I suppose I could always create a custom style sheet for Composer.
It’s no secret that I’m a huge fan of John Gruber’s Markdown.
Byword is, “Markdown… with as little friction as possible.”
In my quest to discover my ideal Markdown composer I’ve purchased:
and I’ve also had a look at:
BBEdit and TextMate are still mired in the 32 bit realm, while the rest are modern, 64 bit Mac OS X apps. My favourite 64 bit Markdown composition apps are Byword, Mou and Sublime Text. Each one of my favourites features Markdown syntax highlighting, but I prefer Bywords subdued approach (Markdown syntax is a light grey and my content is black so that it’s easy to read).
Byword app’s website subtitle is "A writing app that gives you just the tools you need to write Markdown and rich text with as little friction as possible."
Markdown syntax is simple, but Byword’s keyboard shortcuts make composing Markdown an almost magical experience. Overstated? No, not really, the shortcuts are great fun to use.
Light and dark themes, large text (I use Menlo Regular 18 pt), typewriter scrolling and a full-screen focus mode make writing as easy as is possible. I actually prefer using Byword in a window, not full-screen mode, so I can easily use PTHPasteboard, TextSoap and other apps. Byword remembers a default window position and size, so it’s easy to position the window alongside the Marked app for sophisticated HTML preview. Be sure to test Byword.css with Marked (a custom stylesheet that gives Marked.app Byword’s Preview styles). And yes, of course, Byword has all the latest Mac OS X Lion goodies plus the dictionary, spelling/grammar, smart quotes, smart dashes and hyphenation. Oh, and if you happen to love QuickCursor, you’re covered.
Update (20120314): Byword app is now available for iOS (iPhone and iPad). The iOS version:
Follow these steps to create an ‘Open in Marked’ service for Byword. Marked is a terrific HTML preview app that works with any text editor.
Step One: Create an Automator Service that will run the following AppleScript snippet:
tell application "Byword" set theDocument to file of document of window 1 end tell tell application "Marked" open theDocument end tell
Check your work by launching Byword.app, then in your menu under Byword click Services and you should see ‘Open in Marked’.
Step Two: Add a keyboard shortcut for your new Service.
I’ve added Byword to my list of Best Lion Apps.
If you haven’t done so already
Related post: Choosing Markdown Software
Mou app evolving rapidly: When I first wrote about Mou app – the missing Markdown editor for web developers, I was impressed by its "syntax highlighting, live preview and an impressive list of keyboard actions." That’s still the case, but Mou is evolving rapidly:
I’ve added Mou to my list of Best Lion Apps.
Update 20111022 – Additions:
This blog post was composed as a text file with Markdown syntax using Byword app and the Marked app.
When I was writing ‘Markdown Shakedown‘ I kept thinking, "Will the added complexity of MultiMarkdown discourage a lot of people?"
From my vantage:
If your goals are to blog and to avoid learning HTML, choose Markdown; it’s easy and there’s a terrific all-in-one Mac OS X program that’s very likely to meet your needs.
>> Mou (pronounced ‘more’)
If, on the other hand, you want to cover almost all your text composition bases, choose MultiMarkdown. Program recommendations:
Shakedown – a radical change or restructuring…
I’m suggesting that we’re about to witness a very significant shift in the plain text creation world:
Q: What’s going to cause this shift?
A better question is…
Q: Who is about to change the Markdown world?
A: Fletcher Penney
I don’t know Fletcher, but I do know that he has been sweating MultiMarkdown details for a long time and that he is now nearly ready to release his first Mac OS app MultiMarkdown Composer. As Fletcher writes:
Finally… A Text Editor That Speaks MultiMarkdown!
MultiMarkdown Composer is a text editor for Mac OS X that is designed from the ground up around the MultiMarkdown Syntax. It is designed to make writing in MultiMarkdown even easier than it already is, with automatic syntax highlighting, built in previews, easy export to any format that is supported by MultiMarkdown, and more!
By using an editor built around MultiMarkdown, you can focus on the actual writing, rather than worrying about formatting and styles. Let the computer deal with that when you’re ready to export your document to another format.
Many people enjoy creating and manipulating text, but haven’t a clue about things like scopes and writing code. The reality is that most people never come close to utilizing the powerful features built into Sublime Text, TextMate and BBEdit.
I’m anticipating there will be a bunch of clever people who will jump on the MMD Composer bandwagon.
Recently, new Mac OS X Markdown apps arrive weekly, if not more often. Today’s most notable arrival is called Mou, the missing Markdown editor for web developers. Mou’s author lives in China, so I’m guessing that Mou isn’t short for Memorandum of Understanding. Perhaps Chen Luo @chenluois, the author, or someone else, will let me know if Mou actually sounds like a word in Cantonese or Mandarin; or at least, where the inspiration for the app’s name came from. Update: Chen Luo commented, “‘Mou’ in Chinese Pinyin pronunciation sounds ‘More’ in English. :)”
After downloading Mou, I was immediately impressed by the syntax highlighting, live preview and an impressive list of keyboard actions.
Interestingly, I wrote Chen Luo, shortly after midnight his time, to let him know that I find Byword app’s Cmd + K keyboard action very handy.
Fifteen minutes later, he replied, “That’s easy to implement. :)” and less than a day later he implemented both the new ‘Make Link’ (control + shift + L) and ‘Make Image’ (control + shift + I) actions. Very impressive!
Mou’s Press Kit says,
Mou is different: It’s for web developers.
I’m guessing that, in the very near future, when Fletcher Penney’s MultiMarkdown Composer is released, many power users will opt for the combination of MMDComposer and the Marked App. Folks whose “focus needs more focus” will opt for a combination of Byword and Marked. Others, particularly bloggers and web developers, will opt for Mou because it’s fast, fun, easy and significantly because it’s donation ware, at least until it’s out of beta.
Q: Has TextMate 2 arrived?
A: Well, no, not yet, but there has been a very rare Macromates’ blog post:
There will be a public alpha release
this year, before Christmas, for registered users.
Well, that’s not precisely correct because in June 2009 Allan Odgaard wrote a blog post to "assuage… concerns" and stated:
and in January 2010 he said:
In its day TextMate verged on revolutionary and added a big dose of fun to the staid, Mac OS X text editor field. Will TextMate 2 be an app that is worthy of the wait? I hope so, I really hope it is. It would be wonderful if Allan Odgaard was able to hit another one out of the park.
Something about the TextMate 2 saga reminds me of ‘Finding Forrester’.
Database Software Mac: Are you searching for database software for your Mac? If so, you’ve already discovered that many articles are highly technical focusing on university-level comparisons of MySQL, Oracle and Sybase optimization strategies. This isn’t another one of those articles.
Easy, Fun and Really Fast
My intention: Highlight Mac database software that’s great fun and deserves to be even more popular than it already is. Just think of it as a Mac OS power-user’s way to play with data that’s easy, fun and really fast.