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:
- BBEdit without Marked
- Byword with and without Marked
- iA Writer + Marked
- MultiMarkdown Composer + Marked
- Sublime Text + Marked
"… 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.
Preferred Mac Markdown App
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:
- is a modern, 64 bit, Cocoa app that’s fun to use
- has very impressive syntax highlighting in the editor/composer pane
- features keyboard actions that make Markdown really easy
- is donation-ware (people who donate while the app is in beta will receive the final release for free).
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:
auto formatting of list entries after pressing ‘enter’ while inside a list(added Mou 0.7.1) something similar to Byword’s list-shortcuts(added Mou 0.7) custom CSS for the HTML preview pane(added Mou 0.7).
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.’