Back with Byword

I was recently asked, “Which OS X markdown application are you using these days?” I answered, “I’m back with Byword.” My response prompted the anticipated question, “Why?”

About two and a half years ago, I wrote a post I titled, ‘Markdown: Why Byword App?’ Since then I’ve tested almost every new markdown app. The markdown apps that have most impressed me are:

  1. Byword
  2. Texts
  3. Ulysses III
  4. MultiMarkdown Composer
  5. Sublime Text with the MarkdownEditing package

Each application’s website adequately highlights the apps benefits, so I won’t do a comparison here, but this is why I favour Byword App:

  • creating and editing is straightforward
  • it has great markdown support
  • the widely-copied, light theme is easy on my eyes
  • there’s no interface ‘chrome’ to get in my way
  • it works well with Marked 2 (I use an Alfred workflow to preview in Marked)
  • I prefer managing my files in the Finder, not a database
  • the Universal iPad/iPhone app is excellent
  • iCloud and Dropbox support is flawless
  • blog publishing is available, although I haven’t used it yet (I have paid for it on my Mac and plan to test it soon).

Have a look at the ‘Byword MultiMarkdown Guide’ for an excellent overview.

Markdown Theme

You know the drill, you’re using Chocolat app, Sublime Text or TextMate 2 and you’ve decided to try composing your WordPress posts in Markdown. That’s when you discover that the ‘.tmTheme’ that you’re currently using doesn’t include markdown syntax highlighting. Although you’re considering rolling your own theme, you’ve decided to search for a markdown theme that’s ready to go.

I’ve tested a few markdown themes, but my favourite is Made of Code.

Made of Code markdown theme colors

Options:

  1. IR_Black.tmTheme
  2. if you don’t write a lot of code and you haven’t already fallen in love with a text editor, I’m convinced you should have a look at the Mou app. Why Mou?

    • composing/previewing markdown with Mou is good fun
    • Mou’s available live preview will quickly teach you markdown syntax
    • Mou’s actions (keyboard shortcuts) automate most markdown formating for you
    • Mou’s themes are gorgeous
    • Mou is a superb example of OS X 10.7 Lion technologies nicely implemented by a very clever programmer.

Mou icon

>> learn about the Mou app

Related articles:

  1. Mou App Evolving
  2. Markdown Apps
  3. Adventures With Mac Markdown

MultiMarkdown Composer

MultiMarkdown Composer icon

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:

  • no one understands MultiMarkdown better than Fletcher Penney
  • Composer is a modern 64 bit app
  • selecting some text => pasting a URL => watching link syntax appear
  • QuickCursor support via the ODB Editor protocol
  • export and print options
  • integration with Marked app preview.

See the full list of features here.

MultiMarkdown Composer and Marked app

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:

  • Bulleted List: Select text, Cmd + L
  • Numeric List: Select text, Cmd + Option + L

Example: Let’s assume I have just pasted the following text into a document

BBEdit
Byword
iA Writer
Macchiato
MarkMyWords
MarkdownNote
Markdown Pro
Mou
MultiMarkdown Composer
Sublime Text
TextMate

Step 1. Select text from BBEdit up to and including TextMate
Step 2. Use shortcut ‘Command + L’

The result would be

* BEdit
* Byword
* iA Writer
* Macchiato
* MarkMyWords
* MarkdownNote
* Markdown Pro
* Mou
* MultiMarkdown Composer
* Sublime Text
* TextMate

and, similarly, shortcut ‘Command + Option + L’ would create

1. BEdit
2. Byword
3. iA Writer
4. Macchiato
5. MarkMyWords
6. MarkdownNote
7. Markdown Pro
8. Mou
9. MultiMarkdown Composer
10. Sublime Text
11. TextMate

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.

Markdown Shakedown Counterpoint

When I was writing ‘Markdown Shakedown‘ I kept thinking, "Will the added complexity of MultiMarkdown discourage a lot of people?"

From my vantage:

  • MultiMarkdown is for people who write for both the web and for print.
  • Markdown is for folks who write primarily for the Internet.

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:

  1. Nerds will like Sublime Text plus Marked or MMD Composer plus Marked
  2. Users who enjoy Mac elegance and focused writing will be attracted to Byword plus Marked.

TextMate 2 Emerges?

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.

TextMate:

  • appeared October 2004
  • disappeared August 2008

Well, that’s not precisely correct because in June 2009 Allan Odgaard wrote a blog post to "assuage… concerns" and stated:

  • "Hopefully an alpha version will be ready before too long… TextMate 2 is no minor facelift"

and in January 2010 he said:

  • "the code base is nearing 50 KSLOC"

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’.

Finding Forrester video

Related article:

>> Best Mac Text Editors FYI, I’m currently using Sublime Text.

Love Markdown?

Do you love Markdown?

One of many reasons I enjoy using Markdown syntax is that it allows me to be fickle.

fickle |ˈfikəl| adjective
changing frequently, esp. as regards one’s loyalties, interests, or affection: Web patrons are a notoriously fickle lot, bouncing from one site to another on a whim | the weather is forever fickle.

Example: Have you tested more than one Twitter client? I certainly have. One of the neat things about Twitter is that you can be fickle about the client you choose. FWIW, I ended up with Echofon for Mac OS.

Markdown’s must-have companion the Marked app enabled joyous fickleness, perhaps even a little flakiness (well OK considerable flakiness) in my text-editor-of-choice world. If you haven’t already guessed, I have fun testing new stuff. My journey:

BBEdit => TextMate => Sublime Text => Byword

FYI, I’ve also played with

Smultron => Chocolat => MarkMyWords => iA Writer

My choice is Byword and the Marked app.

If you haven’t already tried Byword, you need to give it a shot. It does most, if not all, of the automatic Markdown syntax stuff that made TextMate and Sublime Text fun. When you’re testing Byword be sure to:

  1. select some text
  2. hit command k

MarkdownNote for Mac

MarkdownNote for Mac icon

I’ve been on a text editor, plain text and Markdown kick recently. Why is that? Quoting Brett Terpstra, Markdown is just such an “easy, fast, clean, portable, flexible workflow” for writing with plain text and outputting to HTML, PDF and LaTeX. Just yesterday I wrote about using Sublime Text and the Marked app.

Today, a nifty new application arrived at the Mac App Store. It’s called MarkdownNote for Mac OS.

“MarkdownNote makes it really easy to create notes using John Gruber’s popular Markdown markup language in your Mac or iPad. Using live preview feature, you can preview your Markdown markup syntax to HTML on writing. Sync your documents with Dropbox.com, built into MarkdownNote for iOS and using the desktop client on Mac.”

It’s not going to replace Sublime Text and the Marked app in my workflow, but the implementation of a single widow design with instant live HTML preview is brilliant. A tip of my hat to Young Hoo Kim at Coding Robots.

Update (20111002): I also recommend checking out the new Mou app

Note: There’s also an iOS iPad version of MarkdownNote.

MarkdownNote blog entry

Best Mac Text Editors

Sublime Text or TextMate or BBEdit graphics

What are the best Mac text editors?

My current top three Mac OS X text editors:

  1. Sublime Text
  2. TextMate
  3. BBEdit

Even the recently released BBEdit 10 somehow feels old, but, frankly, I have no idea why. Is it still a carbon app? It’s still 32 bit, but do either of those things actually matter? I was a BBEdit guy for years, right up until TextMate was released and then again after TextMate stopped receiving regular updates. I should love BBEdit because it’s updated regularly by a team of very clever fellows who clearly have a road-map. It’s Mac only, so the engineers are focused, but for some reason I’m not in love, BBEdit doesn’t suck, but…

TextMate works remarkably well considering how long it’s been since it was last updated significantly. It’s still 32 bit, but again, does that matter? I just have the feeling, rightly or wrongly, that TextMate has been abandoned. Update: TextMate 2 alpha just announced.

Sublime Text recently captured my, almost full, attention, it feels fresh and modern. I’ll confess when I first visited the Sublime Text website, I was a little put off by the Windows screen shots. I also thought, “What a crappy icon.&#8221 The preferences thing was next on my list of off-putting stuff; I’m a Mac guy, so I’m accustomed to a nice GUI, instead I was greeted by customizable preference files. On my second download and install cycle, I added my favourite TextMate theme and played with the combination of Sublime Text, the Marked App and TextSoap; ends up they worked very well together. The first positive thing I noticed was that Sublime Text was fast. Then that it’s also receiving very frequent updates. Hey, since then I’ve even gotten to like the preference files, there’s significant power hidden in there.

Chocolat has potential, but it’s clearly very early days. It was slow to launch and slow to quit compared to Sublime Text. That plus I’m a ducks in a row kind of guy and Chocolat didn’t remember my chosen window size and position, so that was it for my evaluation, at least for now.

Looking for a markdown theme (.tmTheme) for Chocolat, Sublime Text or TextMate?

MacVim also beckons from time to time, but I suspect I’d end up spending more time learning Vim than actually getting stuff done.

*Disclosure: I’m certainly not the best guy to review text editors, I don’t write code. I use my text editor for general writing, updating my blogs, content manipulation and a little, very little, HTML and CSS. That said this really isn’t a review, it’s just a few thoughts about why I’m currently using Sublime Text.

Markdown Mac

Sublime Text 2 plus Marked App icons

Markdown Mac: Have you considered using Markdown on your Mac?

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).”

Why Plain Text

Proprietary file formats can be a pain. Have you ever received a document that was tough to open? Microsoft Word and Publisher files spring to my mind. Years ago many Mac owners were forced to use a program from DataViz to convert files that arrived from Windows users. These days some Mac owners still feel compelled to purchase the newest version of Microsoft Office. It really doesn’t have to be that way. In an ideal digital world, your operating system, software of choice, software version and chosen fonts shouldn’t matter, it’s your content that’s important and it should be readable everywhere, now and into the future.

Plain text gets it right, it’s your words that matter; simplicity and portability are important.

It’s Your Words That Matter

Plain text isn’t just for the Web, it’s perfect for email, text messaging, all sorts of information sharing and archiving. An added bonus is that plain text doesn’t have to look boring, it can contain simple instructions for formating when output to HTML, PDF and LaTeX. This is where Markdown and MultiMarkdown come into play.

>> Why Markdown? A two-minute explanation

>> Markdown Primer

Action Steps:

  1. Get a text editor (see list below)
  2. Grab the Marked App

Apple supplies TextEdit with every Mac, but you might want to consider a more powerful app. Mac OS X is fortunate to have a number of excellent text editors, you’re likely aware of BBEdit, TextMate and TextWrangler, but there are also other apps that handle Markdown very well. Examples are:

  • ByWord
  • Chocolat (early days)
  • iA Writer
  • Macchiato
  • MarkdownNote
  • MarkMyWords
  • MultiMarkdown Composer (was MMDEdit)
  • myTexts
  • Smultron
  • Sublime Text

I’m currently using Sublime Text 2 in combination with the Marked App.

Sublime Text is nifty, it’s fast, modern, cross-platform, 64 bit and capable of using many TextMate themes, snippets and bundles.

Note: Fletcher Penney, the creator of MultiMarkdown, is developing MMD Composer, I’m anxious to see how it will perform.