Markdown: Why Byword App?

Byword icon

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:

  • BBEdit
  • Byword
  • iA Writer
  • MarkdownNote
  • Mou
  • MultiMarkdown Composer (added to list 20111022)
  • TextMate

and I’ve also had a look at:

  • Macchiato
  • MarkMyWords and
  • Sublime Text.

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 syntax highlighting

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.

Handy Byword Keyboard Shortcuts for Markdown:

  • strong/bold: select text, command + b
  • emphasize/italic: select text, command + i
  • link: select text, command + k
  • image: select text, command + option + i
  • bulleted list: select text, command + l
  • numeric list: select text, command + option + l
  • block quote: select text, command + ‘
  • text selection (a space, a word, a sentence, a paragraph or the entire document) command + option + up arrow (repeat up arrow as necessary to extend your selection) and reduce your selection with command + option + down arrow
  • reorder selection with control + command + up arrow or control + command + down arrow
  • indent selection with control + command + right arrow and outdent with control + command + left arrow

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 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:

  • is universal (runs on both iPhone and iPad)
  • features all sorts of fun markdown automation (smart editing including list continuations and auto-wrapping of asterisks, brackets, parenthesis and quotes).

Create An ‘Open in Marked’ Service for Byword

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
  1. Open
  2. Create a new service
  3. In the ‘Choose a type your document’ panel, select Service
  4. In the Library column, select Utilities, then double-click Run AppleScript
  5. Delete default text
  6. Copy the AppleScript snippet above and paste on the right
  7. At the top make it so ‘Service receives no input in’
  8. Save and call the service ‘Open in Marked’.

Check your work by launching, 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.

  1. Open Byword
  2. In your menu under Byword select Services
  3. Select the ‘System Preferences’ menu item
  4. Search for your ‘Open in Marked’ entry
  5. Click in the rightmost column
  6. Create your preferred shortcut (I created control + option + command + p for ‘Preview’).

Byword’s developers, Jorge Pedroso and Rúben Cabaço, have done a superb job, Byword is exactly what a Mac Markdown app should feel like.

I’ve added Byword to my list of Best Lion Apps.

If you haven’t done so already

>> click here to learn more about Byword

Related post: Choosing Markdown Software

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Thanks for the post. I totally agree. I am new to all of this markdown stuff, but it seems to me that ByWord has taken the lead from iA Write. I have also been impressed with how much ByWord has grown. The developers seem very active, and that is always encouraging.

Great advice!