Mac Apps For Markdown Writers
Markdown is pretty handy on its own, but to get the most out of it you can try a few apps. As I’m mostly a Mac user, this week I’ll be focussing on my favourite Markdown aps for Mac.
Most will show your text as it might appear in another format (html for example), and these are called “previewers”. Other apps are editors, and although you can edit Markdown in any plain text editor, these have features that make the process even easier.
If you missed our introduction to Markdown follow the link to find out what I’m talking about.
There are absolutely loads of Markdown apps for Mac, so these are just my personal favourites, or ones that are a bit unusual. If you have a favourite though, let us know in the comments.
Sometimes it helps to know what your document will look like when you eventually convert into another format. This is also handy to make sure you’re using the Markdown syntax correctly so there are no embarrassing mistakes later.
- Price: $3.99/£2.49
- Where to get it: Markedapp.com or from the AppStore.
- Good for: Previewing your documents
This is probably the most popular previewer for Mac. It previews in real time, so you can be editing in plain text and see it prettified in the Marked windiw as you type.
It renders your document in html (like a web page), which means if you have a little web dev knowledge you can edit the CSS style sheets and make it look how you want. But failing that there are already a nice selection of looks to choose from built in.
In addition, you’ll find that a lot of Markdown editors for Mac have options to preview in Marked.
- Price: FREE!
- Where to get it: Brett Terpstra’s site (oh look! He also developed Marked).
- Good for: Quick note-taking in Markdown
nvALT is a spinoff of a popular note-taking program for Mac called Notational Velocity.
As the name suggests, there is an emphasis on getting your notes down as quickly as possible, reducing the resistance between brain and note.
The main additional feature of this alternative version is, you guessed it, Markdown support.
This app is a bit different from your usual text editor, so I’ll take a mo to explain it’s distinguishing features.
As you can see from screenshots, your view is split into two panes, the top one (by default) shows your list of files and has a search box at the top. The bottom pane is where you write.
Now, a word about that search box – it’s also where you create new documents. You simply start typing here, and your list of files will be filtered down in real-time. If you see the document you want, just use the arrow keys to select it and hit enter to begin editing (right where you left off before).
If by the time you’ve finished typing the name of your document there is nothing to match, simply hit enter and it will create a new document with that name. Simple.
It helps you with your Markdown too, automatically closing some tags for you and putting a dash at the beginning of the next line if you’re writing a list for example.
There’s also a built-in previewers to see how your Markdown looks when formatted, and this updates as you type.
Some other quick features:
- There is no saving in nvALT – everything is saved automatically (why doesn’t everything do this?)
- Everything is only a keyboard shortcut away, which definitely makes it fast to use. There’s even a shortcut to go straight to nvALT from wherever you are.
- All your notes are saved in one place, which is both a belssing and a curse. Obviously it’s needed in order to make that search/file creation field work without any fiddling. But it means you’re restricted to tags for organising.
Personally, I use nvALT for quick note taking. It’s great to speedily gather your thoughts, but for more involved work, I use different editors.
nvALT recognises this though, as there’s a keyboard shortcut to open the current note in a text editor of your choice.
- Price: $24.99/£17.49
- Where to get it: The official site or the App Store.
- Good for: Anything, but optimised for outlining and todos
Another unusual one, this is for Mac only and comes with a pretty hefty price tag. But, it should be noted that I’m using the free demo right now and I haven’t noticed any time restrictions or missing features.
This is a bit of an odd one, and it’s hard to tell if it’s genius or surplus to requirements. After using it for a bit though, I do find myself reaching for it when I want to sketch out a document. Indeed, it’s described as an outliner by its creators.
The reason I like it is because it works how I work. The basic premise of “folding” here is that you can collapse headed areas of your document and expand them as you like.
For example, if I have two sections headed “intro” and “Chapter 1”, each with several paragraphs in, I can hide the text in the “intro” section.
This can be used to give you an overview of your document, with the ability to quickly dip in and out of each section.
If you really want to focus in, you can work only on “Chapter 1”, hiding everything else in the document.
I will often write out titles of sections before I start writing the body of my documents so this suits me nicely.
Where does Markdown come into this? FoldingText’s approach is a bit different again. Even though everything is saved in plain text, FoldingText formats your Markdown in the editor, as you type – there’s no need for a preview pane.
For example, if I italicise the word *emphasis* in Markdown I won’t see those stars, just the italicised word. If I put my cursor back in the word, my stars reappear so that I can edit the plain text. Clever, huh?
Some other quick features to note:
- Saves are automatic here, too, although you have to tell it if you’re saving a new document.
- It also has a full screen mode
- It’s presentation is intentionally plain, but lovely.
- There are also some special additions like dynamic todo lists and timers, which is its own strange sort of magic, but beyond the scope of this article.
Here are some other popular Markdown apps:
- Mou is an editor and previewer in one. It didn’t get a proper write-up because it’s optimised for web-development.
- Scrivener is an awesome writing tool that I love. And guess what, you can use Markdown in it. Check out the export options for converting from Markdown to other formats.
- Textedit. Just a reminder that Markdown is plain text. Just hit shift-alt-command to toggle between plain and rich text.
So that’s everything you need to get you started with Markdown on the Mac. But there is plenty more to come. There’s Markdown for Windows for example, but to really make use of Markdown’s can-be-opened-by-anythingness (what? We all run out of words occasionally), you’ll want to use some mobile apps too.
Over to you…
All that is to come, but for now, maybe you have an opinion on the apps above. Or perhaps there’s another app that you feel is indespensable but missing form the list above. Let us know in the comments! Ciao for now!