There has been an explosion in both the quantity and popularity of markdown-based writing tools over the last twelve months. The likes of web-abased Editorially, desktop apps such as MarkdownPad and Mou and even whole blogging platforms — Ghost being the example — have pushed what’s essentially a niche and geeky way of writing into the mainstream.
In my ever-continuing quest to work more efficiently and find the perfect writing tool, I’ve tried a huge bunch of different platforms over the last year. There’s no single markdown editor that does everything, but nearly all of these do one or two things really well. To see what works for you, you’re just going to have to see which one of these sounds like it would best suit your needs and give it a go. Without further ado, then, here are the best markdown tools for writers, split up by category.
Okay, okay, let’s back up here a little and explain a little about what this markdown thing even is. In a nutshell, markdown is a writing language designed and built for web writers. As the original release post from 2004 explains:
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).
It’s a straightforward way to write HTML without the HTML, basically. By extension, it’s a faster way to write for the web. That’s why it’s great, that’s why I use it, and I suspect that’s why you’re reading this to find out which tools are the best for writing for it. Ready? Let’s actually get going.
For the collaborator: Editorially
The recently-out-of-invite-only-beta Editorially is one of those leading the crop of new writing applications. It is, in my opinion, the most intuitive and best looking of the lot and makes for a really nice writing experience. Forgoing most markdown editors’ dual-window look in favour of a single screen writing experience, Editorially feels like a proper, mainstream writing tool.
There’s only so much you can do with the basic markdown language though;, and Editorially does much more, coming into its own as a collaborative, version controlled writing tool. Google Docs style down-the-side commenting lets your email invited collaborators and editors leave feedback, the “draft”, “reviewing”, “revising” etc marks let you show collaborators progress, and a fancy version control slider offers a neat way to see changes that have been made.
It’s not quite there yet though, and for me the lack of Dropbox/Google Drive integration and any way of organising the documents I’ve created make Editorially something that’s corol, but I’m not going to use right now.
@AlexDenning We’re looking into a bunch of integrations, including those and WordPress, yes.
— Editorially (@GetEditorially) July 23, 2013
But hey, they’re working on it, and if I could manage my documents in Dropbox and export straight into my WordPress blog, Editorially offers such a nice way of writing, I would very happily use (and pay for) it.
For the desktop: Mou & MarkdownPad
Mou and MarkdownPad are the Mac and PC (respectively) go-to desktop markdown editors. They’re both largely the same kind of thing: powerful, customisable dual-view markdown editors with a bunch of features such as image uploading and * gasp * autosave built in.
Neither does anything particularly exciting (although Mou can auto-publish to Tumblr or Scriptogr.am, which is pretty cool), but they have straightforward jobs to do and they do them well. As a Windows user, I use MarkdownPad, and I’m very happy with it.
The big draw for me about a desktop app is that I don’t have to be online to use it, and as I can save my work as a text file in a cloud-synced folder, I can pick up from where I left off on a different device or in different software. Mou and MarkdownPad are relatively straightforward and relatively simple, but that’s kinda what you want in a simple writing tool.
For the tablet: Write, Write, Writer and Drafts
I’m going to take the liberty of assuming that you’re not writing lengthy blog posts on your phone, but if you are, these apps are going to work for you too. Just don’t tell anyone you write blog posts on your phone; apparently it’s not done. Whatever. Anyway.
For those of you doing your writing via tablet, your app options are superficially different but essentially all the same: markdown writing apps which heavily integrate with cloud services and kinda do little else. They all have similar names, too, which isn’t particularly helpful.
On iOS you’ve got Write (which has a fancy website so must be “beautiful”) and Drafts (which doesn’t so must be functional) to choose between, and on Android there’s Write for tablets and Writer for phones. As an Android tablet user, I use Write fairly regularly and can confirm it works as advertised. I’ve not tried iOS’ Write or Drafts, but they look like solid choices.
If none of those apps particularly take your fancy, you could, of course, use the aforementioned web-based Editorially, although for me, on the go connectivity isn’t quite good enough for me to feel confident in saying I can rely on always having ‘net access anytime I fancy writing something. If none of those takes your fancy, there’s still one more option…
For the early-adopting bloggger: Ghost
Nearly-launched crowdfunded blogging platform Ghost is the new kid on the block here, and aims to combine all of the writing solutions you’ve been looking at with your publishing platform. It makes sense, really; it’s likely most of the content you’re writing is ending up in a single place anyway, and creating a unified writing + publishing experience just makes everything easier.
At the time of writing, Ghost is a couple of weeks away from public launch. It’s got a way to go, but this is certainly one to watch for the future. Look out for it.
Ev’ry day I’m markdowning
Those are you options. I’ve not mentioned Draft, which is kinda the same as Editorially, just (in my opinion) not quite as good, so check it out if you think it might be for you. Hat tip, too, should go to Dropbox and Google Drive for providing the services which keep virtually all of the writing solutions actually useful.
Markdown is disputably a genuinely useful tool for improving the efficiency with which one writes. You can pick it up within thirty seconds and be using it comfortably within a couple of minutes. Plus, all the cool kids use it. With this post, you’ve got a lovely list of all the best markdown apps and tools so go on — get writing!