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Markdown Editors for the Mac

by Kerry Dawson

Markdown image

Markdown is a simple Markup editing language allowing easy formatting of documents primarily intended for the web but not necessarily so. Markdown uses a code instruction set that allows you to bold characters by enclosing them in two stars or italize them by enclosing them with one star or even bold and italize by enclosing them in three stars. Examples of the instruction set can be found at Instruction Set Architecture Simulator.

Four very Good Editors for the Mac

There are numerous markdown editors designed for both the Mac and the PC but the following four are particularly good Mac editors. All but one allows you to publish from the editor or offline. The editors are:

  • Ulysses
  • iA Writer
  • Byword
  • Focused

Focused does not provide offline publishing and only runs on the Mac while iA Writer runs on the Mac, IOS and Android so is fully cross platform. Ulysses and Byword run on the Mac and IOS devices. All of these editors are strong in their own right and have a lot to offer.

Focused a truly Distraction Free, Font Strong Editor

Each of the above editors, although at their heart support markdown editing, they focus on different areas to assist with the writing process. Focused provides one of the most distraction free environments. Its strength lies in the Font display which can’t be contended with and its very simple ease of use.

The fonts on Focused are nice and large and differentiate themselves well. The layout is wonderful and writing in Focused is a joy. It is truly a distraction free environment and previewing your output couldn’t be nicer. It doesn’t employ the fancy editing capabilities of iA Writer but if you want an environment that is conducive to just getting words on paper, Focused is the editor of choice.

iA Writer

iA Writer is one of the higher rated editors at the Apple store. Known to be popular amongst university students, it concentrates heavily on grammatical style. iA Writer is fully cross platform and works in the Apple environment, Windows and Android.

iA Writer also supports the sending of your document to Medium or WordPress in draft form a major time saver. There you can view the document in the online editor and once you‘re happy with your results you can then publish.

iA Writer is the type of editor that helps with grammatical, stylistic structure. It is popular amongst the university set but is gathering a broad audience.

Ulysses the Powerhouse in the Group

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Ulysses makes markdown simple. It runs on IOS and the Mac platforms and unlike the other editors operates in a database function type of way. Documents are stored as sheets to the database thus making it easy to recover your work.

Much of markdown syntax is structured by Ulysses in its own fashion producing slick outcomes. Ulysses is being used as a blogging tool, as a simple editor to that of a program in which you can write a complex book.

If you wanted to go with one fully capable editor, Ulysses would be the one. It uses a subscription based pricing structure but for many Ulysses is considered well worth the money.

Another way to acquire it is through Setapp a database of over 150 Mac programs that can all be rented for $9.99/month. Setapp is one of the subscription systems that is well worth-whiled.

Byword An Old Reliable

Byword is a mature system. It was one of the first. It certainly was one of the first in production and has stood the test of time. Byword is simply a reliable, first rate editor that runs on Mac and IOS and can publish online.

Byword would not be known for anyone aspect but rather is an all around excellent program. It supports standard Markdown editing and its ability to run on the Mac and IOS means you can use the program anywhere to continue with your work.

Byword allows you to fully preview your output and then send that document offline not as a draft, as in iA Writer but for full Publishing.

How to Choose Your Editor

You really can’t go wrong with anyone of the above editors however, each one displays certain strengths that would be more desirable depending on the outcome you’re looking for. As an example, if you’re looking for the most powerful, full featured editor that can really tackle any project then you‘re probably best to use Ulysses. However, if you just want a very nice writing environment that allows you to get your words easily written and displayed nicely, then Focused would be the best choice here. Combined with a program like Marsedit you can even do offline publishing.

Suppose you don’t want to spend a pile of money but need a good blogging tool. In this case, I would recommend Byword as it works across platforms and can publish n full a web article.

Finally, if you need to have extra support around grammatical structure, you’re probably best to employ iA Writer. The tools in iA writer are designed to support grammatical structure often something which a writer needs help with.

My Preference

I personally like writing with either Ulysses due to the comprehensive nature of the program or with Focused combined with Marsedit to publish the work. Focused is such an excellent writing tool. It simply supports getting words down in a very nice looking fashion.

Using Marsedit with Focused, you have a system that can publish comprehensively with a very nice writing tool that makes any document look good. Its downside though is a lack of an IOS program and further to publish offline you will need something like Marsedit. the two though make powerful combination.

Thus for expendience sake, Ulysses is probably your best all encompassing answer, It provides:

  • a cool wrting/markdown environment
  • multi platform operation
  • the ability to offline publish
  • and a flexible databse oriented environment that allows:
    • notetaking
    • article writing
    • book writing

This is not an inexpensive solution but it is a comprehensive solution. For this it may be well worth the investment.

This video explains Markdown which isn’t as complex as it might sound however it does outline the benefits well.

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