Notes from a Floating Life Thoughts about productivity, digital living, and leading a simpler life

A Look at a Pair of Markdown Editors for the Chromebook

Since buying a Chromebook in 2011), I’ve been doing the bulk of my work with it. Pooh pooh it all you like, but I find that a Chromebook is a very useful, lightweight tool.

One the jobs that I use it for is writing. Not just with web-based tools like Draft, TextDrop, or Typerighter.com, but offline too. Yes, shocking as it may seem you can use a Chromebook offline.

There are a number of good writing tools available for the Chromebook (and, obviously, the Chrome web browser). Of course, one criteria I have is that the tool must support Markdown. And, wouldn’t you know it, there are a few solid Markdown editors in Chrome Web Store.

Let’s take a look at a pair of them.

Textdown

Textdown is one of those deceptively simple applications that hides a lot below the surface.

When you launch it, Textdown asks for the name of the file that you want to create. Once you enter that, you’re presented with a blank canvas.

TextDown in action

While it seems to be very spartan, you can actually do a lot to customize Textdown. Press CTRL+< to open the options page, and you can:

  • Change the default extension of the files that you create
  • Change the font and colour scheme of the editor
  • Create shortcuts that Textdown will expand into full words or phrases
  • Select the Markdown syntax to use for bold, italics, horizontal rules, and lists

And more. On top of that, if you press CTRL+D, you get a list of keyboard shortcuts which let you, among other actions, save a file, preview it, export or copy it as HTML or RTF, open a file om your Chromebook, or view document statistics.

I only have three complaints about Textdown. The first is that it doesn’t have syntax highlighting. While that’s not a deal breaker for me, I do find highlighting to be useful.

The second is that Textdown doesn’t automatically save your work. You have to press CTRL+S to save. Doing that saves the file to your Chromebook’s Downloads folder.

Which brings me to my third complaint: lack of integration with a service like Dropbox. While I use Textdown offline, I’d like to be able to synchronize my files with Dropbox from within the editor, rather than manually uploading them.

StackEdit

StackEdit reminds me of a desktop version of Markdown editors like Dillinger or Markable. It has a side-by-side view of your document —code on the left, formatted preview on the right —and you get some useful toolbar buttons which give you quick access to common Markdown formatting.

Editing Markdown in StackEdit

While I don’t use the formatting toolbar, I can see where someone who is still finding their way around Markdown would find it very useful.

Not only can you open and save files on your Chromebook (which makes it great for working offline), but StackEdit also synchronizes with Dropbox and Google Drive. You can also use StackEdit as a blog post or web page editor and publish to a number of locations including WordPress, Dropbox, Blogger, Tumblr, GitHub, and your own web server via SSH.

All of that makes StackEdit a simple but flexible and powerful Markdown editor.

My only complaint about StackEdit is that it, like Textdown, doesn’t support syntax highlighting. Again, that’s not a deal breaker.

So, do you have any favourite Markdown editors for Chrome or the Chrombook? Feel free to share your picks by leaving a comment.

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