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

Writing in Markdown with MacDown

Until a few months ago, I was working at a firm where I and a majority of my colleagues were using MacBooks to do our work. And, to be honest, I didn’t see what all the fuss about MacBooks is. They’ve got nothing I haven’t seen before, to be honest.

Having said that, there was some software for the MacBook that I found very useful. Tools like nvALT and Mou.

Another piece of software that I quickly grew to rely upon was a Markdown editor called MacDown, a simple open source Markdown editor. MacDown is simple, but it allowed me to get my writing done quickly and without distraction or various features I never use getting in the way.

Taking a Closer Look

MacDown is like a desktop version of Dillinger or Markable, two web-based Markdown editors.

The main MacDown window

The MacDown window consists of two panes: the one on the left is where you type, and the one on the right gives you a live preview of how your document will appear as a PDF or a web page.

Editing a blog post

Obviously, MacDown is simple and packs few frills. It won’t appeal to the crowd that demands their software contain every conceivable bell and whistle, but MacDown is a good choice for those who want or need a stripped-down Markdown editor for the Mac desktop.

Working with MacDown

All you need to do is start typing. Yes, it’s that easy. If you’re a dab hand with Markdown, you’re probably comfortable adding formatting my hand. If not, or if you’re just learning Markdown, you can use the Format menu.

Th Format menu lets insert text formatting (like bold, italics, and code), lists, blockquote, images, and links. There’s even an option to convert a block of text into a heading.

When you’re ready to publish your work, you can save it as either an HTML or a PDF file. MacDown does a good job with HTML. With PDF, some text gets cut off at the bottom of the page if there are multiple pages in the file.

PDF with text cut off

One feature that I found useful is MacDown’s ability to copy HTML. Selecting this option skips the conversion step. Instead, MacDown converts your document to HTML in the background and copies the HTML to the Mac clipboard. From there, you can paste the HTML into a blog, a content management system, or into a web page. It makes working with the HTML source a lot easier.

If you’re writing to a specific word count (or just want to keep track of how much you’re writing), MacDown offers a running word count. It also packs a spelling checker to keep you honest.

All of the additional features that I just described are optional, if nice, extras. They don’t get in the way, and you can easily ignore them.

If you’re using a Mac and want an simple, no-frills Markdown editor that’s easy to use then MacDown is worth a look. It lets you do your work with no fuss. It’s that simplicity that attracted me to it, and if I ever use a Mac again in the future MacDown will be one of the first applications that I install.

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