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Ulysses for iPad shaping up nicely...

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Posted by MadaboutDana
Feb 12, 2015 at 06:50 PM


Hm. I think there are a number of desirable features in the perfect Markdown editor. Nothing has yet combined all of them.

But first, Letterspace: the “different” thing about Letterspace is the combination of Tags (= hashtags) and Mentions (= @tags). Plus an extremely good Markdown editor with support for GitHub-style task lists (not many Markdown editors have this, in fact).

Going back to the perfect Markdown editor, in no particular order:
- support for access to different folders, and ideally different synchronisation systems (Ulysses, LightPaper, TextNut; Quiver to some extent)
- shortcuts to favourite folders/groups of folders (Ulysses, LightPaper, TextNut, Quiver)
- sidebar with good navigation options (see above) (Ulysses, LightPaper, TextNut, Quiver, Scrivener)
- tagging, ideally with support for multiple tags per note (Ulysses, Letterspace, TextNut, Quiver)
- a really good Markdown editor, ideally supporting hybrid Markdown (i.e. indicating what codes are doing even in “edit” view) plus editable HTML preview (Ulysses, Letterspace, Quiver)
- support for the widest possible variety of Markdown variants (including e.g. GitHub-style tasks, Multimarkdown tables etc. etc.) (probably only TextNut, so far)
- support for grouping of notes (Keep Everything, Ulysses, Scrivener)
- folding! (Quiver - kind of, FoldingText; a good Markdown outliner is sorely needed. I can only think of one so far: CottonNotes on iOS, and that seems to have died)
- a toggle allowing you to default to “view” rather than “edit” mode when reading notes (rather than editing them). I don’t understand why more Markdown editors don’t have this, in fact, since Markdown per se is actually rather ugly, despite its convenience. Keep Everything is a good example of an editor that defaults to preview mode - you have to switch to edit mode to change something (I prefer this in any case, it’s just good discipline in my view)
- a good range of export options, including exporting of multiple notes or folders, into at the very least HTML, PDF, OPML
- cross-platform versions that all have more or less the same features (Letterspace, eventually also Ulysses, maybe also Scrivener, hopefully also Quiver)

That’s my basic list of criteria for evaluation of a new Markdown editor. I like FoldingText, but dislike its lack of cross-platform support and idiosyncratic weirdness. I don’t much like dual-pane Markdown editors - I’d much rather be able to fix preview as the default option when I first open a list of notes. Of all of the dual-pane options, LightPaper is by far the most elegant.

You’ll see I don’t mention a whole bunch of highly thought-of editors such as Byword, Writedown, iaWriter, Write etc. etc. That’s because they’re not differentiated enough and don’t do enough of the above. They are, in short, all showing their age. The most interesting developments are relatively new (apart, perhaps, from writers’ favourites Ulysses and Scrivener, upon whom everybody is waiting with bated breath). On the whole, new apps such as Letterspace, Quiver, Keep Everything and TextNut are showing the way forward. That’s probably why Soulmen have suddenly started pushing the iOS version of Ulysses.

Markdown is a brilliant concept, but it’s one that originated with geeks who preferred working in VIM and other programming editors than soiling their Olympian minds with the overweight applications used by the hoi polloi. Aesthetics were never high on their list of considerations - speed, efficiency and transportability were.

In the meantime, other people have seen the advantages in this kind of slimmed-down approach. But there are some seriously boring/clunky implementations out there. And I wonder how many developers actually sit down and ask their regular users what they really like - and don’t like - about their apps? I wouldn’t know, I’m not a developer.

I’d love to hear others’ criteria for evaluating Markdown editors, as well. Actually, we could open a new thread. Let’s see if there’s any interest first.