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The Best Markdown Editors for Mac

By Adrian Try



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The Best Markdown Editors for Mac

Markdown provides a convenient way to add formatting to a plain text document, while leaving it in plain text. It’s simpler and faster than adding HTML markup, and doesn’t have the lock-in of using something like Microsoft Word.

The syntax was created by John Gruber way back in 2004, and seems to become more widely used every year, especially in blogs and forums. It’s an easy and efficient way to create online content, and has a number of benefits for writers and bloggers.

Because Markdown is just plain text, you can create it with any text editor. That’s part of its appeal. But using an editor designed for writing in Markdown has a lot of advantages, depending on your needs.

Here are some features you might expect to find in a Markdown editor:

  • Syntax highlighting and a preview pane to show you how your final document will look.
  • Familiar keyboard shortcuts, like command-B for bold.
  • Export and conversion features that easily transform your document from Markdown to HTML, PDF, DOCX or a number of other formats. Some Markdown editors can publish directly to WordPress, Medium and more.
  • A distraction-free mode that takes advantage of features like full-screen editing, dark mode and typewriter mode.
  • Features that appeal to writers, including word count, readability scores, and versions.
  • A document library to organize your content and sync between devices. Some editors have an iOS version so you can keep working while you’re on the move.
  • Advanced formatting, including tables and mathematical expressions.

There’s a rich landscape of Mac options, and the best choice for me may not be the best choice for you. Not all Markdown editors will support all of those features, so the trick is to find the editor with the features you need.

So let’s have a good look at the options, then we’ll make some recommendations.

Looking for more on Markdown? Check out these great links:

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1. Use Your Favorite Text Editor

If you already have a favorite Mac text editor, you might prefer to use that for writing Markdown as well. Of course, Markdown is really just text, so any text editor will do. But many text editors have additional support for Markdown, either natively or through an extension or plugin. These may give syntax highlighting, a preview pane and other features.

Here are some examples:

2. Ulysses

  • Cost: Starts at US$4.99 per month or $39.99 per year, or subscribe via SetApp
  • Demo: Yes
  • Other platforms: iOS

The ultimate writing app for Mac, iPad and iPhone.

Ulysses is a full-featured Markdown app designed for writers. It’s designed to keep you focused on the writing task at hand, organize all your projects in one place, provide comprehensive writing features in a simple interface, and export your documents beautifully in a number of formats.

Distraction-free features include typewriter mode, dark themes, and full-screen editing. All of your documents can be accessed in a single library, whether they’re contained in Ulysses’ database or in files elsewhere. Filters can be used to create smart folders that update according to the flexible criteria you specify.

Writers will appreciate features like word and character count, writing goals that indicate when you reach the desired word count, notes and attachments for your reference information, and keywords. You can export your documents to a variety of text and rich text formats, HTML, ePub, PDF and DOCX. Or you can publish directly to WordPress or Medium.

My take: I purchased Ulysses on the day it was released, and I’ve been using it ever since. It has become my writing tool of choice. It’s not cheap, but it’s been worth every penny. If you do a lot of writing, professionally or otherwise, take a good look at this app.

A screen shot of the Ulysses editor

3. Quiver

  • Cost: $9.99
  • Demo: Yes
  • Other platforms: iOS (coming)

The programmer’s notebook

Quiver is designed for developers, and can combine text, code, Markdown and LaTeX in a single note. It’s more than just a document editor: it’s a complete reference library for your documentation.

The editor gives you syntax highlighting and a live preview of your rendered Markdown, and offers cloud syncing, team collaboration, version control and backup. Programmers will appreciate code editing and the ability to write scripts to integrate Quiver with your other tools.

The document library can organize your notes by tag or notebook (including shared notebooks), and has instant, full-text search. Images are saved locally with notes, and displayed inline.

My take: Quiver is the ultimate Markdown (and code and LaTeX) editor for devs. Its document library can be synced to your other computers and devices via Dropbox. It’s a geekier alternative to Ulysses, designed with a completely different audience in mind, at an affordable price point.

A screen shot of the Quiver editor

4. LightPaper

  • Cost: $16.49
  • Demo: 14-day free trial
  • Other platforms: No

Simple, beautiful yet powerful text editor for your Mac

LightPaper is designed for creating documents, articles and blog posts. It’s suitable for writers and bloggers, developers, scholars and students.

This tab-based app features both syntax highlighting and a preview pane. A document pane on the left lists your favorites, folders, scratch notes and shadow notes.

The shadow note feature is very handy: the app will associate a note with a specific app, file, folder or URL, which is entered in a popup window over the other app.

Other features include quick open, math and table support, custom styles, and distraction-free mode.

My take: This is a Ulysses alternative without quite the same range of features. It does some things that Ulysses can’t, including tables and math. While not as expensive, it’s certainly not cheap. If its range of features matches what you need in a Markdown editor, it’s worth considering.

A screen shot of the LightPaper editor

5. MWeb

  • Cost: $14.99
  • Demo: 14-day trial
  • Other platforms: iOS

Pro Markdown writing, note taking and static blog generator app

MWeb is a tab-based Markdown editor for writers and academics. It has a document library, but can also edit external files from anywhere on your Mac. Its clean interface supports advanced syntax, including TOC, tables, code blocks, LaTeX and footnotes.

The app features syntax highlighting, live preview, and drag and drop for adding images. It also includes some nice distraction-free features, including typewriter mode and a dark theme.

Getting your text out of MWeb is easy. It can export to PDF, HTML, RTF, DOCX and image, or publish directly to WordPress, Metaweblog, Blogger, Medium, Tumblr and Evernote. It can even generate a static blog.

My take: With its advanced syntax and export/publishing options, MWeb is excellent for writing technical documentation. The app is attractive, and the document library well designed.

A screen shot of the MWeb editor

6. Texts

  • Cost: $19
  • Demo: Yes
  • Other platforms: Windows

Rich editor for plain text. Separate content from formatting. Store in Markdown.

Texts is a Markdown-based word processor designed for academics. It focuses on producing well-structured content that can contain formulas, footnotes, bibliography and citations, tables and links. You can create export templates to carefully hone the professionally typeset PDFs the app can produce.

Other features include a visual editor so you don’t have to remember Markdown, blogging on GitHub Pages, and custom themes. Documents can be published as PDF, HTML, DOCX, EPUB and other formats.

My take: If you’re an academic or technical writer, this app is designed for you. Its minimalistic interface is attractive, yet hides a lot of power under the surface. The documents it produces look professional, and are beautifully typeset.

A screen shot of the Texts editor

7. Byword

  • Cost: $11.99
  • Demo: No
  • Other platforms: iOS

Markdown app for writing in plain text efficiently.

Byword is a minimalistic app for efficient Markdown writing, striking a good balance between simplicity and functionality. There are just enough features to do the job without becoming a distraction.

The app has subtle syntax highlighting, and you can format with Markdown using keyboard shortcuts and auto-complete. There’s a word count with live update, and a quick preview option.

My take: Byword’s low cost, attractive looks and frictionless interface make it a popular choice. If you’re not in need of a lot of features, and simplicity aids your productivity, this might be the one for you.

A screen shot of the Byword editor

8. IA Writer

  • Cost: $9.99
  • Demo: No
  • Other platforms: iOS, Android

iA Writer. Plain. Text. iA Writer is designed to provide the best writing experience on macOS, iOS and Android.

IA Writer is a distraction-free Markdown editor that puts the focus on your content. It’s like Byword, but with a few more features and a little less simplicity.

The app uses a light gray background, monospaced font and blue cursor. In focus mode, surrounding lines of text fade to emphasize the line you’re typing.

Images, tables and content blocks are all supported, all features that Byword lacks. Other features include preview, live sync, a document library, file export (HTML, PDF, DOCX) and custom templates.

My take: Another popular, inexpensive Markdown editor with an emphasis on being distraction free, IA Writer loses some of Byword’s simplicity in order to gain some additional features.

A screen shot of the IA Writer editor

9. Typora

  • Cost: Free (during beta)
  • Demo: n/a
  • Other platforms: Windows, Linux

A truly minimal Markdown editor

Typora is possibly the most minimalistic editor we’re covering. It even removes the Markdown syntax as you type, replacing it with a preview of the formatting. What you see is what you get. It looks cleaner, removes the need for a preview pane, and makes reading easier.

Despite its simplicity, Typora supports images, lists, tables, code fences, math blocks, table of contents and more. Shortcuts do what you expect, and the themes are beautiful and fully configurable by CSS. Geeks will find a lot to love here.

My take: Typora is the new kid on the block. It’s beautiful and full-featured. If you like the idea of not seeing Markdown syntax in your document, this app is your only option we review.

A screen shot of the Typora editor

10. Caret

  • Cost: $25
  • Demo: Yes
  • Other platforms: Windows, Linux

Beautiful & clever Markdown editor

Caret is beautiful and distraction-free, but hides lots of power under the hood. It would appeal to writers and devs alike.

The app makes entering complex Markdown simple. Syntax assistance is available for tables, lists, quotes, fences, links and emphasis, and there’s auto-completion for images, keywords and emoji. A file manager is available, and navigation through long documents is made simple with the popup “go to heading” feature.

For the mathematically-minded, LaTeX expressions are supported, and they’re rendered on-screen as soon as the cursor leaves them. For distraction-free writing, dark mode, focus mode and typewriter mode are all supported.

My take: I’ve only recently discovered Caret, and for a minimalistic editor it seems to have a lot of power under the hood. Writing, rather than exporting, is its strength. SitePoint editor Bruno Skvorc is a heavy user of the app, and couldn’t be happier.

A screen shot of the Caret editor

11. Focused

  • Cost: $29.99
  • Demo: Yes
  • Other platforms: No

Get Focused, start writing!

Focused is an attractive, minimalistic writing app with an interface designed to keep you writing without distraction.

The app offers an uncluttered interface with few features, a choice of attractive themes, typewriter mode and a choice of eight relaxing soundtracks. Other features include word count, versions, export to HTML and RTF, and customizable typefaces and styles.

My take: If you’re looking for a beautiful, minimalistic app to write in, and value a focused writing experience over a multitude of features, this is worth considering.

A screen shot of the Focused editor

12. Bear

  • Cost: Free, Bear Pro subscription $1.49/month
  • Demo: n/a
  • Other platforms: iOS

Bear is a beautiful, flexible writing app for crafting notes and prose

Bear is more than a note taking app: it’s a pleasing writing environment as well. The developers have focused on making the app beautiful to look at and smooth to use. By default it uses non-standard markup, but a Markdown compatibility mode is available.

The app includes a focus mode to keep you writing, and displays images inline. Features for writers include word count and reading times. The app can export your document to Markdown, PDF, HTML, DOCX, JPG or RTF. For developers, the app has code blocks that support and highlight over 20 programming languages.

Other features include rich previews, cross-note links, checkboxes, and smart data recognition. Tags are added by using hashtags within the document. Bear Pro subscribers have access to a range of themes and multi-device sync via iCloud.

My take: I discovered Bear while it was still in beta, and started using it immediately. I’m now a Bear Pro subscriber. I love the checkbox feature, the way images are displayed inline, and the way tags are added. These features make it an excellent note taker. I could use the app for writing, but Ulysses has become my tool of choice.

A screen shot of the Bear editor

13. Mou

  • Cost: Free (in beta), preorder Mou 1.0 for $15 (50% discount)
  • Demo: n/a
  • Other platforms: No

Markdown editor for developers.

Mou bylines itself as “the missing Markdown editor for web developers”. It’s light and responsive. Be aware that until Mou 1.0 ships, the app only works on versions of macOS up to 10.11; it doesn’t (at the time of writing) support Sierra or High Sierra.

Features include live preview, sync scroll, auto save, incremental search and custom themes. CSS, HTML and PDF export are available. Articles can be directly published to or Tumblr with a single command.

My take: The app has always looked promising, and I used it for a while a number of years ago. Lack of support for Sierra is a problem, but watch out for Mou 1.0.

A screen shot of the Mou editor

14. MacDown

  • Cost: free (open source)
  • Demo: n/a
  • Other platforms: No

The open source Markdown editor for macOS.

MacDown is heavily inspired by Mou, and was created when Mou development had stalled. Like Mou, it’s designed with web developers in mind.

Features include a configurable syntax highlighting, live preview, TeX-like math syntax, and auto-completion.

My take: MacDown is a good alternative to Mou, and having an open source (MIT) license, will remain free. If you’re a web developer looking for a lean, fast, configurable editor, this might be the one for you.

A screen shot of the MacDown editor

15. Haroopad

Cost: Donationware
Demo: n/a
Other platforms: Windows, Linux

The Markdown enabled Next Document Processor

Haroopad is designed for creating web-friendly documents with Markdown. Use it to create professional-looking documents for your blogposts, slides, presentations, reports and email.

The app has some advanced features, including support for LaTeX mathematical expressions, Vim key-bindings and embedding of audio and video. Themes and skins are available, and you can export your document to HTML and PDF, with more formats in the works.

My take: Haroopad is still in beta, and the English documentation is still a little lacking. But the app is flexible and has a ton of features, as well as supporting the major desktop operating systems. And the price is right.

A screen shot of the Haroopad editor

So, What Is the Best Mac Editor for You?

The Mac Markdown ecosystem is rich and varied. With so many apps, which is the right one for you? That depends on your priorities, and what you’ll be using the app for.

Here are some recommendations:

  • If the tool of your trade is a text editor, and you already have a favorite, you can probably use it as an adequate Markdown editor too.
  • If you’re a writer or blogger looking for a full-featured writing environment, then have a serious look at Ulysses. If you find the price a problem, you can use it for less than $10 a month by subscribing to SetApp. Or have a look at MWeb, LightPaper and Bear.
  • If you’re a developer, Quiver is the ultimate notebook for you. Simpler options include Mou and MacDown.
  • If you’re an academic, Texts may be your best option, but also have a look at MWeb.
  • If your preference is for an inexpensive, light-weight app, ByWord and IA Writer are excellent options. If distraction-free features are important, also consider Typora, Caret and Focused.
  • If you don’t spend all of your time on a Mac so need something cross-platform, then check the features of Texts, Typora, Caret and Haroopad, and choose the one that best meets your needs.

What’s your favorite Markdown editor?

Adrian Try is an Aussie writer, musician, cyclist, and tech geek.

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