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The Best Markdown Editors for Mac

By Adrian Try
Web
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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 became popular in blogs and forums. It’s certainly an easy and efficient way to create online content, and has a number of benefits for writers and bloggers. It’s now also used in a wide variety of applications, as we’ll explore below.

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 editors support every feature, so the trick is to find the one that does what you need.

So let’s start by looking at popular text editors that support Markdown. Then we’ll cover the other alternatives, starting with file-based editors, then moving to library-based applications.

12 Text Editors with Markdown Support

I’m sure you already have a favorite Mac text editor, and you might prefer to use that for writing Markdown as well. Because Markdown is really just text, 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:

  1. BBEdit 13.1 has built-in support for several flavors of Markdown.
  2. Sublime Text can be turned into a full-featured Markdown editor. We show you how here.
  3. Visual Studio Code offers a number of Markdown extensions that offer previewing and compiling of Markdown files, as well as an outline view that folds headers.
  4. Nova has built-in support for Markdown, including preview and style sheets.
  5. TextMate 2 offers live Markdown preview and the Markdown bundle adds features like convert, preview, cheat sheet and “generate output and open in browser”.
  6. Atom supports Markdown out of the box, with features like syntax highlighting and preview. This functionality can be expanded by several community-generated packages, including Markdown-Writer, Markdown-Scroll-Sync and Markdown-Format.
  7. Chocolat provides Markdown syntax highlighting and preview out of the box.
  8. Textastic also includes Markdown syntax highlighting and preview out of the box.
  9. CodeRunner 4 has included Markdown support since version 2.1.1.
  10. Drafts, the text editor with powerful actions, has built-in support for Markdown.
  11. MacVim has a Vim-Markdown plugin that features syntax highlighting and folding.
  12. GNU Emacs has a Markdown Mode for Emacs package that includes shortcut keys and syntax highlighting.

9 File-based Markdown Editors

Here are nine applications that let you work with one Markdown file at a time.

1. Byword

  • Cost: $10.99
  • 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 autocomplete. 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

2. iA Writer

  • Cost: $29.99
  • Demo: 14-day free trial
  • Other platforms: Windows, iOS, Android

Get focused. The simple, award-winning design of iA Writer delivers the essential writing experience.

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: this popular, distraction-free Markdown editor loses some of Byword’s simplicity in order to gain additional features that you may need.

A screen shot of the IA Writer editor

3. 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 seems to have been in beta forever. But it works, is beautiful, and offers loads of features. If you like the idea of not seeing Markdown syntax in your document, this app may be for you.

A screen shot of the Typora editor

4. Caret

  • Cost: $29
  • Demo: Yes
  • Other platforms: Windows, Linux

Caret is a Markdown editor for Mac, Windows and Linux. It stands out with its clean interface, productivity features and obsessive attention to detail.

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

A screen shot of the Caret editor

5. Focused

  • Cost: $19.99, or subscribe via SetApp
  • 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 you value a focused writing experience over a multitude of features, this is worth considering.

A screen shot of the Focused editor

6. 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 once Mou development stalled. Like Mou, it’s designed with web developers in mind.

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

My take: ff you’re a web developer looking for a lean, fast, configurable editor, MacDown might be the one for you.

A screen shot of the MacDown editor

7. 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 blog posts, 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 another app that’s been in beta for years, and the English documentation is still lacking. But it’s 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

8. Markdown Pro

  • Cost: $5.99
  • Demo: No
  • Other platforms: No

A beautiful and easy-to-use editor for the popular Markdown markup language, combined with a themed live preview feature, you will never have to write boring documents again.

Markdown Pro is a basic, Mac-only editor that offers templates and a preview pane. Markup in the edit window is not rendered nor syntax highlighted. It looks a little dated.

Templates are available. You can downloaded more online or add your own custom templates. Files are automatically saved and versioning is supported.

My take: Markdown Pro isn’t the slickest Markdown editor out there, but it’s inexpensive and offers the combination of an edit window, templates, and versioning.

A screen shot of the Markdown Pro editor

9. Coming Soon: Whiskey

  • Cost: Pricing has not been announced
  • Demo: n/a
  • Other platforms: No

A modern Markdown app from Nothing Magical for Mac and iOS.

Whiskey is currently under development. It currently offers a basic edit window without toolbars, and those unfamiliar with Markdown can add commonly used syntax from the menu or via shortcut keys. Navigation via an outline view is possible via Option + Command + O.

You can learn more by downloading the beta or watching the demo videos. It doesn’t yet export to HTML or disable spell check in code blocks, but those features are coming along with a wider selection of keyboard shortcuts.

My take: Whiskey looks promising. I’m keeping my eye on it.

Whiskey Markdown editor

8 Library-based Markdown Editors

Here are eight applications that manage an entire library of Markdown files that are stored either in the file system or a database.

1. Obsidian

  • Cost: Free with additional paid services
  • Demo: n/a
  • Other platforms: Windows, Linux

A second brain, for you, forever. Obsidian is a powerful knowledge base that works on top of a local folder of plain text Markdown files.

Obsidian turns a folder of Markdown files into a powerful knowledge base. Links and backlinks allow you to create a frictionless network of connections. Plugins extend its functionality and allow you to customize the interface.

The app’s reason for being goes well beyond editing Markdown files, and that’s true of many of the other library-based apps we cover below. The syntax it uses is slightly non-standard and supports tables, task lists, strikethrough, and footnotes.

My take: Obsidian is deceptively powerful and has a great deal of potential. I recommend you give it a try, and cover it in depth in my guide to Obsidian.

A screen shot of the Obsidian editor

2. Ulysses

  • Cost: Starts at US$5.99 per month or $49.99 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, Medium, Ghost, and Micro.blog.

My take: I purchased Ulysses on the day it was released and it became 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. Bear

  • Cost: Free, Bear Pro subscription $1.49/month or $14.99/year
  • 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 early and am 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

4. Quiver

  • Cost: $9.99
  • Demo: Yes
  • Other platforms: iOS (read-only)

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. You can sync your notes using Dropbox, iCloud Drive, Google Drive, and more.

My take: Quiver is the ultimate Markdown (and code and LaTeX) editor for devs. It’s a geeky alternative to Ulysses, designed with a completely different audience in mind, at an affordable price point.

A screen shot of the Quiver editor

5. LightPaper

  • Cost: $14.99
  • 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

6. MWeb

  • Cost: $19.99
  • 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

7. SnippetsLab

  • Cost: $9.99, or subscribe with SetApp
  • Demo: No
  • Other platforms: No

Supercharge your productivity with SnippetsLab — a full-featured, professional code snippets manager. It helps you create your personal code library, keeps everything impeccably organized, and is always at the ready for use.

SnippetsLab is a Markdown-based snippets manager. It offers a preview pane, auto-updating table of contents, MathJax and Latex rendering, and syntax highlighting for 420 languages.

It’s themable, searchable, and accessible from the menu bar. There’s lightweight GitHub Gist integration, iCloud sync between Macs, and automatic backups.

My take: SnippetsLab is perfect for Markdown-loving developers looking for a way to keep their reference material accessible and searchable.

A screen shot of the SnippetsLab editor

8. Inkdrop

  • Cost: $4.99/month, $49.90/year
  • Demo: 60-day free trial, limited to five notes and no sync
  • Other platforms: Windows, Linux, iOS, Android

Organizing your Markdown notes made simple.

Inkdrop is an extensible, full-featured Markdown library that offers cloud sync between your computers and devices and 10 GB of online storage. You can customize its appearance with themes and its features with 100+ plugins, and if you prefer self-host your data using a CouchDB server.

Developers will find it comfortable. Line numbers are displayed, Vim, Emacs and Sublime Text key bindings are supported, and math notation, flowcharts and sequence diagrams can be created. It also includes a distraction-free mode, task management features, and the ability to share notes on the Web with a public link.

My take: Inkdrop is a useful and versatile Markdown application. It’s a strong alternative to Ulysses for non-writers, and its yearly subscription price is the same.

A screen shot of the Inkdrop 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 developer, Quiver is the ultimate notebook for you. Other options include MacDown, SnippetsLab, and Inkdrop.
  • If you want to create a personal knowledge base using Markdown, consider Obsidian, Bear, Quiver, and Inkdrop.
  • 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 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 iA Writer, Typora, Caret, Haroopad, Obsidian, and Inkdrop, and choose the one that best meets your needs.

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

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