If you’ve been thinking about switching over to a markdown editor, you should.
It took me a while to finally decide to switch over. I was holding on to Microsoft Word, believing that it was working well for me, and, for the most part, it was. When I discovered “focus mode,” I thought that my writing experience was changed forever. It was for a short while, but it didn’t stick.
I tried Apple Pages and Google Docs. I even gave TextEdit a whirl. They just weren’t providing the writing experience that I was looking for. So, what was I looking for?
- clean interface – distraction-free writing
- portability – can switch devices and still have access to my files
- price – it had to be affordable
Here’s the thing: all of the word processors that I already had fit my criteria. Office 365 lets me take my work anywhere, on any device. Apple Pages is fine because I swim in the Apple ecosystem. Google Docs lets me access all of my work online, through any device, too.
So, what was missing? What could those three giants not provide that I was looking for? Ultimately, it was the writing experience.
Word’s focus mode on the desktop app was great for a short while. I thought I had stumbled on to the feature that would solidify Word as my go-to word processor. My familiarity with Word meant that I could navigate my way through the menus easily and use shortcut keys that I already know. Formatting options with Word are far beyond anything that I’ll ever need. It’s a powerhouse when it comes to word processing.
On the iPad, Word falls apart for me. I find it really annoying to do anything other than type. For whatever reason, it’s just not the natural transition that it’s likely meant to be. Even worse is using Word on my iPhone. Outside of quickly reviewing something, I don’t want to even open Word on my phone.
Apple Pages seemed like the next best choice. Apple made the iPad and they developed Pages so they probably have a good idea of how the two will work well together. Plus, I often see cool little videos of people being extremely creative with Apple’s productivity suite. And, I want to be one of those people.
Every time I sat down with Pages, I found myself getting frustrated. Ugh. Nothing was as intuitive as it should have been. On either the desktop app or iPad app, I found myself constantly googling how to do something, whether it was formatting a table or creating a new section in a document. Plus, if I screwed something up, fixing my mistake was a nightmare. Too often, I would just copy and paste whatever I was working with into another document, and usually into Word.
Is it okay. Sure. If I hadn’t grown up using Word, Pages might have been pretty good.
Google Docs. Can I just say that I have no idea why so many people get so excited about Google Docs. I say this as someone who uses G Suite for Education daily. My biggest beef with Google’s productivity suite: extensions. Whenever I want to do something even a little bit complicated, like sort a list alphabetically, I have to install an extension.
Then, there’s compatibility. Any time I try to open a document that originates from outside of Google’s bailiwick, there are formatting errors. Things just get messed up and I spend too much time fixing a document.
I get that it’s a cloud-based program so there are limitations to functionality when weighed against performance. Plus, an argument can be made for giving people more than they need. If people just need something to type up a document on, why not just give them something to type up a document on?
Enter the markdown editor. It’s probably the closest thing you can get to a typewriter, on a computer. It’s great.
You’re probably thinking, “Hold up, why would you opt to use something that does less than something you already have?”
The truth is that the strength of a markdown editor is that it doesn’t do too much. Without all of the bells and whistles, you’re able to focus on what you want to do most: write. There’s no worrying about fonts or page margins, you’re not making animations out of drawings, and you’re certainly not installing any extensions. There’s a little bit of syntax to learn, but it’s easy and efficient once you get the hang of it.
I’ve been using iA Writer and it’s been working out wonderfully for me. Across platforms, the program is clean and there haven’t been any issues with syncing through iCloud. The interface is easy to navigate on the desktop, iPad, and iPhone. Organising files is as easy as using hashtags. Creating Smart Folders wasn’t as intuitive as I thought it would be but it wasn’t hard to figure out. If I can’t remember the syntax, common commands like Command B work and there’s a Format menu to help you.
If I want to do more with my writing than iA Writer allows me to, I can export it to a .docx file or publish it straight to WordPress. But, one of the best features has to be the typewriter focus mode. I just love how the page scrolls up with every line break.
At the end of the day, all that matters is that you’re writing. Whether you opt for a pen and paper or enjoy typing with two thumbs on your phone, the most important thing is that you’re writing – producing content that helps you share your voice. If you’re looking for an app that’ll help you focus and keep you writing, get yourself a markdown editor.