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MultiMarkdown Composer 2 is a powerful, flexible Markdown-based text editor

MultiMarkdown Composer 2 has just been released and is currently available for US$5. Long story short: if you like to write in Markdown, you should get this app.

Why MultiMarkdown?

Markdown has been around for almost a decade, and has not changed much since its initial release. It gives people a simple way to make readable documents which are easily converted into HTML.

MultiMarkdown was created to add some frequently-requested features such as table support and footnotes, as well as working around some difficulties in Markdown itself, such as 'underscores in URLs' (or what I like to call "How do you solve a problem like Wikipedia links?")

I find MultiMarkdown's footnote support to be hugely beneficial, and consider it fairly essential to any significant writing that I do.

Why MultiMarkdown Composer?

The biggest challenge facing people who write in Markdown these days is that there are a whole host of different variations of Markdown out there. Most of them either add some feature to Markdown or fix some problem. Some of them might say that they are using 'Markdown' but are actually using a variant. For example, Tumblr says that it supports Markdown, but it also automatically links URLs (which isn't what strict Markdown down) and adds support for MultiMarkdown-style footnotes.

Now, I happen to think that MultiMarkdown is the most useful variant of Markdown because the changes and additions bring features that I like, but if you want strict Markdown syntax enforcement, MultiMarkdown Composer can help you too. Just choose Format > Markdown instead of Format > MultiMarkdown.

However, I think a better option is to write locally in MultiMarkdown using MultiMarkdown Composer, and then have it generate the HTML that you will use to post into whatever blog or CMS that you are using. That way you will not be relying on someone else's interpretation or implementation of Markdown, and can still use all of the additions that MultiMarkdown has to offer.

New Features in MultiMarkdown Composer version 2

Live Preview: One of my favorite features in MultiMarkdown Composer version 2 is the live-preview. While version 1 integrated very well with Marked, I often found it frustrating to have to switch to another app to see my document previewed. Actually I find it annoying to have to switch to another window.

There are several 'Markdown editors' available, and several of them have offered a 'split screen' mode where the window is divided into two halves: left side for editing, right side for preview.[1] MultiMarkdown Composer version 2 supports this feature and lets you choose which side you want to use for preview. MultiMarkdown Composer comes with several 'CSS-like' stylesheets to customize how the preview and editor is displayed, and it is very easy to adapt them if you want to make your own.

If you still want to use MultiMarkdown Composer with Marked, you can do that too, or you can just turn off the preview window altogether if you want to focus on writing.

There are three 'modes' which you can use:

  1. Typewriter Mode, which keeps the current line centered on the screen as you type
  2. Focus Mode which blurs the top and bottom of the current document. There is also a preference setting to allow you to control the 'Focus Mask Height' which determines how much of the document will be shown or hidden when in Focus Mode.
  3. Auto Zoom which will automatically resize the editor as you resize the window. Auto-zoom is a bit hard to explain, but very cool to see in practice. If you are writing on a small screen and want to simply focus on what you are writing, I suggest turning off the preview, turn on Auto Zoom, and make the MultiMarkdown Composer window full-screen.

Inspectors: MultiMarkdown Composer now also has three floating inspectors: Info, References, and Table Of Contents (TOC). Each of the inspectors can be toggled using a keyboard shortcut for easy access when you need them, or to hide them when you don't.

  1. The Info panel contains a running count for words, characters, and lines.

  2. The Reference panel keeps a handy list of your reference links, and makes it easy to insert them again if you need to use them in more than once place.

  3. The Table Of Contents panel not only lets you see the entire outline of your document, but it allows you to drag and drop different sections and rearrange your Markdown document. That's incredibly cool and useful, especially if you are writing a longer document and need to reorganize it.

Built in Cheat Sheet: I wrote a quick primer for Markdown, but MultiMarkdown Composer now has something even better: a built-in syntax guide which you can open (and close) using the keyboard shortcut ⌘ + / (or use the "Help" menu). This will give you fast access not only to the basics of Markdown, but also the special syntax additions available in MultiMarkdown.

Elastic Tabstops: I have to admit that I had never heard of Elastic Tabstops before, but for those of you who don't write everything in 12pt Inconsolata-g with real tabs, I could see how this would be useful. (MultiMarkdown Composer also has a feature to change tabs to spaces or vice versa.)

'Old' features in MultiMarkdown Composer which are very handy: MultiMarkdown Composer has features to clean up metadata, lists, and tables which is very handy. It also does a very good job of determining when you are creating a list and continuing it automatically. There's also a 'Toggle List Type' option (which may be new or maybe I just missed it before) which will change an ordered (numbered) list into an unordered (bulleted) list.

Pricing

You probably know the drill by now: Apple doesn't give developers any way to offer 'upgrade pricing' so when new versions of apps are released, developers generally offer the app for a reduced price for a limited time. That allows existing users to buy the new version for a reduced price, but also allows new users to get it for that price too. While I think this is sort of a raw deal for developers who are losing a significant amount of profit for new users, it doesn't appear that Apple is going to change this policy any time soon.

If you are reading this after the introductory price has expired, don't worry, you will still be buying a great app which is well worth the asking price.

Use Markdown? Use MultiMarkdown Composer.

I have been writing in Markdown for as long as I can remember, and have been writing in MultiMarkdown since I learned of it. For me it's a simple decision, I've tried several different 'markdown text editors' and I keep coming back to MultiMarkdown Composer. If you have been thinking about learning Markdown or MultiMarkdown, MultiMarkdown Composer makes it very easy to do.

You can find out more about MultiMarkdown Composer at http://multimarkdown.com or learn more about MultiMarkdown Syntax to see why it's a better alternative.


  1. Mou might not have been the first app to offer it, but it was the first that I saw.

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