John Gruber on Jason Snell on iOS Markdown Editors


“I have no idea why there are now apps that use Markdown as their back end storage format but only show styled text without the Markdown source code visible… If you want Markdown, show the Markdown. Trust me, it’s meant to be shown.”

Simple answer to the “why”: for compatibility. I use Ulysses for writing most of my content. But it’s not always the place where words get originated. Quite often, anything longer than a quick post (like this one) will start its life on my Freewrite rather than my Mac, particularly if it’s written somewhere other than my home office1.

Because Ulysses uses Markdown as its underlying format, if I want to switch the app I use to write that’s not a problem. Likewise, it makes getting words into Ulysses incredibly easy.

Not everyone wants to see every piece of source code behind an interface, but everyone should be able to write without worrying that the underlying format will mean no ability to read those words in the future. As a kind of lingua franca for structured words, Markdown is great, but not everyone wants to see [links looking like this]( when they are writing. For some people – like me – it’s distracting and a little irritating to see everything. If anything, I would like an option in Ulysses to just hide all the formatting stuff.

For me, Ulysses offers just the right balance: a really good editor, using Markdown so I know I can always read those words no matter what platform I am using in the future, and an excellent client on both Mac and iPad. Markdown might have “meant to be shown” but it doesn’t have to be shown.

  1. After using the Freewrite’s keyboard I bought a DasKeyboard Pro with the same switches, and since then the keyboard on the 16in MacBook Pro feels like mushy crap. Sorry Apple.

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