Mark Llobrera

MacDown

Following up on my text editor musings from my website launch post, Nicolas Hoizey recommended MacDown, an open-source Markdown editor from Tzu-ping Chung. I’ve been evaluating IA Writer this week after running into some constraints with Ulysses, but I’m also quite partial to projects that are labors of love—MacDown apparently came to life after Mou ceased development. (For context: I also use nvALT and Byword a lot for quick, single-file Markdown edits.)

Initial observations #

Front Matter #

MacDown’s startup screen touts Jekyll front matter support, which presumably would support Eleventy’s YAML front matter. But it’s not enabled by default, so I was a little confused when I dropped in a quick attempt:

MacDown default rendering of YAML front matter, with the directives rendered inline instead of in a table.
Default rendering of fenced YAML front matter block

Turns out in the Rendering section of the preferences there’s a checkbox “Detect Jekyll front-matter”, which results in a much more pleasant table rendering of YAML:

MacDown rendering of YAML front matter, after checking the “Detect Jekyll front-matter preference checkbox”.
Table rendering of “Jekyll” YAML block

This is still better than what I’ve experienced in IA Writer, which doesn’t render the YAML block at all.

Finding the balance #

If IA Writer is very careful and particular—but rigid—in its design decisions, then MacDown is way more open to tinkering with the editor experience. My early negative reaction to the default editor view melted away after I spent some time tweaking the preferences—setting a maximum editor width is immensely helpful, for starters:

MacDown editor pane with maximum width set.
MacDown’s editor pane after setting a maximum width, using Operator Mono as the font.

I suppose it comes down to whether I feel like the preview pane behavior is a dealbreaker. (To be fair, with Eleventy and Browsersync maybe I should just treat the browser output as a slightly-delayed preview.) I’m going to keep trying both out for a few more days and see where I land.

(You can download MacDown here.)