Jason Snell on iOS Markdown Editors

Jason Snell, writing at Six Colors:

The App Store is littered with Markdown text editors, but not all Markdown implementations are created equal. I expect my Markdown editor to show me every single keystroke I enter, which means any attempt to hide hyperlinks will be met with immediate rejection. (Sorry, Ulysses and Craft.) I do appreciate syntax coloring and styling where appropriate — so that bolded text is bolded, and headings are prominent… so long as the app doesn’t swallow the markup that makes them so.

Maybe I don’t know much about Markdown, but my understanding is that the whole point of it is to provide a syntax where the most common HTML tags for prose can be replaced by simple punctuation characters that are meant to be visible to the writer. I want to see the characters so I know I’ll get exactly the HTML output I think I’m going to get, but those punctuation characters shouldn’t distract from the readability of the prose. I created Markdown to use in BBEdit without any syntax coloring at all, and to this day, I do most of my Markdown editing in MarsEdit, which doesn’t color or style Markdown syntax at all. (It should though! Markdown is even better with some syntax coloring and styling.)

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. Hey World, for example, gets this right: they just do simple WYSIWYG editing where bold is bold, italic is italic, and links look like links and the linked URL is edited in a popup. If you want WYSIWYG, do WYSIWYG. If you want Markdown, show the Markdown. Trust me, it’s meant to be shown.

Friday, 5 March 2021