During my evaluation of Content Management Solutions for the relaunch of this site I looked at a lot of Flat File CMS’s that not only supported the Markdown Language but were built directly around it. Despite returning to the site’s roots as a WordPress based website, I fell in love with the idea of being able to not only write the posts and pages in a language that was easy to understand where the code was coming from, but would also enable me to port the information over to PDF in real time without loosing any formatting or needing to rebuild things with the wonderful world of Copy & Paste.
I live and breath with the Chrome Browser and as nice as it is to be able to leverage a native application, I found myself needing the option to be able to move from my Desktop, to my Chromebook to my Tablet and to my phone with a single application that I could save my .md files directly to my Google Drive that is enabled across all of the devices…and for this, I turned to the Chrome Web Store and looked at the options presented there:
To give a little background about Markdown, in its most basic form, it is a WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) format for building HTML using a very, very streamlined editing format that functions very well for what I would need it to do (which is building content). I would not use it for building a website or even the core HTML behind a single page, but for the content…it is the perfect blend of form and function. It is the base of what GitHub has become and is the brain child of John Gruber and Aaron Swartz.
Depending on your wants and needs, there are Native Apps (like Markdown Pad for Windows and MultiMarkdown for Mac) but I was in need of something that was completely web based and would connect to my Chrome Browser that was the staple across all of the platforms that I could possibly be needing to access, from where ever I was.
The tool found at stackedit.io is so simple to just start using. It uses a split screen editor that will be a common theme through out almost every Markdown Editor that I have tried so that you can see your actions realized in real time. This simple and easy to use tool is completely free (although there is a sponsorship option) and it allows you to export to .md files to disk or even import your existing HTML code into the browser and start editing the content. This allows for the freedom of building different templates for content and then building upon that framework to have a unique post, page or other content directly from your browser.
This Chrome App is a purist app for hard core Markdown pundits. It has none of the Formatting Guides, Buttons or toolbars that other apps have and does require a basic understanding of the Markdown Shortcuts and code requirements that will enable the Markdown Editor to build beautiful content. Unlike most other tools, there is not a split screen view and you need to toggle back and forth from preview and editor. There is only one option once you are set up and that is Export to HTML. While this may be a more “advanced” type of editor because there is not simple “cheats”, there is an available “Guide” that you can place directly onto your Android Mobile Device via the Google Play Store as an ebook!
Sitting as a combination of the previous two editors, Mado is a Native Chrome App that opens in its own window and provides the split screen editing features of StackEdit. The clean interface does not include formatting toolbars but the option to run full screen editor, split screen or HTML output only is a nice option. By far the best feature of this editor though is the included Help File Search…simply type in the Formatting option that you are wanting to add to the Markdown Page and it will provide you with the code that is needed to produce the desired output.
For me though, the most bang for my non-existent buck though is StackEdit. I am a simple guy, with simple needs and at times, I need the comfort of old school editing that includes all the buttons and toolbars that I am used to from my 20+ years of using things like Microsoft Word, Dreamweaver and Notepad.
What will work for you? That all depends on what you really need from your Markdown Editor but any of them function in glorious simplicity and that at the end of the day is a good thing!