Writing in Markdown with Typora

In an earlier post called A Novel Approach to Writing, I presented my setup for creative writing using the Atom text editor and Markdown files. Since then, I’ve found an even better writing program called Typora. And while it’s not open source (or even out of beta), it’s such an amazing little program that I couldn’t help but write about it.

Note: This is not a sponsored post. I’m not affiliated with Typora or its creator.

Typora is a Markdown editor with a surprisingly unique feature: a unified view for both writing and reading. Most Markdown editors split these into two separate views so you can edit the Markdown-formatted text directly. This is great if you’re a programmer who’s used to working in source code, but not so great if you’re a writer used to working in a word processor like Word or Pages. Splitting a word processor into two windows pulls the focus away from writing and makes you feel like you’re telling the computer how to build your story, rather than just write the story yourself.

Typora, meanwhile, is a WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) Markdown editor. You can type Markdown-formatted text into Typora, and it will render automatically. For example, bold text (text surrounded by two asterisks) actually appear bold, and images (essentially hyperlinks to image file) actually display. You can still view and edit the original Markdown by clicking on the element, but you don’t have to. It seems like a small thing, but it’s an powerful differentiation from other editors.

Image demonstrating Typora
Editing images in Typora using Markdown

Overall, Typora is much more oriented to word processing than to code editing. It has features like:

  • Formatting shortcuts
  • File previews
  • Spell checking and word counting
  • Auto-saving
  • Custom themes
  • A typewriter mode that keeps the current line centered
  • A focus mode that highlights the current paragraph and grays out everything else.

It takes some tips from IDEs like VS Code to make Markdown editing simpler, like automatically pairing characters used in Markdown syntax (like brackets and quotes), enforcing certain syntactical preferences, and generating advanced structures like diagrams and table of contents.

What sold me more than anything, though, is the minimalist writing interface. My installation of VS Code is littered with icons, text, and status bars from various extensions. After opening a project in Typora, I saw it in a whole new light. Working on it felt more natural, whereas in VS Code it felt more like a project. While there are other Markdown writing tools out there like QOwnNotes and Manuskript, none of them quite hit the mark like Typora. I plan on trying out Mark Text, as it seems to be the closest open source equivalent.

There’s a catch, though. Typora is free while it’s in beta, but will become a paid app once it becomes stable. The developer hasn’t yet said when this will happen, or what the pricing model will be, but it’s something to consider.

If you have a preferred Markdown editor or writing app, leave a comment!

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