Typed, Markdown Zen

Earlier this year I wrote a post on an amazing Markdown1 editor for iOS called Editorial. Since I’ve taken up Editorial on my iPad and iPhone I’ve been looking for an editor of comparable quality on my Mac. There are several popular Markdown editors on the Mac App Store, and I’ve purchased two of the more popular entries, but nothing has captured my interest as much as Editorial. That is, until now.

Over the Summer RealMac Software began teasing a Markdown editor they were developing. I’m a fan of RealMac’s offerings, and have have used their popular Rapid Weaver application to make some rather robust web-sites. RealMac puts a great deal of thought into their products, and when they began teasing a new editor, I was intrigued. Could this become my Markdown tool of choice on my Mac?

The Experience

Much of the tease surrounding Typed was about designing an experience for writers. RealMac wanted to do it’s best to ensure writing in Typed would be an almost zen-like experience, right down to the application icon. In this, I feel they have succeeded brilliantly.

RealMac’s attention to detail led them to create their own font especially designed for the writing experience in the application, “Typed Pro.” This font is actually a combination of two different fonts2. Headings use the font “Lato” and the body utilizes “Gentium Book.” The combination creates a very nice balance between heading and body while keeping the plain text benefits of Markdown.

Headers have also had some thought put into their creation. When a header is invoked with a hashtag character, not only does the font switch to Lato, it seems to grow into Lato. The transformation is surprisingly pleasing.

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of Type’s experience is Zen Mode. When the application enters full screen Typed will play a soundtrack of ambient sounds designed to create a peaceful atmosphere for writing. I typically don’t care for background noise while writing, but when I play the Zen soundtrack I don’t find it to get in my way. For people who enjoy background music while writing, I can see it as a very pleasing addition.

Features

I began this reflection on Typed with the experience because this is where RealMac put the bulk of their efforts when designing the application. This isn’t to say Typed is a “lite” editor, but rather deliberately focused.

Options in Typed have a narrow range. Preferences are limited to selecting an ambient soundtrack and enabling/disabling interface sounds, inspirational quotes, and window transparency. The writing view offers a few fonts other than “Typed Pro,” several color themes, and the ability to toggle responsive layout on/off3. While some might find this number of options limiting, RealMac’s deliberate design make them fit wonderfully into the application.

Export options are similarly narrow. While some Markdown editors allow conversion to a wide range of file types, Typed focuses on only two – HTML and RTF. Again, as these two formats are usable just about everywhere, the limited number of options doesn’t feel restrictive.

Where Typed does seem to lack in comparison to other editors is in the number of Markdown features which are recognized for conversion. In this first release, RealMac stuck with the base Markdown4 syntax. This covers character styles like italic and bold, as well as hyperlinks, images, and headers. More intricate features like tables and footnotes, which are handled in Markdown variants like Multimarkdown, are not currently supported in Typed. Again, this seems to have been a deliberate design decision. RealMac focused on the most narrow range of features possible in order to ensure their desired zen-like experience. I do have some hope some expanded Markdown features will be added in the near future, but even without these features being currently implemented the brilliance of Markdown itself shines through. Since a Markdown file is nothing but plain text, I can use whatever syntax I want in Typed, and still be able to read my content. Then, if I want to convert my text to some other format, I only need to open the file in an editor which does recognize my tags. For example, the footnotes in this post are not currently understood by Typed’s export or preview features, but I will end up copying this text and pasting it into the WordPress editor – which converts Markdown footnotes perfectly.

Thoughts

Is this the Markdown editor to get on the Mac? If we were going by number of supported features, or range of configurability, or number of Markdown extensions used then the answer would be “no.” If we are looking for a deliberately designed writing environment which is a joy to use, however, then Typed is easily worth the $20 price tag. Interestingly enough, while my favorite Markdown editor on iOS (Editorial) keeps it’s place because of it’s incredible power and customizability, Typed has become my favorite Mac Markdown editor precisely because it is so focused and tightly ensconced into a particular experience.


  1. Markdown is a plain-text markup language which can be easily converted to other formats, especially HTML. The goal is to allow the text to be human-readable even without needing to be converted. 
  2. You can see RealMac’s description of the font here 
  3. If responsive layout is toggled off, users may also manipulate the font size. 
  4. Actually, it’s the only real Markdown, other variants are unofficial extensions which have grown in popularity, Multimarkdown being one of the most common. 
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