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Make Atom a great Markdown editor

I use Markdown as much as I can but mainly to write blog posts and documentation. There are many great editors – at least on Mac – for Markdown but most of them are not free to use. Moreover, Ulysses just began a move, that others could follow, to a subscription model (~$5/month). Finally, I don’t want to avoid vendor lock-in and charging $40/year for plain text editing in a format designed to be usable from anywhere by John Gruber and Aaron Swartz.

with the goal of enabling people “to write using an easy-to-read, easy-to-write plain text format, and optionally convert it to structurally valid XHTML (or HTML)”.1

Among the Markdown editors my favorites are:

  • iA Writer: A reference
  • Byword: Another reference
  • Caret: A new comer very promising
  • Ulysses: The most powerful and also the less compliant with standards, that has moved recently to a subscription model Most of them provide the features I expect in any descent Markdown editor.

Atom is a modern text editor that has every required features to be a killer app for professional looking Markdown editing.

Main pros

  • It’s open source \o/
  • Cross-platform
  • Looks awesome :-)
  • File view (tree)
  • Multiple tabs
  • Use the palette to open a file by it’s name (CMD+P)
  • Autocompletion with tab
  • Git support — obviously — if you want to track changes
  • All you can expect from a powerful and modern text editor
  • Plenty of customizations (UI + syntax) for all the tastes
  • All you can imagine thanks to the plugin developed by the community

Here are the main packages / settings I use to turn the Atom editor into an amazing Markdown editor.

Markdown Preview Plus

Markdown Preview Plus is an enhancement of the standard Markdown Preview that renders Markdown documents by applying a stylesheet. I use it mainly for the following additional features

  • Front matter (header / metadata) support
  • Smart option to transform for example -- into en dash (–)
  • Math rendering (LaTeX) because I use it sometimes For the last two features it’s necessary to enable Pandoc (it has to be installed) and to add the smart option2.

Markdown-Writer

Mainly for shortcuts like cmd-b for bold. It’s necessary to create the default keymap to activate these shortcuts.

UI & Syntax

I use One build-in UI (either in light or dark flavor) with focus-light or focus-dark syntax. I also like much the very original flatwhite syntax.

Typewriter

To center the text on the screen instead of being left aligned.

Keyboard-sounds

To add keyboard sounds while you are typing. I ♥ it.

Wordcount

I don’t use it much but it’s a common feature of Markdown editors to display file statistics. And the result is (with the flatwhite theme)

/post/make-atom-a-great-markdown-editor_files/atom.png


  1. Markdown - Wikipedia ↩︎

  2. Pandoc User’s Guide ↩︎