Erato: A Markdown Editor With a Bit More Flavour

Here at Mac.Appstorm, we love finding apps that can simplify our work — especially when it comes to Markdown writing apps that make it easier to craft our articles. We’ve looked at 35 unique Markdown apps for the Mac — a series of editors, previewers, and other categories where Markdown can be applied. Adding to the list is 9Muses’ Erato ($5.99). It’s a simple and minimalistic app designed for editing and viewing your Markdown documents side-by-side, following the split-screen concept adopted by apps like Mou and Markdown Pro.

Besides its beautiful and simple design, what sets Erato apart is how it offers additional support for Github-flavoured Markdown syntax and YAML front matter. But while these may be its unique selling points, Erato as a Markdown editor isn’t as powerful as Mou or other more robust editors. And after testing the app, I realised that it still has to iron out a few bugs, particularly with how it converts Markdown to HTML.

Let me walk you through the app to show you what I mean.

Clunky Conversion to HTML

Erato: your workspace.

Erato: your workspace.

Erato offers you a clean slate to work with the moment you launch the app. You have the black editor on the left and the white preview pane on the right. If you already have a good grasp of the standard syntax, jump right in and start writing your article, essay, or blog post in Markdown.

If you use GitHub-flavoured Markdown or YAML front matter, you’ll find that Erato is a great editor to use when writing with both. You can now define a blog post’s meta data, add friendly line breaks, quick quoting, and insert fenced code blocks and task lists.

This is cool if you use any of these frequently when writing in Markdown, but Erato seems to have trouble converting basic Markdown syntax. For instance, after bolding or italicising a word and hitting the Return key, Erato would treat the next line as an unordered list item by automatically inserting the asterisk first.

erato_issue_preview

Might be a bug somewhere.

Another instance would be how an ordered list would appear as a bulleted (unordered) list on the preview pane. I’ve tried creating another ordered list after breaking a few paragraphs to see if it would repeat the problem. Thankfully, it converted it to a numbered list properly this time.

erato_preview_issue_2-2

More problems with how Erato converts Markdown to HTML.

These issues get in the way with the writing process. It confuses the user, leaving him or her wondering if s/he is using the correct format. So until the developers squash these bugs in the next update, you can toggle the preview pane to work with just the editor by hitting ⌥⌘P or by clicking on the left arrow button at the top right portion of the preview pane.

The Good and the Lacking

erato_different_themes

Erato comes with different themes for both the editor and preview pane.

Besides support for GitHub-flavoured Markdown and YAML front matter, Erato’s features include live scrolling, autocompletion of ordered/unordered lists, task lists, and blockquotes; auto-indentation for code blocks; and Mac retina display and full-screen support. In the customisation department, you can choose from four editor themes, two preview themes, and different font faces and sizes. In Preferences, you can tell Erato to indent code blocks with four spaces instead of using the tab button and to use GitHun-flavoured Markdown.

In terms of saving your work, Erato autosaves and resumes so you can always go back to where you left off whenever you launch the app. You can also take a look at previous versions to see if there’s anything you’d like to go back to when writing—definitely a huge plus for me.

But with these features, you would expect support for MultiMarkdown, a superset of Markdown that adds other formatting features like footnotes, citations, and tables. Unfortunately, it works with just the basics, so you’ll have to stick to the standard syntax when creating your documents.

The truth is I’m more irked by the fact that Erato doesn’t have the ability to copy the raw HTML of your work. You can only export your Markdown document to either HTML or PDF. With Markdown Pro or Byword, I’d just copy the HTML format and paste it onto the text editor to be edited and published right after.

Finally, Erato doesn’t have keyboard shortcuts to quickly add formatting to your document, so you can’t use Ctrl+B or Ctrl+I when editing specific words or phrases. It’s quite frustrating after getting used to doing so with shortcuts, so it may take some getting used to.

Torn In Between

The pros and cons of using Erato are pretty clear cut. On one hand, you have a simple and clean Markdown editor that extends itself by giving you more flexibility in terms of formatting and saving your content. You can also go back to previous versions in case you need to retrieve or pull out past content. On the other hand, there are certain features and issues that Erato needs to add and address. You have keyboard shortcuts and copy HTML, which are must-haves for a Markdown editor. There is also the inconsistency of the app’s ability to convert Markdown to HTML, which I hope will get sorted out soon.

Overall, Erato continues to be a work in progress with lots of potential. I look forward to seeing significant improvements to the app that would give it the oomph it needs to contest existing editors, particularly those that cater to more advanced Markdown users.


Summary

A Markdown split-screen editor for simultaneous writing and previewing in HTML. Supports standard Markdown syntax, GitHub-flavoured Markdown, and YAML front-matter.

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