Markdown is kind of a big deal right now. It’s one of the most popular ways to turn plain text into formatted text, and it’s showing up everywhere from blogging tools to note apps to comments online. The App Store is filled with text editors built around Markdown, each priding itself on having a minimalist interface that makes it easy to write in plain text. It’s hard to know the best one to use.
We’ve covered more then a few markdown apps in the past, and the list of Markdown apps is constantly growing. In this stage of the game, app authors need to create an app that stands above the pack to be competitive. Is Markdown Pro one of those, or just another editor in the pack?
Markdown in 60 seconds
If you’re unfamiliar with Markdown, I’d recommend taking a look at John Gruber’s (of Daring Fireball fame) introduction to Markdown. I couldn’t possibly go in to that much detail, and as always it’s best to get your information from the source… seeing as he’s one of the brains behind Markdown. In a nutshell, I do everything in Markdown. It’s incredibly useful for note taking (not for the faint of heart), email formatting, creating HTML without actually knowing HTML syntax, and documentation writing, to name a few use cases.
With the numerous use cases out there, you can see why the Markdown app market is so competitive and constantly growing. Lets move on to see how Markdown Pro stacks up.
A Look at Markdown Pro’s Features
Lets start from the top: Markdown Pro’s gorgeous. Markdown apps, good ones at least, are designed to stay out of your way and let you do what you came here to do, write. Markdown Pro does this exceedingly well. With the toolbar closed you’re left with a window with either a text editor, preview pane, or a split window with both.
The toolbar, when visible, gives you options to change the view, text size of the editor window, find text or a few useful functions such as export to PDF, print and the very useful syntax reference help menu for newbies. The quick access to the help menu has been a godsend, even though I’ve been using Markdown syntax for a few years.
Below the editor window there’s a handy word count and template selection dropdown. Markdown Pro comes with 10 preinstalled templates and while some are quite readable and useful others… not so much, but maybe to some. Exporting documents to PDF or HTML uses the template you have selected and does so quite well. Both the HTML and PDF exports look identical to the preview window and the HTML passes the W3C Markup Validation Service.
All the Lion/Mountain Lion features are present as well. If you’re a full screen aficionado, well, full screen away. Versions are available if you need to roll back, auto saving, and if you write in middle eastern languages full right-to-left support is present. For Retina display users, text is displayed in full retina resolution, but a few icons haven’t been updated yet though I wouldn’t call this a deal breaker, especially if you leave the toolbar hidden.
The 90 lb. Mou in the Room
Joshua Johnson wrote a review of Mou back in November 2011, and the similarities between these two editors is unmistakable. Mou adopts the two pane editing, has the Lion/Mountain Lion features, Retina Display support, and an awfully nice price tag of $0.00 (while in beta) verses Markdown Pro’s $9.99 Mac App Store price. If Markdown Pro was made by Apple, and Mou by Samsung, these two would be in court in seconds. Fortunately for us, neither of these apps is likely to get blocked by the courts.
Thoughts & Conclusion
If these two applications are so similar, Aaron, why would I spend the $9.99 on Markdown Pro over a free Mou? Polish. That might be a tough sell for (most) everyone. Mou is a fantastic markdown editor, and can do 95% of what Markdown Pro can but that other 5% is where I constantly go back to Markdown Pro. Most notable is the templates: Markdown Pro has 10 templates where Mou has 4, or 2 variants of 2 themes rather. The Github v2 template on Markdown Pro is identical to Github’s markdown theme, where Mou’s differs slightly. That in itself makes it nicer to use.
I’d find it a hard sell to say that Markdown Pro’s $10 price tag is justifiable over a free Mou, but according to the author, Mou won’t always be free. Like I said opening up this article, there’s more then just these two markdown editors out there, so I’d suggest taking a long hard look at the options available to you before making a decision. Just remember: you can’t go wrong with either of these best-in-class editors, in my opinion.