MultiMarkdown Composer 2: Editing Just Got Smarter

When I first discovered Markdown and shortly thereafter MultiMarkdown, I instantly fell in love. Almost overnight writing workflows and tools were transfigured. They became more streamlined and ubiquitous.

Therefore, when news surfaced that Fletcher Penny was readying the release of MultiMarkdown Composer 2, I was antsy to get my hands on it. The wait was a long one… but well worth it!

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Look And Feel.

MultiMarkdown Composer in all its glory.

MultiMarkdown Composer in all its glory.

When starting Composer for the very first time, you’ll be greeted with a view very similar to that what we’ve come to expect from this type of application: a main window split vertically, showing both editor and preview. The similarities to other editors, however, end there.

Composer also has three HUDs that provide additional information and functionality:

  • Information HUD – Shows word, character and line counts, either for the entire document or selected text
  • References HUD – Holds the various reference entries found in your document (links, images, footnotes, etc.). You can search for a reference entry and double clicking or dragging an entry to the editor window will insert it into your document
  • Table Of Contents HUD – Holds a live outline of your document, which can easily be searched and navigated (clicking on an entry will navigate both editor and preview to that section). Additionally, you can drag and drop entries in your TOC to rearrange the document structure. As is the case with the References HUD, dragging and entry into the editor window will create a link to that section of the document.
A view of all HUDS showing a TOC entry being dragged.

A view of all HUDS showing a TOC entry being dragged.

Style It.

Composer has a rather powerful syntax highlighter under its hood which can be fully customised by means of Styles. Although the bundled styles aren’t very appealing in my opinion, it’s easy enough to fashion one to your taste. If however that isn’t your thing, styles from other users are starting to surface already.

The style I’m using can be found here.

Smart Editing Features.

Unlike most other text editors, where MultiMarkdown seems to be an afterthought, Composer was designed with it in mind. This becomes immediately apparent once you start using it. The app is teeming with clever little features that make editing MultiMarkdown a much smarter affair.

To aid you in getting your words down as efficiently as possible, Composer will autocomplete pairs for you as well as automatically format lists, code blocks and block quotes. You can also just as easily toggle between list types with a single keystroke.

Magic Tables.

Tables in Composer are truly smart and working with them is – dare I say – a sheer joy. Start your table, type a header, hit tab and immediately a new | is inserted for you. Once you’ve entered all your headers, hit enter and Composer will complete the alignment row and place your cursor in the first cell. If the cell contents grow wider than the header then the app will shift everything so that it remains neatly aligned and readable.

Tables as seen in Byword (top) and Composer(bottom).

Tables as seen in Byword (top) and Composer(bottom).

The magic doesn’t stop here though. Composer allows you to paste tab separated values as either a table or table rows. This means you can easily copy a content from a Spreadsheet app, paste it as a table and Composer will format it correctly.

Lists Are Fun Too.

Creating lists is just as easy and magical. Either select some text that is already on your page and hit ⌃⌘L turning that text into a list item. Hit that very same key combo and it will toggle list type. As happens with many other apps, when you move on to the next line, Composer will continue the list for you. Additionally, you can paste any text as a list, either bulleted or enumerated.

Other Smart Tidbits.

Besides the already mentioned options, you also have Paste As Blockquote. Selecting some text and hitting ⇧⌘B or ⇧⌘I will turn the text Bold or Italic respectively. Creating a Markdown formatted link is a simple matter of selecting text and pasting a URL.

Before and After Cleaning Selected Lists.

Before and After Cleaning Selected Lists.

Now while Composer is smart enough to aid you in creating properly formatted lists, tables and metadata, you may have some legacy text where that isn’t the case. Selecting that text and choosing Format>Cleanup Selected (List/Table/Metadata) will correct this.

For those that prefer keyboard shortcuts over mousing around, Composer delivers. You can navigate between sections of your document, increase and decrease your selection ranging from word, line, paragraph or entire document and shift text up, down, left and right, all with a few keystrokes.

Import And Export.

Getting text in and out of Composer has clearly received as much thought and attention as did every other aspect of the app. Composer supports most text files (txt, md, mmd, ft, etc.) and additionally opens OPML outline files. When importing an OPML file, each node is a heading section and notes attached to a node are text under that specific section. This is without a doubt one of Composers “killer” features. It just makes it that much easier to get from brainstorm/outline to final text. OPML is also amongst the many export formats that Composer supports, as are MultiMarkdown Text Format, HTML, rtf, LaTex, PDF, Word and OpenOffice Document.

Exporting to PDF relies on Web Preview so you need to have it open in order to export to PDF.

Minor Gripes.

As great as it’s been to work with Composer 2, there are a few minor quirks that I feel need to be ironed out, in order for it to reach awesomeness!

  • Automatic Pairs – This s a great feature with a single flaw: when deleting the initial pair, the second remains. I would expect that when deleting the first pair the second be removed as happens in other apps with a similar feature.
  • Info HUD – I would have liked to see was smarter info panel with a more consistent behaviour. Currently, metadata and ending # in headings are included in the word count. On the other hand, it doesn’t count the URL part in a link as an extra word (which is correct in my opinion).
  • Preview – Live web preview also exhibits inconsistent behaviour when dealing with images. In some cases it shows the image correctly whereas in others it simple shows the dreaded blue question mark.
Preview is inconsistent. Both images are present and named correctly.

Preview is inconsistent. Both images are present and named correctly. 

  • Exporting – Both exporting to PDF and printing will retain text formatting of the current style which can sometimes lead to strange results (Solarized will render light text on a white document making it almost unreadable). This is not the case when exporting to rtf, doc, fodt or HTML. It would however make more sense to retain style of the preview when exporting to HTML.

Final Thoughts.

As I stated in the beginning of this review, the wait was long but worthwhile. This is without a doubt an essential app to have in your tool belt if you work with MultiMarkdown. With smart editing features and extensive import/export options, it’s a steal at $11.99.


Summary

MultiMarkdown Composer is a text editor for Mac that is designed from the ground up around the MultiMarkdown Syntax.

9
  • ChrisM

    Mou App is free and does a terrific job. Mou.app http://mouapp.com

    • http://palobo.tumblr.com Pedro Lobo

      Yeah, I’m familiar with Mou and have used it often in the past. It is however important to state that Mou is free while in Beta, after that I think it’s still not known how much it’ll cost.

      Having said that though, Composer brings to the table a few things that you won’t find in any other app. Elastic tabstops and automatically adjust your text so it aligns correctly making it easier to read, automatic tables, keyboard shortcuts to restructure your document in case you don’t want to do so via TOC HUD, it is a real time saver. Believe me when I tell you that.

      • http://www.devolute.net Ian P

        ToC support is included in the libraries that Mou app is based on, so hopefully this will come soon. It’s a great app regardless.

        • http://palobo.tumblr.com Pedro Lobo

          Interesting, wasn’t aware of this. Thanks for the info.

  • http://palobo.tumblr.com Pedro Lobo

    I highly recommend MultiMarkdown Composer 2, but after seeing what 2.1 has to offer, I just have to reiterate my recommendation!!

    http://support.multimarkdown.com/kb/general/multimarkdown-composer-21-beta

  • Tim

    I really just don’t get Markdown.
    You have to use tags to specify how you want text to be styled. HTML also uses tags to specify how you want text to be styled. Why not just use HTML tags?
    Instead of writers and coders getting used to YET ANOTHER syntax, writers should just learn simple HTML tags. In using Markdown, writers are basically forcing coders to learn another language that is completely unnecessary.
    It doesn’t take any longer to type h1 than it does to type #.

    • David Villamizar

      Sure, but you are not counting the , Markdown is a lot easier to read than html, since you don’t have a ton of tags. I think there should be a more friendly way to do this, using some kind of toggle system that creates the needed code, i.e. bold, just toggle bold with a keyboard shortcut, and being able to combine a lot of toggle likewise, editing text for the web should be like using word, leaving the code to the program.

      • http://www.163.com/ Frida

        Nice

      • http://palobo.tumblr.com Pedro Lobo

        Hi David,

        Some valid points there. As for your idea, most apps already do this, including MultiMarkdown Composer. Just select some text and type ⌘B or ⌘I and you’ll get Bold or Italic.

    • http://palobo.tumblr.com Pedro Lobo

      Hi Tim,

      Clearly you don’t get Markdown. As David mentioned, Markdown is not necessarily for coders. There is nothing that coders need to learn because there are a great many apps that convert between Markdown HTML since it’s rather straightforward.

      As David also mentioned, it’s a great deal easier to read AND learn Markdown then HTML.

      As for your idea that it’s just as quick to write html as it is Markdown, I beg to disagree. As a simple example.

      Markdown: (54 Chars)
      # CooL Title

      Some **Bold** text followed by *italic*.

      HTML: (88 Chars)
      Cool Title

      Some Bold text followed by italic.

      Can you honestly say it takes the same amount of time to write the two, or that both are as readable? I think not.

      But to each their own. As with everything else, use what works best for you. I find that with the sheer amount of apps that support Markdown on just about every platform I use, Mac, iOS, Android, Windows, Linux etc. it simple makes more sense.

      PS. The HTML above was generated by MultiMarkdown Composer 2 ;)

    • Tim

      So, if you’re using it just because it’s easier to read, then why not just use a WYSIWYG html editor? Then you will never have to see any “code symbols” at all.
      Again, don’t get the point of Markdown.

      • http://palobo.tumblr.com Pedro Lobo

        Hi Tim,

        Like I previously said, each should use what works best for them, but I can give you a few examples why Markdown is a valued addition to my workflow. A few things that factor in to my decision to use Markdown are:

        1. With my MultiMarkdown documents, I can have quite a bit of extra metadata that won’t be visible in the final document, but proves useful on an almost daily basis;

        2. I tend to write a lot of technicall documentation for my day job. This usualy includes some code, console output, links, lists and text that I need enphasized somehow. I can write this very quickly in any text editor (vim included) and store it with my many notes and techdocs. When I need to share this doc with a colleague, I can simply export to HTML, PDF or an array of other formats and it will keep all formatting. All these notes are available on all my devices and retain the same formatting across all devices.

        3. When writing for AppStorm or any other publication, I can start writing in Markdown on my Mac, continue on the iPad and when completed, export to final format. I could write in worpress directly, but this way I compose while offline and only go online when it’s time to publish.

        4. While not the sole reason, the fact that I have a small SSD on my MacBook Air means that I have to pay attention to used space. As an example, this very post in Markdown (with a couple lines of extra metadata) is only 8k whereas exported to HTML it’s about 15k, almost double. Now that doesn’t seem like much, but multiplied by many docs it does add up.

        Ultimately, I can rest assured that all these notes, docs, blog posts will remain readable in the coming years and not stuck in some proprietary format.

        But like I said, if it just doesn’t fit your workflow, that’s fine. Personally I feel that I benefit from it daily.

  • http://twitter.com/AwesomeSchaefer Austin

    Does MMD Composer allow you to set your default characters for bold, italics, and bulleted lists? I’m rather fussy about always using + signs for bulleted lists; _underscores_ for italics, and **double asterisks** for bold (makes things easier to find/replace later, if needed). Unfortunately, most other MMD-specific editors default to using asterisks for all three (example: Scratch for iOS).

    • http://twitter.com/AwesomeSchaefer Austin

      I should clarify: This is also because I am insanely picky.

    • http://palobo.tumblr.com Pedro Lobo

      Hi Austin,

      mmd Composer allows you to specify in preferences whether to use _ or * for bold and italics. This will have effect when selecting text and hitting ⌘B or ⌘I.

      It doesn’t enforce any other rule so you can easily use + for lists, _ for italics and ** for bold.

      In short, yeah, you can choose what works best for you!

      Example: http://cl.ly/image/0q1X1K2F1u1F

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  • Dellu

    I bought this app after I read this review. I was happy that Flecher developed an app. I also like the TOC feature; so easy to jump to sections.

    But, the app is horrible. It is eating up all of my RAM; 4GB ram chewed, and my mac is stuck after a couple of minutes use.

    horrible

    • http://palobo.tumblr.com Pedro Lobo

      Hi Dellu,

      I’m sorry to hear that you’re having trouble with the app. I must say that it’s the first I’ve heard of excessive CPU from mmd Composer. I use it daily and have not had any troubles of that type.

      May I suggest you try and reinstall and if the trouble persists them please file a bug on http://support.multimarkdown.com That will be the best place to get you sorted out.

      I sincerely hope you get that sorted out so you may start enjoying all that mmd Composer has to offer.

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