Valletta: A Powerful But Flawed Markdown Editor

If you’re a Markdown fan, then it’s likely that you’re always looking for a new editor with amazing capabilities. As of now, there are many of them on the Mac App Store, though they all differ in abilities and features. Some are just focused on writing (Byword, for instance), while others seem to concentrate more on including unique features that help you to do more than just write. The Markdown language is obviously more than just a tool you’d use for writing once in a while. It’s able to translate what you type into rich text or HTML without the need of a visual editor – and that’s what makes it so special.

Today I’m going to introduce a new type of Markdown editor to you. Instead of focusing just on distraction-free writing as most apps do, this one puts more of an emphasis on a special feature the developers call “combined view”. In addition to this, it has support for custom CSS, meaning that you can customize your document to many extents. The app is called “Valletta” and I’ll explain more on about after the break, so be sure to keep reading.

Features

Some headers and text about some fox I don't know

Since there’s not really anything to set up before beginning, I’ve skipped over the getting started section and decided to dive right in to the features. While Valletta is much more feature-packed than competitors, it doesn’t actually have as many as you might expect. It’s still that simple Markdown editor that you’ve been used to, but it has some special enhancements for the more advanced user. Let’s go over these, shall we?

  • Combined view: Here’s the most important feature of Valletta; it allows you to write in Markdown and see the results of the code right there instead of having to preview it. I don’t personally like this feature that much because I find to to be both ugly and a bit distracting, but others may love it since it brings some elements a visual editor has to Markdown editing.
  • CSS: As I mentioned above, this is definitely the second most important feature in Valletta. Instead of the traditional Markdown editor that just lets you type plain text onto a page and then gives you the option of exporting it as HTML, Valletta will let you customize the CSS stylesheet of the page, which is great for Web developers and other advanced users.
  • Keyboard shortcuts: If you’re looking for a quick way to move between the three views that Valletta provides, then all you have to do is press CMD + 1, 2, or 3 to go to the Markdown Source Editor, Combined Editor, and Preview, respectively. This is helpful for quick navigation and really makes things easier if you need to see how something will look once it’s in HTML.
  • Quick Markdown syntax reference: Valletta includes a small button in the bottom right corner of the app that, when clicked, brings up a small reference screen for those who do not know Markdown very well. I wish more apps would include such a reference pop-up, because it would be very helpful to people who don’t know anything about the language.

User Interface

The dull fullscreen interface

In all reality, the user interface in Valletta is just not attractive. It has no originality or elements of interest and the suffers from graphical bugs as well. I feel that it lacks the class that other apps like Byword and iA Writer seem to have. In addition to this, the combined editor’s pink highlight is horribly boring and can only be changed manually through the CSS stylesheet.

Bugs, Issues, and Weaknesses

If you scroll up and down twice, this is what happens

I’ve always been one to point out the weak spots that an app has, because it only seems fair to tell you before you decide to go purchase it. This particular app doesn’t have a whole lot of weak points and issues, but are some worth mentioning.

  • There are no focus options: Aside from that grotesque pink highlight overlay that resides in the combined view mode, there are really no focus options for people who are editing their document
  • There’s no way to hide the word count or add a character count: For me, this is annoying because I have a hard time hitting my word limit on articles and the presence of a word counter is both distracting and unproductive – though it may be useful to some. In addition, there’s no way to see how many characters are in the document, which some people may require.
  • This app is picky about Markdown: Say you’re writing a list, just like this one that you’re reading. Well, it’s not as easy as tapping the little “-” key, but rather holding shift and pressing the “8” key for the asterisk. Not one other Markdown editor that I’ve used on the Mac does this, so I’m not sure what the problem is here. I’m not the only one who’s noticed this either, because there’s a review on the Mac App Store that complains about the same thing. Hopefully they resolve the issue soon.
  • The “Markdown Syntax Reference” screen won’t come up after closing: This is an irritating little bug that the app seems to have, at least for me. You know that nice Markdown reference pop-up that I mentioned earlier? It’s great, don’t get me wrong there. The problem is that once you click it and close the pop-up, you have to close the entire app before you’ll be able to get the pop-up again, which isn’t helpful at all. I couldn’t even get it to reappear by using the keyboard shortcut (CMD + /) or the option in the Help menu.
  • Lack of export formats: Even though being able to export the document in DOC, HTML, and PDF should suffice, some users may wish to use other methods of export. In Byword, for instance, you can copy the HTML to the clipboard or export in RTF and LaTeX, which aren’t available in Valletta.

Conclusion

Yep, this story is still going

So, for the price of $6.99, is this a good Markdown editor or has it received an undeserved markup? I think it’s the latter since the features that it includes just aren’t worth $6.99. Sure, they’re great for the advanced Markdown user, but I don’t think that many will want to pay that much for them. Even though competitors like Byword and iA writer are $9.99, I’d recommend them over this because they’re much more distraction free and easily customizable.

For instance, if I wanted to change the background in Valletta to black and the text to white, then I’d have to manually edit the CSS. In Byword, I can simply go to the preferences menu and change it with one click. It’s the same with the font and document size – which is either medium, wide, or narrow in Byword. I like having these quick options because then I can focus on writing.

Valletta has good customizability with CSS integration, but I feel like it’s only needed for an advanced user. In other words, if you want a Markdown editor for building a webpage or something, then this might just do you well. However, if you’re just looking for a simple Markdown editor, then this is not for you.


Summary

Valletta is the first single-pane Markdown editor. Valletta's unique Combined View displays only the line under the cursor as Markdown source, and it displays the rest in "marked-down" form. This makes Valletta a beautiful and distraction-free Markdown Editor that doesn't waste your precious screenspace with an unnecessary preview pane.

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  • http://techinch.com/ Matthew Guay

    Hey Jacob, thanks for reviewing Valletta. I was ever so slightly interested in trying it out after John Gruber mentioned it on DF, but the icon and screenshots made me hesitate from the first. I’ll be glad to stick with iA Writer and Typerighter for now :)

    • http://papermail.me Jacob Penderworth

      Yeah, it looks a bit tacky for a $6.99 app.

  • maeltj

    Maybe you have to try this:
    http://mouapp.com/

    I used markdown note, but it stop working, no more updates or support to solve problems.

    I found Mou and I love it. Simple and fast.

    • http://papermail.me Jacob Penderworth

      That looks really nice, I’ll check it out!

  • Paul Dunahoo

    If you want a markdown writer, get iA Writer.

    • http://papermail.me Jacob Penderworth

      Byword is great too, you know. iA Writer was really good on iOS, but now Byword is out on it as well — decisions, decisions.

      • RJ

        Byword is better, and I have iA Writer to compare it to.

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