Six Colors on iOS Markdown editors
Jason Snell's search for the perfect iOS markdown editor reminds me why perfection is subjective, and why it was right for me not to jump on the iPad-only bandwagon.
I rarely disagree with Jason Snell, but his preference for markdown editors to bare all is not something I like, at least not all the time.
I expect my Markdown editor to show me every single keystroke I enter, which means any attempt to hide hyperlinks will be met with immediate rejection. (Sorry, Ulysses and Craft.) I do appreciate syntax coloring and styling where appropriate—so that bolded text is bolded, and headings are prominent… so long as the app doesn’t swallow the markup that makes them so.
Cluttered markdown syntax is a deal breaker for me, at least when it comes to focussed writing. There's a lot I like about iA Writer, but how it handles markdown is not one of them. Markdown hyperlinks are an eyesore, and their abstraction is one of the reasons why I prefer Ulysses over iA Writer – at least for drafting.
It's a different matter when I need to work on markdown itself, or the subject matter is inherently technical, or when I need less abstraction between the source and output. Working directly on the text is also crucial for automation. However, these activities aren't drafting; they're editing, formatting, pre-press, production. They require a different mindset, and I would argue, a different toolset.
I'm comfortable using different programs and utilities for different purposes or contexts even when working on the same file – in fact I prefer it. Of course, this is easy when working on a desktop operating system with a usable file system, a command line and shell scripting. But, what's easy on a Mac, Linux or Windows box requires a Rube Goldberg machine of Siri Shortcuts and Share Sheet extensions when iPad is your primary device. It's little wonder that some iOS users are fixated with finding the perfect, do-all app. I certainly fell into this trap when I was contemplating a full-time switch to iPad back when it looked like Apple had given up on the Mac. Those were truly dark days...
I've spilt a lot of ink on this website in search of the perfect text/markdown editor, only to come to the conclusion there is no such thing. Ulysses, iA Writer, Drafts, MultiMarkdown Composer, Editorial, Textastic, VSCode, Sublime Text, etc, etc...all have their strengths and weakeness.