iA Writer

Markdown is a widespread format for authoring text documents that can easily be created with any text editor, are well to read, and allow their automatic formatting into HTML. To quote John Gruber, who invented the format in 2004:

Markdown is intended to be as easy-to-read and easy-to-write as is feasible. Readability, however, is emphasized above all else.

The single biggest source of inspiration for Markdown’s syntax is the format of plain text email. To this end, Markdown’s syntax is comprised entirely of punctuation characters, which punctuation characters have been carefully chosen so as to look like what they mean. E.g., asterisks around a word actually look like emphasis. Markdown lists look like, well, lists. Even blockquotes look like quoted passages of text, assuming you’ve ever used email.

Markdown’s syntax is intended for one purpose: to be used as a format for writing for the web.

The idea for Markdown is to make it easy to read, write, and edit prose. HTML is a publishing format; Markdown is a writing format. Thus, Markdown’s formatting syntax only addresses issues that can be conveyed in plain text.

Because Markdown is a plain text format, no specialized tool is required to write Markdown. Authors and readers can use different operating systems and different text editors and still work collaboratively on the same text document. The format sets you free!

For a coder, working with Git and GitHub, you likely cannot avoid to write your README files by using Markdown within your development editor, like with VS Code. It´s an elegant way of formatting text within a programmers environment.

Bloggers, who are running their own static websites, often use Markown to author their blog bosts. I do it for ulfschneider.io. While I could write my posts with VS Code, in this case I prefer to use iA Writer, because it provides a distraction-free environment, that is equally beautiful and powerful for Markdown editing.

I´m using iA Writer for many years. When I became aware of iA, the creators of iA Writer, I was immediately hooked by their minimalistic website design (which I liked more in the days back than I like it now) and their use of type. At the time they used Nitti (by Bold Monday) for their website as well as for iA Writer. Later they created their own font families iA Writer Mono, iA Writer Duo, and iA Writer Quattro, which are based on IBM Plex (again by Bold Monday) and are now the fonts of iA Writer. iA´s use of type is a big reason for me to use iA Writer. I think the readability is sublime and the tone that is created by the fonts is spot on for Markdown editing. I´m such a fan of the fonts, especially of iA Writer Quattro, that I´m using it on my blog for many years. Because iA is sharing their fonts for free on GitHub, I could easily play with it and build on it.

iA has an attitude of thinking about current problems in new ways. iA Writer has some novel features that are implemented with great care and still do not feature-overload the app. From their features list I´m using style check to improve my writing, templates for output formatting, and wikilinks to link text files with each other. I like the ability to create custom templates and I created one of my own: Letter for iA Writer. Follow iA´s documentation for custom templates if that´s a thing for you.

Overall, I like the reduced appearence of the app, that helps to stay focused on your writing.