Writing in Markdown with UberWriter
I do a majority of my writing (and that includes all of my blogging) in Markdown. What’s Markdown? It’s what’s called a lightweight markup language and it allows me to write and format what I’m writing using keyboard symbols. You can learn more about Markdown here.
There are a number of reasons I use Markdown, but essentially it has to do with my love of working in plain text and the need for flow.
Over the years, I’ve used a number of online, desktop, and mobile editors to work with Markdown. Many of them had features that I liked but none really had everything I was looking for.
That was until I ran into UberWriter. For me, it’s almost the perfect Markdown editor. Read on to find out why.
The first thing you’ll need to do, obviously, is grab a the software. If you’re using Ubuntu, it’s available in the Software Center. If you’re using an Ubuntu derivative like Linux Mint, you need to add a PPA by running the following commands in a terminal window:
sudo add-apt-repository ppa:w-vollprecht/ppa sudo apt-get update sudo apt-get install uberwriter
Once UberWriter is installed, start from your application menu. In Linux Mint, you can find it under Menu > Office > UberWriter.
As you can see, the interface is quite spartan. No toolbars or buttons to get in your way. And there’s quite a bit of whitespace. Whether that’s to help enhance your productivity or if it’s just a design choice, I’m not sure.
To use UberWriter, just start typing. You add markup manually – there are no shortcuts. Well, there are some under the Format menu. You can use that to add bold, italics, a bullet list, or a horizontal rule.
The syntax highlighting of headings and body text is quite good. If there could be any improvement in that area, that improvement would be to add highlighting to links.
As you type, UberWriter keeps a running word and character count in the bottom right corner of the editing window. The counts disappear while you’re typing, and reappear a couple of seconds after you stop typing.
That’s all part of UberWriter’s goal of letting you write without distractions, and explains the spartan interface.
Working with modes
And I don’t mean the modes you find in editors like vi, vim, or Emacs. The modes in UberWriter enable you to change the look of the application to better concentrate on your writing. There are three modes, which you find under the View menu.
First up, Focus Mode which grays out all of the text, aside from the sentence or paragraph that you’re currently typing. This enables you to focus (obviously) on what you’re typing and not worry about anything else around what you’re typing. I also find Focus Mode to be useful when I’m adding text to a paragraph or when I’m editing.
Next, Dark Mode. Don’t like black text on a white background? Dark Mode reverses that – white text on a black background. To be honest, I don’t use Dark Mode much (if at all).
Previewing your work
So you have a formatted document. But you want to see what it looks like when rendered in a web browser. Just select View > Preview:
While I’d prefer sans-serif fonts, the preview does offer a pretty good approximation of what the document will look like in a browser. My only complaint is that bullets are outdented beyond the margin.
Exporting your work
This is an area in which UberWriter really shines. Because, let’s face it: plain Markdown isn’t all that useful (except in some cases). UberWriter uses Pandoc to do conversions, and you can save your work as:
And in several other formats, too. To do a basic conversion, you can select any of the following options from the File menu: Export at HTML, Export as ODT, or Export as PDF. To do more, select Advanced Export from the file menu.
Doing this opens the export options window.
That’s all fine and dandy, but what’s the output really like? Overall, it’s quite good. Here’s what this blog post looks like as an ODT file viewed in LibreOffice Writer:
UberWriter is easily the best Markdown editor I’ve used on the Linux desktop. It’s easy to use and free of distractions, and its output options are second to none. While the plain interface does take a bit of getting used to, once you do you’ll find UberWriter to be a great environment in which to write.