capsule review

Clean Writer Pro lets writers focus on writing

At a Glance
  • CognitiveBits Clean Writer Pro

    Macworld Rating

Clean Writer Pro (Mac App Store link) is a $6 text editor that offers support for plain text, Markdown, and rich text (RTF). Like many other editors of this type, it’s simple and offers limited formatting options, letting writers worry about writing rather than formatting.

The program is a hybrid between a basic RTF editor such as TextEdit and a text-only Markdown editor. While it can save RTF files, you must apply any styling—such as bold or italics—using Markdown tags. It also offers a live preview window for viewing Markdown-formatted text as it would appear rendered as HTML—you can even copy the Markdown-formatted output as HTML for pasting into a web page.

A number of options go beyond the standard text editor. You can use smart quotes and em dashes, for example, and the program offers such adjustments as line height and first-line-of-paragraph indent—features normally found in word processors. There are also live character and word counts, in discreet gray characters, at the bottom of the window.

Like many recent Mac text editors, Clean Writer Pro provides a full-screen view, as well as a Paragraphs Fade Mode, which displays the paragraph you are working on in regular text, with the rest of your document faded. Full-screen mode works well with the Markdown preview window: The latter stays visible so you can always see what your formatted text will look like. However, I’d like to be able to easily change the font and size of the Markdown preview, as the font is quite small, making it difficult to read.

The program also includes four themes: black on gray, black on white, white on black, and green on black. Unfortunately, the only way to tweak these themes’ colors is by using Terminal commands you can find on the company’s web site. I’d rather see a color wheel in the program’s preferences window—expecting users to turn to Terminal for such a tweak seems somewhat dismissive. Similarly, you can use an “advanced hack” to change the default Markdown-preview font, but users shouldn’t have to make changes by going into the app’s resources.

A few other things about Clean Write Pro also seem unpolished. For example, If you click the program’s Preferences icon, or choose Preferences from the Application menu, then click back in a document, the Preferences window closes; the same is the case for the Help window, which really needs to remain available if you’re checking the help for something.

Macworld’s buying advice

While Clean Writer Pro has some unique features and a nice price, it’s nowhere near as usable as similar text editors, such as iA Writer ( ), ByWord ( ) or WriteRoom ( ). If you want a text or Markdown editor on the cheap, Clean Writer Pro does the job, but you’ll probably find yourself wishing for some of the features that other programs offer.

[Macworld senior contributor Kirk McElhearn writes about more than just Macs on his blog Kirkville. Twitter: @mcelhearn. Kirk is the author of Take Control of Scrivener 2.]

At a Glance
  • Macworld Rating


    • Live preview window
    • Offers adjustments not often found in similar apps


    • Can't change typeface, font size of preview window
    • Theme tweaks requires use of Terminal
    • Some aspects of app seem unpolished
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