Write for Mac review: Solid note-taking app doubles as a Markdown editor
At a Glance
I’ve written about a number of “focused-writing apps” for Mac—text editors that let you focus on your words, shutting out other computer-based distractions. Tanmay Sonawane’s new $10 Write (Mac App Store link) brings that same philosophy to a note-taking app. With Markdown support and the capability to share texts in a wide variety of formats, Write offers some powerful text-editing features wrapped up in a note-taking context.
Write offers a single-window interface. Along the left-hand side of the window is a list of locations where you’ve stored files. If you want to use the companion iOS app and sync your documents between iOS and Mac, you’ll want to opt for Dropbox or iCloud, but you can work with files in any folder (including folders that sync with other cloud services, such as Google Drive or Box). You can also work with files in multiple locations, so you can maintain separate folders for, say, work and personal notes.
The middle (Notes) column lists the notes in the selected location, along with a short preview of each and information about its size and when it was last saved. The large editor pane on the right-hand side shows the text of the selected note. (You can open a note in its own window, by right-clicking it in the Notes column and choosing Open in New Window, but doing so is purely optional.) Write also offers a full-screen, distraction-free mode that you access by right-clicking a note, or by using the View menu.
Write gives you three ways of viewing text: plain text, Hybrid, and Rich MD. The first is vanilla text; the second shows your Markdown formatting characters, but also applies those styles to the plain text, as shown in the screenshot above.
Rich MD mode is like Hybrid mode—it shows your text in its Markdown-styled format—but hides the actual Markdown syntax. When using this mode, you can use keyboard shortcuts to apply styling such as bold, italics, and headers without needing to know Markdown syntax. Write does not, however, offer a palette or menu containing Markdown formatting options, like some other apps, so for any other formatting you’ll need to know the correct syntax to type. (I’ve copied this Markdown Basics page into a note in Write so it’s always handy.)
If you plan to use your text on a webpage or in a blog entry, and you want to see how it will look when converted to HTML, Write also offers an HTML-preview mode; however, you can’t set your own CSS to get a preview that reflects your site’s appearance. The app also offers a plethora of options for exporting notes to other formats, including RTF, HTML, and PDF; you can attach exported documents directly to a new email message or iMessage from within Write.
Write offers syntax highlighting, in Rich MD and Hybrid modes, to make links and other inline Markdown code stand out; and a word-count display in the footer of the edit pane displays statistics about the current document. You can also organize files by assigning tags to them; Write’s left-hand pane lists your tags, letting you quickly view files with a particular tag.
As good as it is, Write isn’t perfect. Because of Write’s single-window style, you can’t use another app, such as Marked 2, for Markdown previews. And you can’t edit your Markdown text and a preview its HTML equivalent at the same time. Managing notes is also a bit clunky, as you can’t move notes between folders from within Write—you must move the actual files in the Finder. And I find that the Notes and left-hand columns waste space, both horizontally (you can’t resize them) and vertically (the Notes column uses quite a bit of space for each note).
But Write includes good Markdown support; lets you choose your own font, size, and line spacing; offers a nice range of export options; syncs well with its iOS cousins; and provides a nice full-screen mode to get rid of distractions. The app straddles the line between a note-taking app and a text editor, and, with a few tweaks, could be a solid choice for both. If you’re looking for a good app to compose and store notes, Write might be just what you need.