For the past couple of years, I’ve been writing my blog posts here with Typora, a Markdown editor that I believe started initially on macOS but has since released versions for Windows and Linux as well. It was developed as free beta software for literally half a decade1, but recently had finally made it to version 1.0. Text editors—and specifically, Markdown-compatible text editors—are one of a few classes of desktop application that have survived the webapp revolution, so there’s plenty of options and I’ve certainly tried my share of them over the years. I’ve stuck with Typora because, well, it’s a pretty good app for blogging.
For the use case of displaying text on the web, it makes complete sense for more text editors to support styling their editor windows via web technologies; yet, most apps have a strong opinion about its font and colors and spacing, and some even tout their limited choice as a feature, making a case that designer curation beats user flexibility. Typora is one of the few apps that recognizes and supports CSS styling, and somewhere along the beta cycle, added theming and encouraged its community to contribute to its growing theme library.
The app runs fast and responds to user input quickly, at least for the textual use cases that I have. The developer has confirmed that their app uses Electron, but there’s no discernible input latency while little, if any of the functionality requires deep integration with the underlying OS. Instead, picking up web libraries for rendering content inline, like images and math equations, speaks to the advantages of leveraging web technologies for core functionality.
One of the features of minimalist text editors is that they are, indeed, minimal, at least when it comes to editing words an a document. It seems like developers try to differentiate by tacking on features at the edges: everything from proprietary data syncing, to direct integrations with publishing tools, to playing zen music in the background while fading away visible user interfaces. These features often feel gimmicky, maybe as a fresh new way for jotting creativity, which works for the first couple of times but then quickly weans in efficacy. In poking around the text editor landscape now, the majority of those who were doing well 3–4 years ago are now seemingly abandoned.
So it’s a precious thing to have active development for a well-functioning, flexible app, even one that may be not much more than a glorified
textarea binary executable. I’m just waiting for the inevitable transition to a subscription business model, reallocating the dollars saved from paying for operating system upgrades in a bygone computing era to well-crafted, apps instead.