In our recent article Mark up your next HTML project using Markdown, we introduced a few tools that you can use to create markdown, including an application called Markdown Pad. Now that we’ve had a chance to spend some time with this tool, we thought we’d pass along our brief assessment of it.
To begin with, Markdown pad was the only tool we came across for markdown, which exists in the form of an actual installable application. Given our dislike of web user interfaces for, well pretty much everything, this put Markdown Pad high on our list of priorities for a recent markdown project.
Markdown Pad’s UI is divided into two panes: the left side for editing, and the right side for rendering the corresponding HTML output in near realtime as you write your markdown content. The fact that it renders HTML output in realtime is probably Markdown Pad’s greatest asset, since you can instantly see if your Markdown is correct or not.
Each file saved by Markdown Pad has a “.md” extension, which the tool registers with Windows to automatically open when doubled clicked. We did find the load time for the program a bit slow, but nothing that would dissuade us from using it.
In addition to this, Markdown Pad’s toolbar provides a number of buttons for inserting the markdown of common formatting items like bold, italic, lists etc. which makes things easy when the syntax for such items is easily forgotten. And if you do forget the syntax, online documentation for markdown syntax is just a click away under the Help menu. Also, the spell checker is a nice feature and eliminates the need to dump the content into another program just to check this, while the menus included for undo and redo are an absolute necessity.
Having said all of this, we did find it a bit difficult to get advanced formatting to work properly, such as when inserting images between list items. In this case text would often end up where it wasn’t supposed to, or numbering wouldn’t continue correctly. While not really the fault of Markdown Pad (i.e. it’s more of a case of knowing a few tricks of the markdown syntax), it would be nice if Markdown Pad provided some hints or tools for tackling these more advanced tasks.
Another issue we found in an earlier version of Markdown Pad was that the rendered HTML output would always jump to the top of the page, as we edited content further down. This made it impossible to see the output as we typed, but this issue appears to have been somewhat improved in later versions of the tool.
The tool is free to download and use, but is limited to five open documents unless you pay for an upgrade. However this shouldn’t be an issue for most users.
Once final issue, is that updates don’t seem to work (clicking on “Check for updates” under the Help menu doesn’t seem to have any effect). However, grabbing a new copy of the tool from the website is easy enough to do, and the installer seems to be smart enough to overwrite the existing version with the new version.
All in all we definitely recommend Markdown Pad for your next markdown project, as it is much easier to use than the web-based tools out there, and in general, works very well. And from a technical writer’s perspective, it’s definitely another tool that we’re happy to have in our technical writing toolkit.
You can grab Markdown pad from here: http://markdownpad.com/.