Better Markdown Support for your Notes

We're excited to announce that we've upgraded our Markdown parser which means a better writing experience for everyone. If you're a regular Write.app user then you're probably familiar with Markdown. For those of you who don't know what that is, here's a quick explanation:

Markdown is a common plaintext document format that allows you to add formatting and structure to your notes without having to lift your fingers off your keyboard.

We chose to support Markdown in Write.app instead of using standard formatting buttons like you might see in Wordpress or many webmail clients (Gmail, Yahoo, Hotmail/Live/Outlook) because we believe it benefits our users more than other options. If you're using Write.app then you're a thoughtful person who is looking for a quiet space to put your thoughts, feelings, and ideas into writing. Your primary focus is on the content you're writing, not the formatting of that content. Markdown lets you stay focused on your writing while still allowing you to add formatting and structure to that writing as you type.

With Markdown you get the best of both worlds: total focus with the option to add formatting.

Because Markdown is so central to Write.app's user experience we've upgraded our Markdown parser. in fact, we've completely replaced it with a brand new one that allows you to use all of the best modern Markdown features - even the ones that are extensions of standard Markdown.

If you've been using Markdown in your notes you don't have to make any changes to existing notes for the most part, however there are a couple changes to the way we parse Markdown now that may affect you so read on to learn what's new, what's better, and if any of the changes affect your currently saved notes.

Changes to Markdown processing

First, you should know that no matter how your notes may show up in the live preview or in your public notes, they are saved exactly the way you've typed them. We strip nothing nothing upon saving - we only sanitize and escape dangerous characters when we display a note and we try our best to keep them as close to the originals as possible.

  • GitHub flavored Markdown is now supported. If you know what that is then you'll be excited, if not then this feature probably doesn't apply to you

  • Links are auto generated. This means that if you type a URL into the Wreditor without specifically formatting it as a link our parser will recognize it and make it clickable on your public notes page and in your notes list.

  • Code blocks work the way you're used to in most other Markdown implementations. Before, if you wanted to post a coed example in Write.app you had to use this non-standard 3-tilde ("~ ~ ~") format. This no longer applies. You can now use 3 back ticks to create a fenced code block or use the 4 space indentation style code blocks. To mark up a piece of code in the middle of a sentence you can just surround the code with single back ticks.

  • You can embed Markdown inside of HTML

Gotchas and quirks

Although we're striving to conform to the most common markdown style, there are just a couple of quirks that may affect your existing notes. These aren't exactly quirks but more like inconveniences that stem from us not using the standard Markdown format from the start.

  • You can't declare a language in fenced code blocks. If you've ever used Octopress or GitHub you may be used to writing after the first 3 back ticks on your code blocks to tell the parser how to highlight your code. This will break your code blocks if you do it here. Write.app automatically detects the language you're using in your code and supports over 100 different programming languages.

  • If you've been using the old tilde style code blocks, those will no longer work and you'll get unexpected results in your final note. Luckily not many people were using them since they're not standard.

One major benefit of these changes is that live preview will not be 95% more accurate than it used to be.

One last change we've made in this update is to your Notes view. When viewing your saved notes the formatting will be prettier and heading will not display too large and make the page look messy as it used to. Check out your note previews in your notes list to see what we mean.

We hope everyone loves the changes. As always, if you have questions or see any bugs head on over to our help docs or shoot us an email on the support page (links to those are in the footer of every page). Happy writing!

If you haven't been using Markdown in your notes, you should try it! Wreditor (our built-in text editor) shows you the formatting of your writing as you type, has a full screen mode, and a live preview to view what your final note will look like. Markdown is super simple and easy to learn so if you haven't started using it yet, check out our Markdown guide and start today!

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