Make Your Perfect Markdown Editor with Atom Editor Plugins

Up until now I’ve used dedicated Markdown editors like Haroopad and MacDown as a tool where I can focus on writing, while reserving more sophisticated code editors like Coda and Atom for web design projects.

My favorite Markdown editors are all young tools in active development, and none of them has every feature I’d ideally like in a writing environment — instead, they all come at it from different directions, and each nails about 90% of what I want.

Just for fun, I’m experimenting with using Atom as BOTH a code and Markdown editor, since I’m discovering how powerful it can be for adding exactly the features I want in my writing environment. It turns out that Atom is a fantastic solution for writing in markdown, and it can be customized to your heart’s content to match your writing style. Its extreme hackability and vibrant developer community has resulted in a great set of tools for doing more with Markdown, not to mention all the useful goodies it has for full-blown web hackery.

Awesome Built-In Features

Out of the box, Atom has a ton of great features that set it apart from many dedicated Markdown editors. Here are a few.

File Tree

Open a file in Atom and it gives you a sidebar where you can see all the files in the same directory. This is great when you’re coding, but it’s also nice if you have a folder full of blog post drafts or documents-in-progress that you want to keep track of — like chapters in a novel or articles in a series.

Tabs

Atom also has Chrome-style tabs for all your open documents so you can quickly switch from one to the next. This is a feature I’ve been requesting from the devs of HarooPad, Mou, and MacDown — now I don’t have to ask anymore. 😉

The Command Palette

I’m a huge fan of desktop quicklauncher Alfred for Mac OS X, which lets you search your computer, launch files, and do a ton of hacky tricks all from your keyboard.

Command Palette

The Atom Command Palette gives you similar power within Atom– instead of mousing through drop down menus, just start typing the feature you want to invoke and the Command Palette returns it in a list. It makes it quick and intuitive to process your text files in powerful ways.

Customizable Themes for Code Syntax and Preview

Atom lets you create custom color schemes for your code view and your HTML Preview pane, or import popular packages from the community.

Open Source, Cross Platform, Web Native

My first and favorite web text editor was Coda, a paid app that only works on Mac. Atom does everything Coda does (and more) while being able to follow me to other platforms and grow with me as a developer.

Great Community Plugins

The popularity and hackability of this app means that developers are writing great modules to add functionality to it. Below is a list of the best plugins I’ve found to make Atom editor the best markdown app going right now.

Save-session

A plugin to auto-save your work and restore your session when you reopen Atom.

Clean2 Atom

This is a distraction-free writing interface for Atom to hide everything but your text. Great stuff.

emmet-atom

Emmet is a “shorthand” syntax for HTML and CSS that lets you type quick snippets of text and then extend them into valid HTML code. I have come to love it while coding, but it’s also great for adding lorem ipsum text with a quick keystroke when I’m writing.

markdown-helpers

Select some text and invoke this plugin and it will create a link to the most likely URL (using Google’s smarts).

Markdown Helper Image

markdown-format

This tool reformats your Markdown syntax whenever you save to make sure it’s neat and tidy. markdown-format in action

These are just some of the great markdown-focused features you can find in the growing Atom editor community. They’ve already made a big difference in my productivity, and hopefully can help you keep your hands on the keyboard (and keep reachin’ for the stars, as Casey Kasem would say).

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