The 14 Best Markdown Editors and Notepads for the iPad

His name was John Gruber. Maybe you’ve heard of him as the Apple blogger who knows the system better than them all. Then again, maybe you read his “linkblog” when you’re looking for interesting new things in the technology market. One thing you probably didn’t know is that he created a lightweight markup language named Markdown back in 2004. In its early days, only Bare Bones Software’s BBEdit used it because Gruber was employed there. No one else even bothered with it because the application ecosystem was not like it is today.

Things are a lot different now, though. A lot of people are on constant lookout for a Markdown editor to fit their tastes. Whether it has previewing capabilities, dual-editing functions for HTML and other code alongside Gruber’s, or just iCloud sync with a simple interface, we’ve all come to know distraction-free editors as ones that solely employ Markdown for making things fast and easy. After all, rich text is a thing of the past.

All these new pieces of software have recently been brought to the iPad because it’s a platform fit for such editing tasks. Users enjoy reading on the device, and some thoroughly have a good time writing their thoughts down in something like Day One. Then there are those like the AppStorm team, and most of us really love writing, no matter where it gets done. If you’re looking for something quick and easy for Markdown editing or even a more feature-packed app, we’ve got everything you’ll ever hope for and more in today’s roundup.

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Distraction-Free

Let’s start with something to eliminate your writer’s block excuses. With these apps, you can sit down and write — nothing more. Formatting can even be the last thing on your mind if it’s a school paper. Just take your iPad outside — maybe with your Apple keyboard — and, while enjoying the sunny day, pull some inspiration from the birds tweeting around you and compose that beautiful piece of literature.

Daedalus Touch

With the name of the Greek inventor of carpentry comes an app of day and night. Do away with the old methods of navigating directories full of your precious Markdown files and get right to gestures — what the touchscreen is all about. Daedalus uses virtual “stacks and sheets” to make things more natural than swiping up and down in a list. All your files are stored in iCloud as well. If you have a lot of words to use, this app can handle them (the developer assures over 20,000 words are supported in one document). There’s also TextExpander support for cutting tasks in half. Use the search function to find something you misplaced too, and while you’re typing, tap away on the custom function row (containing Markdown snippets) above the keyboard to keep the typing on your touchscreen to a minimum. All this and more for only $4.99, a solid price in this category.

Price: $4.99
Requires: iOS 5.0 or later
Developer: The Soulmen GBR

Daedalus Touch by The Soulmen.

Daedalus Touch by The Soulmen.

Byword

This one is my personal favorite and I’ve used it to write over 2,000 words in a single sitting without it crashing or having a single problem (after a few updates to the original version). It’s a universal app with iCloud and Dropbox sync support, supports a custom row above the keyboard with lots of quick shortcuts for Markdown code, comes with a dark theme for late nights of little light, supports TextExpander, lets you preview the document, and, best of all, it has a Copy HTML to Clipboard function so you can post what you’re writing on your blog in just a few seconds with something like Poster. It’s been on sale for $2.99 for a while now, and you can probably expect it to stay that way — at least, until you get a copy.

Price: $2.99
Requires: iPad or iPhone with iOS 5.0 or later
Developer: Metaclassy Lda.

Byword by Metaclassy.

Byword by Metaclassy.

iA Writer

This is one of the original distraction-free editors, but it didn’t come to iOS until September 2010 — five months after the release of the original iPad. It was on OS X before that and critics gave it high praise. What makes it so good? The simplicity, synchronization (Dropbox or iCloud) and extra-large cursor all packed into a nice looking interface. Sadly, there’s no dark theme available, so don’t expect to write at night. Other than that, the lack of settings can actually be a good thing when you’re writing in peace and quiet with some red rooibos tea. For only 99 cents, it’s hard to beat.

Price: $0.99
Requires: iPad or iPhone with iOS 5.0 or later
Developer: Information Architects Inc.

iA Writer by Information Architects.

iA Writer by Information Architects.

iWriter

Yet another minimal app, this one is. Instead of something well-known — even though it sounds like it should be — iWriter is a more covert piece of software only used by those who are dedicated to it. The editor sports support for eight languages, has four gestures for navigating swiftly, automatically transitions to a fullscreen interface when you start writing to make things more peaceful, can be used in the light or dark so long as vampires are not near, comes with lots of different fonts to change things up (spoiler: Comic Sans is the worst) syncs with Dropbox, and, strangely, doesn’t have iCloud support. All this is available at a slightly steep price of $3.99. But if it looks appealing, who cares about the price?

Price: $3.99
Requires: iOS 5.0 or later
Developer: Sergey Zorin

iWriter by Sergey Zorin

iWriter by Sergey Zorin.

Other, More Advanced Editors

If all you need is something that does the job without being distraction-free, all the apps in this section will be perfect. There are also some that’ll enable you to do some elaborate things like organize files in Dropbox and take notes on the side of your document for further thinking. Whatever the task, they can get it done.

Elements

As the first Markdown editor I ever used on an iPad, this is one of the most important apps to me. I reviewed it last year and gave it a score of 8/10. It’s improved a lot since then, adding many bug fixes, iPhone support, Retina optimization for the new iPad, iPhone 5 pixels and more. The best part about this app, however, is its Dropbox integration. You can save files to different directories in your cloud account and then open them back up with ease. Everything syncs very fast — there’s really no need for iCloud support. If you’re looking for something distraction-free, this won’t quite fit. But if it’s something that has a dark theme available, Markdown preview, MultiMarkdown support and good exporting services (HTML, PDF, email, etc.), it’s perfect. As a universal app, $4.99 isn’t a bad price either.

Price: $4.99
Requires: iPad or iPhone with iOS 5.0 or later
Developer: Second Gear LLC

Elements by Second Gear.

Elements by Second Gear.

Glyphs+

This one is a Markdown editor with a bit of a twist. It makes use of special characters, or Glyphs, to appeal to more advanced users. You can write with Greek mathematics symbols, use brackets extensively for many things and sync it all up with iCloud to your iPhone or other iOS devices. Even though it doesn’t look like a Markdown editor, Gruber’s code and TextExpander are supported to make your text editing experience above par. At $1.99, this app has a lot to offer, packed into a nice and simple user interface with many true colors to show.

Price: $1.99
Requires: iPad or iPhone with iOS 5.0 or later
Developer: V Softworks

Glyphs+ by V Softworks.

Glyphs+ by V Softworks.

Paragraft

As you write your next research paper, you realize that your thoughts are all backwards. Copying and pasting them all to where they go can be tedious though, so why not consider Paragraft? Simply drag paragraphs where you want them to be and let go to snap them into place. It’s just like you’re reordering a list of things, which you can also do with this app if you wish. Also included is a tagging system so you can organize all your documents and then find them later with ease. One thing this app is without is iCloud sync, which it would benefit from as it is a universal app. For the price of only 99 cents though, you can’t find a better way to organize your thoughts or anything in paragraph form.

Price: $0.99
Requires: iPad or iPhone with iOS 5.1 or later
Developer: Matthew Elton

Paragraft by Matthew Elton.

Paragraft by Matthew Elton.

Writing Kit

If you really want to knock out a research project in a few hours, there’s nothing better than Writing Kit. It uses Dropbox to sync everything to your other devices and CloudApp to upload images to add to your documents. There’s Markdown preview and a nice simple interface to make everything as fluid as possible. The most notable thing about this app, however, is its researching features. It lets you search over 1,300 Web sites to find what you’re looking for. There are no ads in all of this, either, because the app has a built-in blocker to make sure everything is distraction-free. All of this is only the beginning of Writing Kit.

Price: $1.99
Requires: iPad or iPhone with iOS 5.0 or later
Developer: Quang Anh Do

Writing Kit by Quang Anh Do.

Writing Kit by Quang Anh Do.

Notepads

Some people enjoy jotting down important thoughts on their iPads, whether it be with Penultimate or the included Notes app. Since the first is literally a digital notepad, it doesn’t come into the category of Markdown, but something similar to the second may be useful. Available in the depths of the App Store are beautiful note-taking apps that enable you to jot things down post-haste with Gruber’s HTML alternative. Here are the best ones.

Cheddar

It may sound cheesy, but don’t let the title fool you. This app is actually great, and I use it as my alternative to Reminders. Firstly, it’s universal and instead of being a note-taking app, it’s more of a task manager and notepad hybrid. Its main purpose is to manage lists. In the free version, you can have two of them, but the pro version lets you store as many as you’d like for $19.99 per year. It supports Markdown for your text files to gain some character with bold text and header organization. Also, if you feel like setting a due date like you would in Reminders, that’s an available feature too. All this is free, so don’t be scared to try it out as an Reminders proxy.

Price: Free (limited to two lists)
Requires: iPad or iPhone with iOS 5.0 or later
Developer: Sam Soffes

Cheddar by Sam Soffes.

Cheddar by Sam Soffes.

Notesy for Dropbox

First was an app that syncs with its own service, now there’s this one, which uses Dropbox to keep everything in one place. Used by many a journalist and Apple blogger, Notesy features full offline support, VoiceOver, landscape and portrait modes, file and directory management without leaving the app, a simple user interface, and Markdown preview. The screenshots make it look simple and from an old version of iOS, but it’s updated regularly with support for new devices and operating systems. If you’re looking for something nice and simple, this app is perfect.

Price: $4.99
Requires: iPad or iPhone with iOS 5.0 or later
Developer: Giant Yak Software LLC

Notesy by Giant Yak Software.

Notesy by Giant Yak Software.

Nebulous Notes

From a deadly developer comes an app of clouds. It really is the interface you’ve been looking for. Of course, that’s providing you want Dropbox sync instead of iCloud. If so, you’ll enjoy the PIN protection, Evernote saving, Markdown preview, editing of plain text and .md files, TextExpander support, and more of that good stuff. The best part of this app, however, is its user interface. That’s what makes it worth paying $4.99 for.

Price: $4.99
Requires: iPad or iPhone with iOS 5.1 or later
Developer: Nuclear Elements

Nebulous Notes by Nuclear Elements.

Nebulous Notes by Nuclear Elements.

Simplenote

As one of the best notes apps available on the iPad, Simplenote instantly gains extra points for its Markdown support. In addition to being able to write things in a fluid manner, you can organize your thoughts in individual notes with bullet lists, share things with your friends and let them edit too, just browse a note in simplicity, and do it all without worrying about losing a thing. Simplenote’s servers have proven to be the most reliable that I’ve ever used for note taking. It’s the best notes experience available on iOS, even better than the iCloud ones. And it’s free too.

Price: Free
Requires: iPad or iPhone with iOS 4.3 or later
Developer: Simperium Inc.

Simplenote by Simperium.

Simplenote by Simperium.

WriteUp

Another app with Dropbox, you say? There can never be enough! This one is perfect for lots of writing or just some minimal note-taking. There’s also Markdown preview, an integrated browser so you can look things up without leaving the app, automatic saving, TextExpander support, find in page, and a great way to organize all your files in Dropbox. The whole app supports gestures to select text too, just in case you pondered purchasing an Apple keyboard. Share your thoughts with friends or, before you’re finished with one, change up the background so you can write in peace. (Themes can become useful.) All this at only $3.99.

Price: $3.99
Requires: iPad or iPhone with iOS 5.0 or later
Developer: Prasanna Gopalakrishnan

WriteUp by Prasanna Gopalakrishnan.

WriteUp by Prasanna Gopalakrishnan.

Bonus: A Code Editor

For the more software engineering inclined, there are apps of HTML, JavaScript and XML. Of course, if you enjoy something more Markdown-centric, there are apps for that. In the case of this particular markup language, however, there’s only one that will do the job.

Textastic Code Editor

Edit your code and watch the syntax light up, whether it’s XML or CSS. This app supports syntax highlighting for 80 languages, undo and redo if you make a mistake, find and replace to be the inside man, and customizable fonts with sizes. There is also WebDAV and Dropbox connectivity, TextMate compatibility, FTP and SFTP browsing, and a row of special keys that programmers often use so you can write your code with speed. It has full Retina display and iOS 6 support, so don’t worry about things crashing or looking weird. At $8.99, the price may be expensive, but it is a code editor.

Price: $8.99
Requires: iOS 5.0 or later
Developer: Alexander Blach

Textastic by Alexander Blach.

Textastic by Alexander Blach.

The Wrap

That’s it for this Markdown roundup. Hopefully you’ve found your new editor, note-taking app or coder. If not, let us know what you’d like to see in your dream app, or possibly what you already have that does the job better than one that we mentioned. If it’s already on the list, tell us which it is.


  • DasGorille

    What about Drafts? It’s both a notepad app and a Markdown editor with preview and tons of exporting options.

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