December 7, 2016

Caret, the Multi-Platform Markdown Editor, Shines on macOS

Caret iconCaret icon

Product: Caret
Price: $15

A cross-platform markdown editor, Caret is an interesting new entrant in the markdown based text editor category.

If iA Writer is the markdown solution for writers, Caret and Typora are two examples of markdown editors for the more technical writer. Since Typora is in beta, I am not going to talk about it here. I am going to concentrate on Caret in this article.

Caret supports the original Markdown and the Github Flavored Markdown specifications. It is a complete markdown based writing solution with some interesting extras.

In addition to the usual Markdown syntax (bold, italic, links and images), Caret provides syntax highlighting for:

  • inline math
  • block math
  • footnotes
  • table of contents
  • YAML front matter

One of the areas Caret shines in is the assistance it provides in writing markdown syntax.

A feature in Caret, I love, is the ability to highlight a word and paste a URL on it, to form a link. The application encloses the highlighted word in square brackets and then encloses the URL in brackets and pastes it right next to the closing square bracket. It is an obvious and intuitive solution to making links in markdown and now I wonder why this is not supported by other editors.

To illustrate contrasting approaches to this task of adding links I am going to explain the process in iA Writer and Caret.

In iA Writer, I copy a URL, highlight a word and press ⌘+K, which is the keyboard command for links, the application encloses the highlighted word in [] brackets, and puts the URL next to it, after enclosing the URL with () brackets.

In Caret, I highlight a word and paste the URL on the word, the program encloses the highlighted word in [] brackets and pastes the URL enclosed in () right next to it. In Caret, highlighting a word and pressing ⌘+K, encloses the word in [] brackets and the application inputs the () next to it with the cursor in the middle of the brackets waiting for the URL.

Both of these approaches are great ways of making URL links in markdown. These are the touches which make both Caret and iA Writer an absolute pleasure to write Markdown in.

Caret makes the process of creating tables in Markdown pleasurable. It continuously helps you in the process by resizing the table as you type, creates new rows when you hit enter, and on the whole makes the onerous task of creating tables in markdown easy.

Caret treats images in the same intuitive way as links. You can drag and drop an image onto the text for a link to the image.

Caret autocompletes emoji, local paths, and languages in code blocks.

As an editor, Caret is chockfull of little touches which make it a pleasure to work in. I am going to highlight a few of those I am particularly fond of:

Spelling Correction

When you make a spelling mistake, hitting ⌥+Enter gives you the option of fixing the error. You don’t have to go to the mouse or trackpad for this. Hands on keyboard, fixing errors. Fantastic.

Counts

Caret CountsCaret Counts

On the top right corner of your editing window is a counter, it gives you a toggle between word count, character count, and reading time.

Multiple Cursors

I saw this first in Sublime Text. It is now in Caret. You can hold on to the ⌥ key and click in multiple places in your document to get multiple cursors, or you can press ⌃+D to highlight multiple occurrences of the same word or symbol to get multiple cursors. You can type ⌃+U to unselect the last one selected. Multiple cursors are an absolute god send to the task of editing. You are so going to get used to this.

Quick Context

You reach this through ⌥Enter. These are the things you can do with the Quick Context command:

  • fix spelling
  • search for selected text on Google
  • check / uncheck task items
  • convert list to ordered / unordered / task
  • convert reference link to inline
  • visit link
  • go to link definition (reference)
  • go to footnote

Another little feature which enhances the pleasure of using Caret. These are useful to have at the touch of a keyboard command.

File Navigation

Caret File BrowserCaret File Browser

⌘T gives you a file browser. Right in the middle of the document you are working on. Makes the file browser an integral part of your workflow. Not having used DOS or Windows machines for almost 25 years now, it was a bit of a shock to see this, but it is a great way of traversing the file system and finding the right file I was looking for. You can just start typing the name of the file to find the exact one you are looking for in this list.

Caret Recent FilesCaret Recent Files

⌘E gives you a listing of the recent files you have worked in. Again a great way of getting what you are looking for without using the mouse.

Autosave

Caret autosaves your documents, so you don’t have to worry about losing your work.

Assorted Things Which I Like About Caret

  1. The developers are very responsive to both bug reports and feature requests.
  2. They maintain a github presence where you can raise issues you have with Caret. It has an active developer presence and is a great place to visit to read other Caret users suggestions for the product and the developers reaction.
  3. I like typewriter mode and focus mode. Typewriter mode gives me the ability to type in the middle of the screen and focus mode highlights the current paragraph and dims the rest of the document.
  4. Unlike most other Markdown editors, Caret makes making numbered lists easier. In most other editors if you have a numbered list adding items to the middle of the list screws up the numbering scheme. Not Caret. It dynamically changes the numbers of the items to give you a numerically exact list.
  5. I like full screen mode in Caret, coupled with typewriter mode and focus mode, it is a great way to write.
  6. I love the Go To commands. ⌘+G to jump to different headers of the document. ⌘+[ to go to the Start of a Block or ⌘+] to go to the End of the Block.
  7. I like how the path of the file I am working on is displayed in the title of the window I am in.

Caret Path IndicatorCaret Path Indicator

Suggested Improvements

  1. Caret doesn’t support the system settings of two spaces to period, and automatically capitalizing the first letter of a sentence. I wish they would do that. This feature is supported by iA Writer and I am getting used to this. I have to change my typing behavior when I come to Caret and that is a difficult thing to do.
  2. Caret forces me to use the fonts that are included. Only three of them are included and I have my own monospace fonts I am fond of. The developer suggests that this is something that is on the roadmap for the product. It can’t come soon enough for me.
  3. Needs better documentation. Finding all the keyboard commands is a pain. I made a first stab at listing the keyboard commands here.
  4. I would like some control over the line spacing and paragraph spacing. The content is slightly crunched. Maybe there is nothing wrong with the spacing and I am just getting old. But my tired old eyes would like some control over spacing of both paragraphs and lines. Of course, increasing the font size helps that process.

Recommendations

Caret is an innovative Markdown based text editor which brings some of its multi-platform ethos to the Mac marketplace. I love the product. I recommend it heartily for anyone looking for a Markdown editor.

Update

  1. Changed the punctuation in the title.
  2. Changed an URL to a URL.”

macosxguru at the gmail thingie

Markdown Caret macOS
December 4, 2016

Winston the Typewriter Simulator - Gimmicky but Useful

Winston IconWinston Icon

Product: Winston
Price: Free

I like typewriter scrolling. Ulysses has the best approach to typewriter scrolling that I have come across in text editors. Using Winston reminded me that true typewriter scrolling is different from the way it is implemented in text editors.

Let me explain. In a text editor like Ulysses, the point of concentration is a line. The cursor moves across a line till it reaches the end of the line and then on the next line, the focus is on the same spot on the page, where we have a new line. Typewriters don’t work like that. Typewriters focus on a spot. One spot. The paper moves along in the background letting you type on the same spot. The spot doesn’t move. The paper does.

Winston the TypewriterWinston the Typewriter

I came across an application called Winston which is a text editor/typewriter simulator.

Winston PreferencesWinston Preferences

You get to customize some aspects of the experience:

  1. The paper you use
  2. The sounds
  3. The type
  4. Choose the animations that you want to see and turn off the ones you don’t care for.
  5. Choose whether you want to auto wrap your text.
  6. Choose whether you can amend text or not.
  7. Show or hide the text cursor.

Winston gives you true typewriter scrolling. The focus is on one spot. The page moves behind the spot, like in a typewriter. It is an unique experience and I must say I like it. It is a gimmick. But it works for me. There is nothing else to the program. You get to save documents in its proprietary format and you get to export to a text file. There are some export options but they are meaningless. You are going to open the file in a text editor and deal with the text and the editing of the text there. So, you will not miss the lack of options on export.

How would I improve the product?

  1. Allow me the ability to add text by copy and paste. Copy and paste text into Winston and out of it.
  2. Fix the bugs.
  3. Support text expansion. Since you don’t allow copy and paste, text expansions from Alfred or aText or TextExpander don’t work.
  4. Support the text expansion from macOS. In macOS, two spacebar is equal to a period. I also get auto-capitalization in macOS. So, I can be sloppy and not worry about capitalizing the first letter in a new sentence. Makes the process of writing easier.

My suggestions are fringe use cases. The basic purpose of the product is typewriter simulation and it does a fantastic job of that. My suggestions are movements away from the typewriter simulation part of the product feature set. Might be a good thing to do but it will hurt the whole ethos of a typewriter. My only excuse is that this is a digital typewriter and probably can improve on an analog one.

Winston is recommended.

macosxguru at the gmail thingie

Writing macOS Typewriter
November 30, 2016

Keynote Extractor Is a Better HTML Export for Keynote

Keynote Extractor IconKeynote Extractor Icon

Product: HTML Extractor for Keynote
Price: Free

Keynote Extractor is a better HTML export for Keynote.”

Keynote Extractor extracts a mobile-friendly package of images, html files and css files which turn your keynote presentation into a web presentation.

It displays the images right next to your notes and gives you a pretty presentation for the web. For an interesting example of its output go here.

It is an useful application.

I found the story behind the application to be particularly informative. Read story here.

I recommend the product heartily.

macosxguru at the gmail thingie

Keynote macOS
November 27, 2016

A List of Keyboard Commands for Caret

Caret iconCaret icon

Product: Caret
Price: $15

This is a markdown editor which is growing up. It is a cross-platform offering. I am going to cover the editor in detail in a subsequent post.

I noticed that it is not well documented. That might be a function of the fact that they are adding commands and the product is still in flux when it comes to its feature list. I wanted a list of keyboard commands and I couldn’t find one. So, I made one myself.

Keyboard Commands for Caret

Menu Keyboard Command Action
File
⌘N New
⌘O Open
⌘S Save
⌘⇧S Save As…
Edit
⌘Z Undo
⌘⇧Z Redo
⌘X Cut
⌘C Copy
⇧⌘C Copy as Rich Text
⌘V Paste
⌘A Select All
⌘F Find in text
⌘D or ⌃G Select Next
⌘U Unselect Last
⌥⇧↓ Move Line Down
⌥⇧↑ Move Line Up
Format
⌘/ Comment
⌘B Bold
⌘I Italic
⌘K Link
Jump
⌘T File Browser
⌘E Recent Files
⌘G To Title
⌘] To Block Start
⌘[ To Block End
Preferences
⌘+ Increase Font Size
⌘- Decrease Font Size
⌘; Night Mode
Preview
⌘R or ⌘⇧R Preview
Window
⌃⌘F Enter Full Screen
⌘M Minimize
⌘⇧N New Window
⌘W Close Window
Not in Menus
⌘⇧↵ Insert Line Before
⌘↵ Insert Line After

Legend:

: Command key
: Option key
: Control key
: Shift key
: Return key
: Down arrow
: Up arrow

macosxguru at the gmail thingie

Careteditor Markdown macOS
November 25, 2016

Emacs Keyboard Commands Which Work in iA Writer

Keyboard Command Behavior
⌃+K Deletes from the cursor to the end of the current line
⌃+O Inserts a new line after the cursor. The cursor stays in the current line
⌃+B Moves the cursor one character to the left
⌃+F Moves the cursor one character to the right
⌃+N Moves the cursor down one line
⌃+P Moves the cursor up one line
⌃+E Moves the cursor to the end of the current line. If you use word wrap, the cursor moves to the physical, not the displayed, end of the current line
⌃+A Moves the cursor to the beginning of the current line. If you use word wrap, the cursor moves to the physical, not the displayed, beginning of the current line
⌃+V Scrolls down within the document

Note: These keyboard commands work not only in iA Writer but also in a few other applications on macOS. For instance, most of these also work in Ulysses. Try them out in the text editor you use, you might be surprised.

macosxguru at the gmail thingie

iA Writer Keyboard Commands macOS