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Tuesday, December 30, 2014

New breed - SmartDown

The Aflava software, SmartDown, is billed as a minimalist markdown editor for Windows. After its free beta, it had an introductory price of $19.95, down from its retail price of $24.99. (This compares to $14.99 for MarkdownPad for Windows, another contender.)

It has a simple, "sandwich" menu interface, with a pleasant enough gray-blue background. It seems to be close to my essential writer tool chest requirements. 

Note: it appears that I can only edit one file at a time. That's too bad.

It has a full complement of text editing and navigation commands, excepting movement by paragraph ((ctrl-up/down). 

Folding 

SmartDown offers *folding*. Anything that follows a heading (line preceded by hashtags) until another heading of the same level or higher can be collapsed simply by clicking on the along the left edge of the window. I guess this includes any other text, until the next header. That's my primary interest in this program.

Spellcheck

It works as expected: anything it flags has a wavy red underline. The dictionary files came with the program, based on Hunspell and Chromium dictionary files for English.

Focus mode

I went to preferences and turned on this toggle. All it seems to do is highlight the current sentence. Once one finishes the sentence, it grays out. Not terribly useful for me, I think, and not the "hoisting" feature (pulling an outline level up so that it is the only visible section on the screen) I thought it would be.

Summary

I like it. It's fast, easy to learn, easy to use, not a bad place to work. Again, I have a growing preference for elegant software. I suspect there is much more that I could do with this - setting up text snippets, and digging a bit deeper into markdown syntax. 

After having spent some time looking at other "zenware" type writing tools , I think SmartDown is quite good. I can thinking of two things that distinguish it from WriteMonkey: live preview of markdown (on demand, rather than constantly on screen), and no need for .net. That probably increases its portability. But I also think that I probably wouldn't use it. I use outliners for complicated things, or LibreOffice for standard documents, and a variety of other apps on other platforms (Workflowy, SimpleNote). My usual discovery is that I don't actually need more tools. I need to spend more time using them.

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