Open Source Musings The thoughts, ideas, and opinions of an open source guy

Writing in Markdown with Ghostwriter

A pair of hands, typing

I have a new favourite Markdown editor. I wasn’t looking for a new Markdown editor, but I stumbled across it by accident. Isn’t that how a lot of finds are made?

Anyway, the editor is called Ghostwriter and it combines minimalism with a decent feature set.

Let’s take a look at it.

Getting Ghostwriter

Ghostwriter is primarily aimed at Ubuntu and its various derivatives. To install it, you’ll need to add a PPA to your system. Do that by cracking open a terminal window and then running the following commands:

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:wereturtle/ppa
sudo apt-get update

Then, run this command to install it:

sudo apt-get install ghostwriter

Now, you’re ready to roll.

Using Ghostwriter

Launch Ghostwriter. You have pretty much a blank canvas.

A new document in Ghostwriter

From there, you start typing. Nothing too spectacular there, I admit.

Writing with Ghostwriter

You can do the same in any text editor. If you don’t want to add formatting by hand, or are just learning Markdown and don’t know what to add, then you can select certain formatting from Ghostwriter’s Format menu.

Ghostwriter's format menu

Admittedly, it’s just basic formatting — lists, character formatting, and indenting. You’ll have to add headings, code, and the like by hand. But the Task List option is interesting. While I don’t do it myself, I know a few people who create their task lists in Markdown. This makes creating and maintaining one much easier.

Previewing and exporting

The real beauty of Ghostwriter lies in its preview and export functions.

While Ghostwriter doesn’t have a dual-pane inteface — with code on one side and a preview on the right. But it does let you do a preview of your document by either selecting View > Preview in HTML or by pressing CTRL+W.

Previewing a document in Ghostwriter

Notice the two drop-down lists in the bottom right of the preview window? The one furthest left lets you choose the Markdown processor to use to render the preview. Your choices are:

Obviously, you’ll need at least one of the Markdown processors in the list installed on your computer.

The other list lets you use a custom Cascading Style Sheet to format the preview. If you don’t, Ghostwriter uses the stylesheet used by GitHub (a popular code repository).

In the preview window, you can also click a button to copy the HTML your clipboard to paste elsewhere (say, in a blog editor). Or you can export your document to another format by clicking the Export button. You can also export your document by selecting File > Export.

Exporting a document

Your export options will depend on the Markdown processor you choose from the Markdown converter list. Choosing Sundown or Discount, for example, you’ll only be able to export your documents as HTML files. If you choose any of the Pandoc options, you can export as HTML and as:

  • HTML5
  • OpenDocument (.odt)
  • Rich Text Format (.rtf)
  • Word (.docx)
  • PDF
  • EPUB
  • FictionBook 2 (.fb2)
  • LaTeX
  • groff

If you’re interested in what the output from Pandoc looks like, check out my post covering Pandoc from 2015.

Final thoughts

Ghostwriter is a simple, minimal yet effective Markdown editor. I find it useful — it does what I need it to do, and has a few extra features that add to its usefulness. For me, the preview and export functions are what make Ghostwriter worth using.

And a quick plug: if you’re in a practical guide to Markdown, check out my ebook titled Learning Markdown.

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