There’s simple and then there’s simple. For instance, the simple life is living in a cottage in the countryside and keeping chickens. The simple life, on the other hand, is venturing into the wilderness with nothing but a Swiss Army knife.
Typora is simple. Download the free Mac beta and you’re confronted with blinking text cursor in a blank window. That’s it – there’s no chunky ribbon, no flashy editing toolbar and no bells or whistles. (Disappointingly, the Windows beta does include a File menu.)
Typora review: Markdown
That’s because it’s a markdown editor. Markdown refers to a lightweight plain text editor that makes it easy to convert your scribblings into HTML or a vast range of other file types – which makes it ideal for distraction-free writing.
If you’ve ever used, say, Slack, you’ll already know the rudiments of markdown. To make a word bold, for instance, you put two asterisks on either side of it (**bold**). Asterisks framing a word or phrase will add italics (*italics*).
However, if constantly peppering the screen with asterisks sounds like a faff, Typora also comes equipped with more traditional word-processing tools. For example, you can insert headings, generate tables, put in hyperlinks and add images. The latter is particularly easy as Typora gives you the option to select an image from a local file or simply paste in the URL.
Typora review: Export options
“That’s all very neat, but what’s the point?” you may ask. “I can get a similar experience in a notepad app or email.”
Well, aside from the cleanliness and usability of the interface, Typora’s strength lies in its export options. Once you’ve hammered away the latest chapter of your magical realist novel, you can choose to export to a wide range of different file formats. Think PDF, HTML, DOCX (Word), OpenOffice, RTL, Epub and OPML.
There’s also the option to import files, but you’ll need to download the file conversion tool Pandoc to do so.
Typora review: Themes & extras
If you’re not satisfied with the default Github theme, Typora offers a range of similarly low-key interfaces: Gothic, Newsprint, Night, Pixyll and Whitey.
While my favourite theme is undoubtedly Pixyll – which has a classy, New York Times feel – the most useful is probably Night. If you’ve ever found yourself squinting at a bright white screen in the wee hours of the morning, it’ll be a boon: Night gives the window a grey background and makes the text white, which reduces eye strain.
Typora also has a few tools that make it different from a common or garden word processor. For example, you can easily create a task list with clickable checkboxes, footnotes and a table of contents – as well as insert code fences, maths formulae or a table.
Typora review: Verdict
However, by removing the extras of other markdown editors – intrusive preview windows, source code, mode switchers – Typora has become a simple word processor for people who just want to get work done.
The only potential issue is the price: while Typora is still free in beta, you may need to pay for the pleasure further down the line. That said, this product has been in beta – and free – for years, so chances are it will stay free for a while.