Baked-in Markdown

Image source: icon8

Since the Mac App Store’s visual refresh, one of my favourite features has been the stories that highlight various apps, developers, extensions and usage tips. I’ve discovered a number of useful apps through these stories!

One of the things that really seems to have been embraced by Apple on the store is the great range of Markdown-compatible third-party apps , including Ulysses, 1Writer Pro, Marked 2, Focused and more. Markdown, which was created by John Gruber of Daring Fireball, is a great pro(sumer) feature, enabling novelists and bloggers alike to write in a distraction-free environment and format easily for the Web. I’m using Markdown now to write this piece in Ulysses. If you want to learn more about Markdown, check out John Gruber’s original resource and explanation.

Given Apple’s willing promotion of third-party Markdown apps, I can’t help but wonder why the company hasn’t included it as a baked-in feature across macOS and iOS native apps. Notes and Mail naturally spring to mind… but imagine iMessage with Markdown. Over time, the experience of messaging on iOS has become more engaging and expressive, with plentiful emoji, integrated apps, sticker packs, bubble effects and location-sharing. (Of course, Messages on macOS is still catching up.) With at least basic support for Markdown features in Messages, other than pre-existing image-attachment support, users could have access to list styles, headings, quotes and rich formatting, which would take Messages to an entirely new level of expression and style.

I envisage this being a pro-level feature that you could activate in the Settings and System Preferences apps, much like the yet-to-be-released mouse support under ‘Accessibility’ in iOS and iPadOS 13. More casual iMessage users could continue as if nothing has changed, however those who wish to turn on the feature could simply toggle support for Markdown. Apple has already taken this approach with features such as multi-touch gestures and split-view functionality on iPad. Naturally, with Markdown already increasing in popularity on the App Store, once knowledge of such a baked-in feature on Apple’s own apps were to spread, this would only enhance the stickiness of tools such as iMessage.

With much of the low-hanging fruit now taken care of in iOS and iPadOS, it will be interesting to see what future enhancements will come. Following an exciting WWDC 2019, Apple now seems to be even more committed to pleasing its enthusiasts and pro users. Little enhancements like this can go a long way to extending the experience.