Markdown is the text editing format of the future. It fulfills the same role as HTML – using markup to format chunks of plain text – but it’s simpler, sleeker, and easier to use without sacrificing much power or flexibility. It’s perfect for the web era and if you aren’t using it, you’re falling behind.
As of now, Google Drive doesn’t support Markdown documents, which is a pain for those of us who are heavy users of both. Fortunately, there are a couple of tools out there that can help fill this void and most are available for free.
Any discussion of “Markdown” and “Google Drive” will at some point always end up at StackEdit. This in-browser Markdown editor is incredible and blows away its competitors in most aspects. There’s a reason why it’s one of the most popular Markdown editors out there.
First, the interface is so clean, simple, and intuitive that first-time users will find themselves right at home. It’s modern, it’s high performance, and it just feels good to use. As far as user experience is concerned, I can’t think of another Markdown editor that does better.
It has innate support for synchronization with Google Drive and Dropbox, but it can also publish directly to GitHub, Blogger, Tumblr, and WordPress. Files can be imported from and exported to disk. It even supports in-line commenting so you can leave notes and reminders for yourself without affecting the actual document.
Dillinger is another highly-touted Markdown editor that sits in your browser. I wouldn’t say that its interface is any worse than StackEdit’s interface, though Dillinger does feel less polished by an ever-so-slight degree. However, it works well and that’s ultimately what matters.
This editor has built-in support for integration with Google Drive, Dropbox, OneDrive, and GitHub, though you can certainly use it locally-only if you wish. It also comes with dozens of color themes right out of the box, allowing you to pick whichever color combination works best for your eyes.
Markdown Editor [Web]
If you’re looking for a truly bare-bones browser-based Markdown editor, then you can’t skip over Markdown Editor. The interface for this web app is as generic as its name, but it suffices if all you need is a quick one-off editor for files on Google Drive. In fact, Markdown Editor won’t even work unless you first connect to Google Drive.
Once you log in, you’ll be able to edit one file at a time, and unlike the previously mentioned editors, Markdown Editor can only toggle between Edit and Preview modes. Another quirk in the interface is that you can’t create “new” files; you can only “fork” the current one with a new file name and clear out the contents.
But if those aspects don’t bother you, Markdown Editor can be great.
Writebox [Web, Android, iOS, Chrome]
Writebox isn’t a dedicated Markdown editor but it supports it well enough that you don’t lose out on anything by using it. In some ways, it’s preferable to a Markdown-only editor since you get to use one app for all of your text editing needs – though in that case, there are plenty of other distraction-free text editors you could choose.
What’s great about Writebox is its availability goes beyond the browser: you can install it as a Chrome extension AND you can use it on your smartphone. Combine that with its built-in support for Google Drive and you have a wonderful setup that can Markdown from anywhere.
The only downside is that the mobile versions each cost $2 USD. You can use the web app and the Chrome extension for free, though.
If you need a Markdown editor for your iPhone or iPad but feel dissatisfied by Writebox, you could try using MobileFolio instead. It’s fast and lightweight with enough features to make your editing experience as pleasant as can be.
It syncs directly with Dropbox and Google Drive using encryption, so you can use it in cases where you may need that extra security for your files. It can also handle multiple file types (including PDF, DOC, RTF, HTML, and most common image formats) that can be inlined within the Markdown itself.
ReText [Windows, Mac, Linux]
ReText is a nifty cross-platform editor for Markdown and reStructuredText (you don’t need to worry about that if you don’t know what that is). Using this program is straightforward and you’ll find that it works quite well.
It has an extension system that lets you create and install extra functionality, but ReText’s community isn’t large enough for it to be that useful yet. That being said, the base features are good enough for most users: tabbed editing, syntax highlighting, Google Drive synchronization, and exports to HTML, PDF, and ODT.
Other Markdown Editors
If none of these editors fit your bill, you could instead use a separate editor without built-in Google Drive support and synchronize the files using external tools.
gdocs2md is a neat script that can convert and export Google Documents into Markdown files. There’s a tiny bit of setup involved but it shouldn’t be too much of a hassle.
Or you can use the two tools created by Papaya Backend Blog: gdrivesync (which synchronizes local files to Google Drive on demand) and mdReader (which is a Markdown reader that you can use from right inside Google Drive).
Most Markdown editors support Dropbox integration, so another alternative would be to install the Sync Google Drive extension for Chrome (formerly known as Cloud HQ) which automatically synchronizes several cloud services (e.g. Dropbox, OneDrive, Evernote, Box, SharePoint, and more) with Google Drive.
And there you have it: multiple ways to effortlessly use Markdown with Google Drive.
Are you now more likely to use Markdown for editing? What other apps or methods did we miss? Share with us in the comments below!