Caret, the Multi-Platform Markdown Editor, Shines on macOS
A cross-platform markdown editor, Caret is an interesting new entrant in the markdown based text editor category.
If iA Writer is the markdown solution for writers, Caret and Typora are two examples of markdown editors for the more technical writer. Since Typora is in beta, I am not going to talk about it here. I am going to concentrate on Caret in this article.
Caret supports the original Markdown and the Github Flavored Markdown specifications. It is a complete markdown based writing solution with some interesting extras.
In addition to the usual Markdown syntax (bold, italic, links and images), Caret provides syntax highlighting for:
- inline math
- block math
- table of contents
- YAML front matter
One of the areas Caret shines in is the assistance it provides in writing markdown syntax.
A feature in Caret, I love, is the ability to highlight a word and paste a URL on it, to form a link. The application encloses the highlighted word in square brackets and then encloses the URL in brackets and pastes it right next to the closing square bracket. It is an obvious and intuitive solution to making links in markdown and now I wonder why this is not supported by other editors.
To illustrate contrasting approaches to this task of adding links I am going to explain the process in iA Writer and Caret.
In iA Writer, I copy a URL, highlight a word and press ⌘+K, which is the keyboard command for links, the application encloses the highlighted word in  brackets, and puts the URL next to it, after enclosing the URL with () brackets.
In Caret, I highlight a word and paste the URL on the word, the program encloses the highlighted word in  brackets and pastes the URL enclosed in () right next to it. In Caret, highlighting a word and pressing ⌘+K, encloses the word in  brackets and the application inputs the () next to it with the cursor in the middle of the brackets waiting for the URL.
Both of these approaches are great ways of making URL links in markdown. These are the touches which make both Caret and iA Writer an absolute pleasure to write Markdown in.
Caret makes the process of creating tables in Markdown pleasurable. It continuously helps you in the process by resizing the table as you type, creates new rows when you hit enter, and on the whole makes the onerous task of creating tables in markdown easy.
Caret treats images in the same intuitive way as links. You can drag and drop an image onto the text for a link to the image.
Caret autocompletes emoji, local paths, and languages in code blocks.
As an editor, Caret is chockfull of little touches which make it a pleasure to work in. I am going to highlight a few of those I am particularly fond of:
When you make a spelling mistake, hitting ⌥+Enter gives you the option of fixing the error. You don't have to go to the mouse or trackpad for this. Hands on keyboard, fixing errors. Fantastic.
On the top right corner of your editing window is a counter, it gives you a toggle between word count, character count, and reading time.
I saw this first in Sublime Text. It is now in Caret. You can hold on to the ⌥ key and click in multiple places in your document to get multiple cursors, or you can press ⌃+D to highlight multiple occurrences of the same word or symbol to get multiple cursors. You can type ⌃+U to unselect the last one selected. Multiple cursors are an absolute god send to the task of editing. You are so going to get used to this.
You reach this through ⌥Enter. These are the things you can do with the Quick Context command:
- fix spelling
- search for selected text on Google
- check / uncheck task items
- convert list to ordered / unordered / task
- convert reference link to inline
- visit link
- go to link definition (reference)
- go to footnote
Another little feature which enhances the pleasure of using Caret. These are useful to have at the touch of a keyboard command.
⌘T gives you a file browser. Right in the middle of the document you are working on. Makes the file browser an integral part of your workflow. Not having used DOS or Windows machines for almost 25 years now, it was a bit of a shock to see this, but it is a great way of traversing the file system and finding the right file I was looking for. You can just start typing the name of the file to find the exact one you are looking for in this list.
⌘E gives you a listing of the recent files you have worked in. Again a great way of getting what you are looking for without using the mouse.
Caret autosaves your documents, so you don't have to worry about losing your work.
Assorted Things Which I Like About Caret
- The developers are very responsive to both bug reports and feature requests.
- They maintain a github presence where you can raise issues you have with Caret. It has an active developer presence and is a great place to visit to read other Caret users suggestions for the product and the developers reaction.
- I like typewriter mode and focus mode. Typewriter mode gives me the ability to type in the middle of the screen and focus mode highlights the current paragraph and dims the rest of the document.
- Unlike most other Markdown editors, Caret makes making numbered lists easier. In most other editors if you have a numbered list adding items to the middle of the list screws up the numbering scheme. Not Caret. It dynamically changes the numbers of the items to give you a numerically exact list.
- I like full screen mode in Caret, coupled with typewriter mode and focus mode, it is a great way to write.
- I love the Go To commands. ⌘+G to jump to different headers of the document. ⌘+[ to go to the Start of a Block or ⌘+] to go to the End of the Block.
- I like how the path of the file I am working on is displayed in the title of the window I am in.
- Caret doesn't support the system settings of two spaces to period, and automatically capitalizing the first letter of a sentence. I wish they would do that. This feature is supported by iA Writer and I am getting used to this. I have to change my typing behavior when I come to Caret and that is a difficult thing to do.
- Caret forces me to use the fonts that are included. Only three of them are included and I have my own monospace fonts I am fond of. The developer suggests that this is something that is on the roadmap for the product. It can't come soon enough for me.
- Needs better documentation. Finding all the keyboard commands is a pain. I made a first stab at listing the keyboard commands here.
- I would like some control over the line spacing and paragraph spacing. The content is slightly crunched. Maybe there is nothing wrong with the spacing and I am just getting old. But my tired old eyes would like some control over spacing of both paragraphs and lines. Of course, increasing the font size helps that process.
Caret is an innovative Markdown based text editor which brings some of its multi-platform ethos to the Mac marketplace. I love the product. I recommend it heartily for anyone looking for a Markdown editor.
- Changed the punctuation in the title.
- Changed "an URL" to "a URL."
macosxguru at the gmail thingie