September 30, 2018

Paper Floats a Cursor to Keep You Focused

Paper iconPaper icon

Product: Paper
Product Web Site: Paper… for writers
Price: Free
In-App Purchases: Personalization & Writers Tools: $9.99 each.

Paper is an interesting product. It is a minimal text editor which supports both plain text and rich text modes. I am going to ignore all of its rich text goodness because I work in plain text and rich text is irrelevant to me.

Ostensibly geared towards minimalism in its features and implementation, Paper is a deep product which provides users a curated set of options. It tends to hide its options through a novel implementation of menus changing based on whether you have the ⌥ key pressed or not. For instance, this is the Format menu with no ⌥ key pressed.

Paper FormatPaper Format

This is the same menu with ⌥ key pressed.

Paper Format + OptionPaper Format + Option

Paper does this with all its menus. It tries to hide complexity from the user but gives the user the opportunity to delve in to the complexity when the user wants to. It is a commendable goal, letting the user have the option of easing into the intricacies of the program if they choose.

The Floating Cursor

Borrowing the feature from Word’s “smooth cursor” animation, Paper has a cursor which flows along the screen. You type and the cursor glides along the screen. The cursor is colored blue, I guess that is borrowed from iA Writer. In fact, Paper looks and feels like an ancient incantation of iA Writer without the elegance of the customized Nitti font, or the support of a modern Markdown implementation, like MultiMarkdown or any attempt to tackle your file hierarchy.

The origins of the features of Paper might be a tad questionable but the effect of the cursor gliding on the screen is hypnotic and compelling.

How Well Does Paper Do Markdown?

Paper supports the basic implementation of Gruber’s Markdown. It is significant in that the specs were last updated on 17 Dec 2004. Markdown has evolved significantly. Paper supports the basic implementation and does that well. I am not certain that is enough in the current marketplace.

Paper competes with products which are distinguished by their support of one of the advanced variants of Markdown. That means that Paper lags in supporting the following Markdown elements:

  1. Footnotes.
  2. Tables.
  3. Task Lists.
  4. Subscripts and Superscripts.
  5. Citations.
  6. Glossary.

This is not a comprehensive list. You can go to MultiMarkdown Guide to see what a modern day implementation of Markdown looks like. There are products in the marketplace which support the full-suite of a modern Markdown implementation and they are all competing with Paper.

Paper competes with:

  1. iA Writer: The Focused Writing App for Mac, Windows, Android, iPhone and iPad supports a customized MultiMarkdown.
  2. MultiMarkdown Composer v4 supports MultiMarkdown.
  3. MWeb - Pro Markdown writing, note taking and static blog generator App - MWeb supports Github Flavored Markdown (GFM).

This is not a comprehensive list. There are a ton of other competitors. So, in this mass of competitive products why would you adopt Paper?

The developer feels that there is a space available in the marketplace for a product which supports basic Markdown and gives people an environment to write in without the full-featured support of a modern Markdown implementation. He could well be right. The reviews on the macOS App Store seem to support this point of view. Paper is well-reviewed by its users.

I am not so certain but I am aware that I am far removed from the usual user. I am comfortable with Markdown. I live in Markdown. My needs are not typical. For those starting out in Markdown or just looking for a program to write in without a specific focus on Markdown, Paper is not a bad solution.

Paper Features

This is a list of the features which I found interesting in Paper:

Paper Font ChoicesPaper Font Choices

Font Choice: Paper gives you a pre-defined choice of fonts to write in.

Paper Paragraph OptionsPaper Paragraph Options

Paragraph Format: I love that Paper gives me the option of specifying Line Height and Spacing for my paragraphs.

Paper Focus ModePaper Focus Mode

Focus Mode: Paper gives you a choice of Paragraph or Sentence in its Focus Mode. This is similar to the behavior in Byword.

Paper Line LengthPaper Line Length

Line Length: Paper lets you set your preferred line length.

Polyglot Clipboard: I was confused about what “polyglot clipboard” was. This is the developer explaining the feature:

A clipboard that knows many languages/formats :) Basically, you can copy (export) into many formats and paste (import) from many formats.

Copy Markdown from Paper and paste to a rich text editor like TextEdit and it will insert Markdown as formatted text. Copy from TextEdit and paste to Paper and it will insert formatted text as Markdown. Pasting Markdown to a plain text editor will insert Markdown as is, of course.

Holding Option key in Edit menu reveals options to import/export HTML from/to clipboard. There is also an option to “Paste as Plain Text” in case you don’t want to carry over any formatting to Paper. This option changes to “Paste and Match Style” in Rich Text Mode to match the same feature in rich text editors like TextEdit.

All of that works seamlessly in Rich Text Mode as well. You can, for example, copy some Markdown from a plain text editor and paste it to Paper in Rich Text Mode. Paper will insert this Markdown as formatted text.

For a product which supports both plain text and rich text, this is an interesting addition and customers who work in both plain and rich text are going to get a lot of use out of this feature.

This is a product which is designed with care and attention to detail.


If you are interested in a Markdown based text editor there are better choices in the marketplace. On the other hand, if you are not completely sold on Markdown, and want a well designed environment to write in, Paper is a solid choice. It is a conglomeration of features from the best of breed in this category and it is a pleasure to follow the floating blue cursor around the screen.

Paper is recommended for folks who are new to Markdown, or are not enamored by Markdown.

An Alternate Review: Paper is a unique macOS text editor for iA Writer and Word 2016 fans

macosxguru at the gmail thingie

macOS Markdown Text Editor

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