Writing in Markdown with Ghostwriter

20 September, 2021

While Apostrophe is my Markdown editor of choice at the moment, others occasionally catch my eye. It’s not that I’m constantly looking for a new Markdown editor, but part of me likes to know what’s out there.

Recently, I stumbled across an editor called Ghostwriter. Well, stumbled across isn’t quite the way to describe this discovery. I’ve used Ghostwriter in the past, and was impressed by its combination of a minimal design and a decent feature set. So I thought it was time to revisit Ghostwriter.

Let’s take a look at it.

Getting Ghostwriter

Ghostwriter is available for the Ubuntu and Fedora Linux distributions. You can also install it under MacOS if you’re willing to compile the source code.

To install Ghostwriter under Ubuntu or Fedora, you need to add the software’s repository. You can find out how to do that here.

Ghostwriter is also available as a flatpak and from the elementary OS AppCenter. As you might have guessed, the latter is how I installed it on my laptop.

Using Ghostwriter

Launch Ghostwriter. You have pretty much a blank canvas.

A blank page in Ghostwriter, waiting for words

From there, you start typing. Nothing too spectacular there, I admit.

Writing in Ghostwriter

You can do the same in any text or Markdown editor. If you don’t want to add formatting by hand, or are just learning Markdown and don’t know what to add, then you can select basic formatting from Ghostwriter’s Format menu.

Ghostwriter’s Format menu

As I said, that formatting is basic — lists, character formatting, blockquotes, and indenting. You’ll have to add headings, code, and the like by hand. But the Task List option is interesting. While I don’t do it myself, I know a few people who create their task lists in Markdown. This makes creating and maintaining one much easier.

Previewing Your Work

Ghostwriter doesn’t have a dual-pane inteface — with code on one side and a preview on the right. But it does let you do a preview of your document by either selecting View > Preview in HTML or by pressing CTRL+M.

Previewing a document in Ghostwriter

Notice the cog icon in the bottom left of the editor window? Click that to choose the Markdown processor to use to render the preview.

Ghostwriter’s preview options

Your choices are:

Obviously, you’ll need at least one of the Markdown processors in the list installed on your computer.

In that window, you can also choose a custom Cascading Style Sheet to use to format the preview from the Style Sheet list. If you don’t have one, Ghostwriter uses the stylesheet used by GitHub (a popular code repository).

Exporting to Another Format

What happens if you want or need to save your document to another format, like HTML or ODT? Either click the Export icon on the bar at the bottom left of the editor window or press CTRL+E to open the Export window.

Exporting a file from Ghostwriter

The export options depend on the Markdown processor you choose from the Markdown converter list. Choosing Sundown or Discount, for example, you’ll only be able to export your documents as HTML files. If you choose any of the Pandoc options, you can export as HTML and in these formats:

You can also click the Copy HTML button in the bottom left of the editor window convert your document to HTML and copy the results your clipboard. You can then paste that elsewhere — for example, into an HTML template or a blog editor.

Final Thoughts

Ghostwriter is a simple, minimal yet effective Markdown editor. It’s not my go-to Markdown editor on the Linux desktop, but that doesn’t mean Ghostwriter isn’t a solid application. It is. Give it a look. It might be the Markdown editor that you’re looking for.

Scott Nesbitt