# PanWriter: Cross-platform writing tool runs on anything and outputs to anything

PanWriter isn't all that small, but it's simple, clean, and does the bare minimum over a plain text editor. If you are a programmer there is an almost embarrassing abundance of text editors, from crusty old things from the 1970s that require you to actively cultivate Stockholm Syndrome, to sophisticated modern efforts that try …

1. 130MB for a barebones editor is absurd.

1. That's the Electron bit which is essentiallay a browser runtime.

1. #### ReText

https://github.com/retext-project/retext

Same idea but uses python and qt

1. #### Re: ReText

Never in 27 years of writing have I written one story recommending a tool, in which so many people have commented or replied telling me to try other tools which either don't do the same thing, or do it and 100x more, or don't meet some of the critical requirements, or are just plain not as good.

It is almost impressive.

Anyway, I thought I'd let you know that I did actually try ReText.

Good points:

* very easy to install -- pip install retext and it's there

* nice GUI

* shows bold, italic and links in the markdown source: that's a win

* integrates with the Unity global menu bar

* relatively small, quick enough even on decade+ old kit

* has a preview and optional _live_ preview (took me a little work to find that)

* has a word count, although a little clumsily overlain over the document

Snags:

* considerable more complex UI, although I've found how to hide the toolbar

(notable when I praised Panwriter for its simplicity and clean UI)

* can't put rich text in the clipboard for other apps, a core function for me

* can't export to (say) Word or LibreOffice document formats

So, thank you. I think this is the best suggestion of them all so far. I can see that this might be a useful tool in the future, possibly, and it's a nice nifty little app.

But for me, right now, it doesn't do the core things I need and praised in the article -- the very clean UI and the very flexible rich output formats.

2. Yup, and at that point, surely a more sensible project would be to pluck everything out of VSCodium that isn't needed and rejig its UI...?

2. #### Enter candidate for dead simplest text editor

"Sometimes you just want something dead simple: words, maybe bold and italics, and hyperlinks because it's the 22nd century, and that's about it."

If we are in the mood of semi-randomly pitching FOSS software, than I ll throw one in the mix.

That is also where ViM comes in, at just a bit more than 1/10 the size. If you really like Pandoc, it has support for that as well. And yes, it is cross-platform.

1. #### Re: Enter candidate for dead simplest text editor

Did you not notice this bit where I wrote:

> crusty old things from the 1970s that require you to actively cultivate Stockholm Syndrome

That is specifically aimed at Vi, Vim, Emacs etc. I utterly detest them.

They are programmers' text editors, not tools for writers, and thus specifically and explicitly the kind of tool I *don't* want, because they do about 10,000 things I don't want and don't need, and they can't do things that I do want and sometimes do need.

Vim cannot render Markdown. It cannot show me when I've accidentally used bold instead of italics. It cannot show me if I have formatted a link correctly.

This is the entire point of the story.

1. #### Re: Enter candidate for dead simplest text editor

Why does it need to render Markdown? The whole point of Markdown is that you can see the codes on the screen, like Protext or WordPerfect for DOS did.

If there was a modern version of Protext that ran on Windows and macOS, I'd snap up a copy in a heartbeat.

I had it on my CPC6128, the Amiga and for MS-DOS.

1. #### Re: Enter candidate for dead simplest text editor

I explained why I wanted that *right in the article!*

> Markdown is readable as plain text with a tiny bit of formatting, but even with practice, it's easy to forget

> which is bold and which is underline, or which parentheses to use. PanWriter has a handy WYSIWYG live

> preview that shows you at a glance if you've got it right.

What more can I do to spell it out?

The point of the article is that this is a very useful improvement over what a plain text editor can do.

I wrote the article to say "here is a tool that is useful for things a text editor cannot do" and then I get comments saying "well why not use a plain text editor?"

I think this is in the running for my single least-understood article for the Reg ever. :-(

Even on Twitter, that renowned haven of deep analysis and reasoned critical debate, there are people saying "my word the commenters really don't get it, do they?"

1. #### Re: Enter candidate for dead simplest text editor

"What more can I do to spell it out?"

I think you need to go and have a cup of tea or take the dog for a walk, or something. sometimes you just have to give up despite your best efforts

2. #### Re:I think this is in the running for my single least-understood article for the Reg ever. :-(

Welcome to the corner well tested by prose from here, Liam Proven. :-)

There’s really no need to wonder, for there can surely be only one viable conclusion when IT can reveal the same thing to you as it does to me about the current dire and dismal state of States Internet Networking of Things for Everything?

IT's a veritable California Gold Rush type opportunity but one where the strangely excessive and vaguely wealthy struggle to survive intact and practically privately protected and virtually unknown with just their lives and a few of their many ill-gotten gains/prize possessions given the new raw powers and dark matter energies that are now ranged and rearranging all manner of ancient and postmodern things before them.

A Most Welcome of Brave New More Orderly World Orders for some who may or may not be a Just Chosen Few, a FCUKIng Desperate and Disorderly Nightmare for Others more than simply worthy of Suffering Such as their Just Fate/Manifest Destiny.

If folk take leave of their senses, is failure to comprehend plain text English, a universal symptom/prime indicator?

3. #### Re: Enter candidate for dead simplest text editor

I wrote the article to say "here is a tool that is useful for things a text editor cannot do" and then I get comments saying "well why not use a plain text editor?"

I always quite liked MS WordPad. Nice, light and simple. I'm no longer a Windows user but I suspect if it still exists it's probably bloated out of all recognition by now.

"I think this is in the running for my single least-understood article for the Reg ever. :-("

Naa! You've been here long enough to know by now that some people skim-read then comment on their misunderstandings on a frequent basis here. Some have clearly only read the headline, maybe got as far as the sub-head before leaping into the comments section :-)

1. #### Re: Enter candidate for dead simplest text editor

@ "I always quite liked MS WordPad."

Same I still use it when I want to generate RTF. Unlike Word it generates very simple RTF.

1. #### Re: Enter candidate for dead simplest text editor

@John Brown (no body) Just check on my home PC Win 11 and WordPad is still shipped with Win 11. Still the same lightweight program though it does have the ribbon.

Also still saves simple RTF. Save a 2 line doc as RTF in WordPad 1kb opened the RTF in Word and saved as RTF again 42kb.

1. #### Re: Enter candidate for dead simplest text editor

Thanks. It should run under Wine. :-)

1. #### Re: Enter candidate for dead simplest text editor

It does indeed -- a version of WordPad is *bundled* with WINE. ;-)

2. #### Re: Enter candidate for dead simplest text editor

I've managed to keep a copy of the EXEs for Wordpad, Notepad, and Paint from Server 2003. All three (including the .WPC files for Wordpad) are a whopping 1.13 MB total, and all will run under WIn10. I use Notepad and Paint the most, and only rarely use Wordpad anymore ( and usually wind up running the Win10 ribbonified version when I do need it).

4. #### Re: Enter candidate for dead simplest text editor

It's a situation where you have requirements (I was going to say special needs, but that's a charged phrase these days!) that others don't understand, yet some want to be helpful, while others are just deaf, dumb & dumber who comment.

There was a time years ago where I needed exactly what you're asking for. I understand 100%. I no longer have the need, but will give it a spin for old times sake and to see something new to me.

5. #### Re: Enter candidate for dead simplest text editor

A but the last 70 years of computer development is just bloatware, or something.

Why take advantage of all this new technology we now have available to us, when you could use some cryptic command line thing, wire up core memory by hand, or dip the end of a feather into an ink bottle and write it on parchment.

1. #### Re: Enter candidate for dead simplest text editor

I don't mind when software actually takes advantage of new technology. But most of it simply regurgitates dubious design decisions of no real value.

6. #### Re: Enter candidate for dead simplest text editor

I understood what you want from the article. It's not what I want, so after reading the piece I'm not rushing out to download PanWriter; but I also know my use cases and preferences aren't universal. And I don't mind taking a few minutes to hear about what someone else wants.

That said, if I were looking for something like this, I don't know that I'd be able to stomach an Electron app. Having to suffer with Teams is bad enough. But, again, preferences.

7. #### Re: Enter candidate for dead simplest text editor

> Even on Twitter, that renowned haven of deep analysis and reasoned critical debate, there are people saying "my word the commenters really don't get it, do they?"

Could this perhaps be picking up on a simple text editor with hyperlinks and markdown output but no programming features being more of a Reg *writer* than Reg *reader* thing?

1. #### Re: Enter candidate for dead simplest text editor

That's a fair point. It probably is, yes.

2. #### Re: Enter candidate for dead simplest text editor

BTW -- re Protext -- I have it running inside VirtualBox on top of FreeDOS here. It seems to work rather well.

You can get Protext for DOS here:

https://clasqm.github.io/freedos-repo/Productivity.html

I wrote about FreeDOS 1.3 recently:

https://www.theregister.com/2022/02/23/freedos_13/

And about how to run DOS under Linux, Windows and Mac here:

https://www.theregister.com/2022/06/28/friday_foss_fest_running_dos/

I have Word 5.5 and Word 6 running under DOSemu2 on this machine, and they work very nicely indeed. I have not tried Protext under DOSemu2, but I am sure it would work fine.

DOSemu2 is Linux-only of course. n Windows or on Mac, I would suggest VDOS Plus, or DOSBOX-X.

The advice on this page for setting up WordPerfect for DOS on modern macOS will also apply to Protext:

http://www.columbia.edu/~em36/wpdos/

2. #### Linux: Abiword??

Abiword works fairly well for me on my more ancient Thinkpad. Opens and saves a range of file types but not markdown so does not meet criteria implied in the OA. Abiword can export LaTeX markup and so cross conversion to markdown possible using pandoc including proper quotation marks. Might even be lighter than an electron app. The CherryTree note taking program can edit rich text in a fashion and export to html and pdf.

Windows has Wordpad and Mac OS has TextEdit. Linux graphical layers/toolkits appear not to provide a rich text editor object so I suppose it is harder to provide a basic rich text native program under Linux. Yes, I do know that GNU Step might provide an early version of TextEdit. Not tried that yet.

PS: On Linux at home since 2006 or so. The only MacOS applications I miss are TextEdit and the amazing Preview (i.e. pdf as a display description language being used underneath).

1. #### Re: Linux: Abiword??

Sadly, Abiword seems to be be an almost abandoned project. The source is at https://gitlab.gnome.org/World/AbiWord but the last change was 9 months ago. I think LibreOffice ate its lunch. I used Abiword on Windows ar one time, but there were some deficiencies that caused me to drop it (mainly poor Finnish support and no document encryption option). But it is the only relatively modern FOSS word processor that is not too bloated and starts quickly.

Another, although not as featureful was Ted. There are many editing programs with that name, but this one was a word processor that used RTF as the native format and was based on the Motif toolkit. Think FOSS reimplementation of old-school Wordpad. Homepage https://nllgg.nl/Ted/ (but this is even more abandoned less than Abiword).

1. #### Ted Re: Linux: Abiword??

Have to issue a correction about Ted: It uses the more modern gtk2 GUI toolkit, not Motif. Just for fun tried to build it from source on a Fedora Linux system, and it went smoothly following the build instructions, and without having to modify anything, which is NOT typical of large Linux programs last updated in 2013. The build did print out lots of deprecation warnings about some gtk2 API features, but these did not prevent compilation.

Here at least is a word processor that starts instantly.

3. #### Re: Enter candidate for dead simplest text editor

"Vim cannot render Markdown"

Every text editor can render markdown because the marked up text is human readable.

That's the point. You don't need to render it.

1. #### Re: Enter candidate for dead simplest text editor

>>That's the point. You don't need to render it

There are use cases (as explained in the article) where one might need/want to render markdown as one creates... for which PanWriter is a great solution.

2. #### Re: Enter candidate for dead simplest text editor

Actually, there's no reason why gvim shouldn't be able to render Markdown into a separate buffer, and you could use splitting to show that simultaneously and have it update in real time. Someone could just write a plug-in for that, if there's actually demand.

But among vim users (of which I am one) there may not be much demand for such a thing. Or someone may already have done it.

4. #### Re: Enter candidate for dead simplest text editor

I prefer emacs and Latex for my documentation needs. It's crufty in some ways, but within emacs I've got my fingers trained for the basics of editing. Beginning of line, end of line, delete character, mark a block of text and cut/copy/move.

I've done this for decades. Even micro-emacs with the *very* limited subset of emacs movement commands is perfectly useable to edit latex (or markdown) documents.

There's also the WYSIWYG Latex editor 'Lyx' to do what you want here. And TeX/LaTeX is just as powerful as Markdown, it's just a different syntax, with alot more power under the hood.

But you know, that's the joy of open source and choices, people can use what they want, and offer suggestions on different ways to achieve the same end.

Now I do admit the use of pandoc to export to RTF so you can cut'n'paste it into other places in a formatted state is a *neat* thing. There are places where a GUI is a good tool. But not always. And not when you have to do something over and over and over again. Why else do people use 'Ctrl-S' to save, why have a key combination when there's a perfectly good mouse and menu bar where you can save all you want? Because it's not efficient. And as an author, I'm sure you are *very* efficient when it comes to pounding out words because you get paid by the word, and anything which slows you down isn't good. So the investing of time to learn a key set of shortcuts is well worth it.

And I agree 100%! I use emacs because that's what my fingers know for editing, but I don't use more than 2% of the power of emacs I'm sure. There's so much it does and can do and which people have added to it, but unless you try to learn it all and use it all, it just drifts away.

1. #### Re: Enter candidate for dead simplest text editor

Yeah, I use LaTeX for my personal (and, back in the day, academic) writing too. Generally I use LyX, though it's easy enough to load a LyX file – just LaTeX with some additional markup – into vim, say, if I want to do something that's not entirely convenient in LyX. And I used to do outlining with FreeMind and then use an XSLT stylesheet to convert the FreeMind XML format into LaTeX.

But what Liam's describing sounds like a use case where LaTeX is overkill. LaTeX produces nicely1 typeset documents, these days mostly in PDF now that the troff family has faded from prominence. Using LaTeX for a short document with minimal styling (italics, bold, and hyperlinks) where layout and typesetting really aren't much of a concern, and you may need a wide range out output formats – that's overcomplicated and not a great fit.

Indeed, if your output is real POSH HTML, you aren't going to be doing much layout, and no typesetting, because the UA will handle the final formatting. And that's as it should be, for HTML. So the greatest advantage of TeX is irrelevant in that case.

1Well, yes, there's some debate about the layouts produced by TeX and LaTeX. But better than Word does, certainly.

5. #### Re: Enter candidate for dead simplest text editor

It's Ok - you don't need to panic. Emacs can do all that for you (org-mode).

It's also got an integrated text adventure and tetris for when the muse abandons you, and a psychotherapist when you feel your mind rebelling against the key combinations.

I think there's a little OS embedded in there as well for free.

Come... join us in the recent past. It's comforting, and is a great hand work out.

6. #### Re: Enter candidate for dead simplest text editor

Did you not notice this bit where I wrote:

> crusty old things from the 1970s that require you to actively cultivate Stockholm Syndrome

That is specifically aimed at Vi, Vim, Emacs etc. I utterly detest them.

Yes, I did. I rarely use vim for actual programming, while I more often use it as a note taking tool.

Which is also partly why I mentioned ViM, as despite being "vintage" it has many more modern variations that address the use case mentioned e.g.

-Multiple windows

-Markdown preview

-Generic HTML preview

The post was not meant to be inflammatory/derogatory in any way shape or form, as could be inferred by my other post in the same article. In the same vein, this post is not meant to further continue the discussion, but just to clarify. We share similar goals but start from different premises.

We can still agree to disagree, share a coffee and seamlessly collaborate on markdown documents edited with our favorite tools (something which cannot be said of more popular file formats).

2. #### Re: Enter candidate for dead simplest text editor

Vim was designed in an era when computers were less powerful than the microcontroller in my toaster. One of the benefits of having much faster computers is that you don't have to memorise a load of cryptic key combinations to do anything.

1. #### Re: Enter candidate for dead simplest text editor

You do if you don't want to keep taking your hands off the home row. Either you use the mouse (or whatever pointing device you have), or you memorize "accelerators", which are just "cryptic key combinations" dumbed down for people who don't want to learn things.

I wouldn't recommend vim to people who aren't already using it, to be honest. It's got a tremendous amount of historical baggage and tremendous complexity. (Same for emacs, particularly since I don't even like emacs.) But this refrain of "ooh modern UIs are so easy and fast!" that we've heard since Steve Jobs began parading the Mac around is nonsense. It's a bogus generalization and it's not supported by research.

3. Zim desktop Wiki is about 5 meg. WYSWIG/Code/ Web server of selected content,,,,,

4. Indeed. Use VS Code to write markdown, it includes preview support... and extensions can extend that. Which, while a similar download, has a lot of other abilities.

On which topic, from the article

It uses Markdown, which is a sort of lowest-common-denominator markup language.

Assuming a decent Markdown variant (ie. Common Mark compatible) and a couple of extensions (TeX support, and diagrams, via Mermain.js) you've got a tool that can produce better results than most work processors.

1. I specifically said that I did not want a programmer's editor.

Apparently I was not clear enough. :-(

1. #### Go on, you can say it :)

This thread has to be the best case of I literally just told you I've seen here for quite some time.

2. But you didn't put it in all caps and bold

I note that ANY software that is recommended in a headline will generate a raft of comments on whatever software the commenter likes that is remotely connected to the recommended one.

Serious question. Does PanWriter have an outline mode?

1. You're right. And of course text editors are one of the most vexed areas of all.

That is why I inserted a dig at Vi* and Emacs, which, predictably, their fans did not realise _was_ a dig.

No, there is no outliner. Sadly.

I do not know of any decent FOSS outliner, and that is the only reason I keep WinWord around.

Before I found Panwriter, I used Atom and a Markdown preview plugin, but it's even bigger and a lot clunkier.

There was an outliner plugin for Atom with quite a good, clean UI, but it only output to some odd XML format for handling family trees. It was free but contained a rider stipulating that it wasn't FOSS and when it reached 1.0 stage it would become paid.

https://atom.io/packages/foldingtext-for-atom

AFAICS it never got to v1.0.

Oddly enough, the LogSeq knowledge-management tool has a passable outline editor, but it's not meant to be a writing tool and it's not simple or lightweight.

https://logseq.com/

3. My spin on that is that the existence of the likes of PanWriter in the form it's in is a failure in software development as a whole. (And therefore not any reflection on or misunderstanding of what you wrote!)

Why isn't it now a straightforward matter to take a full-fat code editor and rebuild it with a few clicks to do only a single one of the million and one tasks it does, and with that, all the now-unnecessary chrome?

I find it baffling how we still struggle with the basics of software development.

5. Yes, they had me, until the penultimate paragraph... Electron? No thank you.

And it started off so promising.

2. #### I see.

"...because it's the 22nd century, and that's about it."

Getting a bit ahead of ourselves aren't we?

1. #### Re: I see.

Whoops! OK, that was a mistake. I will notify the editors. :-)

1. #### Re: I see.

Which makes me wonder what a text editor would like a century from now.

1. #### Re: I see.

"It's written in Electron, so it requires 130 TB of RAM..."

2. #### Re: I see.

You wouldn't have if you'd written it using VimNanoNext 2.3.132!

2. #### Re: I see.

For some people it's the 58th century, or the 15th, or the 6th, or the 28th, or the 26th, …

There are an awful lot of calendars.

3. #### Re: I see.

Blame it on the Klingon time crystal.

3. #### Heh heh...

"Actively cultivate Stockholm Syndrome." Apoplectic rants from vim|emacs fans in 3...2...1...

1. #### Re: Heh heh...

Guilty as charged

2. #### Re: Heh heh...

I am a viaholic and I edit config files from the command line in a terminal window.

However I like to see what alternatives are out there, and learning about a WYSIWYG Markdown editor may come in handy one day (if I ever have to write readme.md for GitHub etc. unlikely but never say never eh?)

1. #### Re: Heh heh...

Yep. Me too.

3. #### Re: Heh heh...

True fans don't rant. We simply bask in our smug superiority.

4. #### Also

I haven't tried it in many years, but Lyx is still a thing.

1. #### Re: Also

It is indeed, and I use it regularly.

2. #### Re: Also

It absolutely is, yes.

However, as I tried to make clear, I want and need something *simple* and minimal. Avoiding complexity is the whole point of the exercise here.

LyX is significantly more complex than pretty much any word processor, and is thus a move in the opposite direction from what I want.

1. #### Re: Also

But isn't it a trade between functionality and simplicity always? Having had to 'work' with thousand page documents with hundreds of random styles added apparently at random a text/word processor that effectively requires the use of textual metadata styles is a delight.

Though its obvious that as the end result of LyX is print ready output - and to be fair, it can get to be hard work if you need to include detailed tables - then it's not the 'text with bold and italics' which I agree is a halfway house rarely encountered.

1. #### Re: Also

The last time I wrote a 250+ page manual from scratch, it was 2016-2017. Before going full-time at the Reg, I was working as a technical writer, producing product documentation.

I wrote the entire maintenance manual for a complex high-end 3D printer, from nothing, in 2 months. In another 6 weeks, I did the 2nd edition for a revised printer.

As the company had no existing tooling for manual production or anything else, but were Windows-based, I did the entire thing in MS Word, most of the time Word 97, running on WINE on Ubuntu.

I started on Word 97, but when it started to struggle with the final drafts, I switched to Word 2003.

I wrote the entire document in Outline Mode, and did virtually no formatting by hand at all. I let Word pick and apply all the styles according to outline level and made a point of not changing them. This works very well indeed; Word has a rich library of styles and good management of them, which most Word users are oblivious to. If you let it do its thing and don't fight it, it works very well.

When the final draft was approved, I then merged the company stylesheet into my document outline, which applied all their styles to the final version, which was about 330 pages. This operation was not seamless but laying out all the pages took a couple of hours at the most.

With photos the file was around 1GB in size. Word 2003 handled this well, but I did need to buy a faster laptop! On my old Core 2 Duo Thinkpad X200, bought from the Reg's Andrew Orlowski, it took 20 min to open the file. I replaced it with an X220, a Core i5 model, and then the file opened in a few minutes and could be edited live without problem.

The customer was very happy with the result, which is why they hired me again for a 2nd contract to do the 2nd edition.

Word has its uses and Outline Mode is an *incredibly* powerful tool, and these days it feels very much like I am the only person in the world still using it.

My next contract (which was several years long) used DocBook and then AsciiDoc, and it took as long to become competent with those tools, plus an XML editor, plus Git, as the entire previous project (either stage).

So, yes, sometimes there are theoretically better tools for the job, but if you have to learn them, *and* teach them to the client as well, it may be better to use a sub-optimal tool that lets you just get the job done sooner.

1. #### Re: Also

Thanks for the info on Outline Mode. That's something I going to try I would much prefer typing docs without the layout getting in the way.

2. #### Re: Also

Great article, thanks. That's a good way to do it with.large docs - using "vanilla" word and then applying style at the end.

Last time I had a big doc to work on I used multiple markdown files which I concatenate using a windows command script which also pandocs into a word processor file.

Pandoc does a nice job of creating libre office / open office which open nicely in ms-word.

One advantage of this approach is you can also get the same command script to generate nice html off those markdown files. (Should also be good for generating ebook versions, but I haven't tried that).

Used iAwriter for a while on windows + android for my markdown needs (which is pretty much everything I write). Distraction free editing with Google Drive support.

But have cast it aside recently to explore Obsidian (win and android). Currently very much enamoured with obsidian, but the beauty of markdown is that it doesn't matter what edible you use, I can go back it iAwriter if I wanted to since they are just text files. I use the free version of obsidian and DriveSynch manages the synch with Google Drive.

Google drive handles markdown nicely these days by the way. I do everything I possibly can in markdown, complex docs through to shopping lists.

Obsidian is cool because it intelligently recognises links between your markdown files - you can see a mindmap/ "the brain" style visual representation of the relationships between your files and, like a.wiki, enables redlinks (I.e creating a link to a non-existent file means.that when you click on it later the file is automatically created for you)

Finally another benefit of markdown is you can use source control software such as git to support your writing efforts.

3. #### Re: Also

You mean there's two of us?

4. #### Re: Also

I second the "don't fight it" comment - you won't win (you think you have and then you open the file on another machine and realise you were duped).

Since I've learnt to let Word get on with it, my documentation takes a lot less time to write (and I hate writing documentation) .

5. #### What's it for?

The article fails to say what we should use this for? Is this a nearly WYSIWYG for Markdown?

I've used Pandoc in the past and it's great, though I normally use ReST + Sphinx for documentation and quite a few text editors have support for ReST or Markdown. My mail client, MailMate uses Markdown to create HTML mail and includes a preview.

1. #### Re: What's it for?

... to create HTML mail ...

What?

HTML mail?

---> Vade retro Satana !

O.

1. #### Re: What's it for?

Loved their music back in the 70s. Abraxas was the best.

1. #### Re: What's it for?

Loved their music back in the 70s. Abraxas was the best.

Santana

Aka Carlos Santana. Yes, a wonderful musician.

My favourite is "Supernatural"

Great songs, wonderful guitar playing, a real delight.

2. #### Re: What's it for?

Yes, I'm not a fan of it myself. However, as I only ever write plain text and rely on md -> HTML conversion, I know that the HTML part is going to be readable and safe. And, as I have to communicate with people who don't know the difference, it can be useful to have some simple formatting to make them happy and can just worrying about tilting my lance at the windmills of top posting…

Mine's the one with the shaving bowl in the pocket.

6. #### Nah

> it integrates with Pandoc

As an option or as a dependency? Because the latter means about half a gigabyte of LaTeX stuff being dragged into the system.

> Electron.

Nein, Danke.

I use Kate / Kwrite which syntax highlights markdown quite nicely and open the document in Okular, which watches the file for changes. More than does the job for me.

1. #### Re: Nah

"Because the latter means about half a gigabyte of LaTeX stuff being dragged into the system."

Just use plainTex rendred with XeTeX for full Unicode.

For writing prose you can generally do all the formatting you need in half a screen of plainTeX and never have to worry about LaTeX again.

1. #### Re: Nah

I'll take a look, cheers.

2. #### Re: Nah

I used to run LaTeX on an Atari Mega ST4 with a 65MB (not a typo, children) hard drive. What's happened to it? Mind you, the same computer ran a very nice and fully featured word processor called "Papyrus" from a single floppy disk.

1. #### Re: Nah

> What's happened to it?

To be fair, it might be a packaging issue more than LaTeX per se, but that's how it is in OpenSUSE.

2. #### Re: Nah

Yes, I ran LaTeX on my Amiga, similar amount of disk space.

Heck, I had an Apricot Xi with a 10MB hard drive. That was enough for the Apricot GUI, MS-DOS, C compiler, C interpreter (the only one I've ever seen!), BASIC interpreter & compiler, Pascal, Multimate, WordStar, dBase II and still left a few MB free for projects and documents.

3. #### Re: Nah

65 Meg? Luxury! I had the original - and huge (physically) Atari 20 Meg jobbie.

4. #### Re: Nah

There's LaTeX (probably LaTeX2e) itself, and then there are potentially many thousands of packages. Plus of course some TeX implementation and back ends. But it's the packages which are taking up most of the space.

So, sure, you might have had a pretty small LaTeX toolchain back in the day, and you could even put a reasonably small one together now. But what usually happens is people go with defaults and get zillions of class and macro packages, fonts, and so forth.

Honestly, the last time I installed LaTeX (when I got a new personal laptop around the beginning of this year) I didn't put much effort into trimming down the default installation, because Disk Is Cheap and it wasn't worth my time to figure out what I didn't want.

3. #### Re: Nah

It is not a text editor. As I said, if you are happy with a text editor, then good for you. This is probably not the tool for you.

I am not happy with a text editor, because what I write is not plain text.

No, Pandoc is not a dependency in _sensu strictu_ because it's an AppImage and they do not support dependencies. So you can install it without Pandoc and it will work.

However, part of the usefulness of Panwriter is the extremely rich output support, and if you don't have Pandoc that doesn't work. So, for Panwriter to be useful, yes you need to have Pandoc installed.

Yes, it's big. Yes, I wish it were smaller. But it isn't, and I haven't yet found anything so simple and easy to use that is smaller.

Yes, this could be a proper native app, without dependencies, but then, the writers would have to implement hundreds of input formats, re-implement text rendering and so on, and they'd have to do it on 3 different platforms: Windows, Linux and Mac. That would be really hard and a ton of work.

So they didn't. They used a platform with rich formatting and display rendering support, and an external tool which does extremely rich import/export support.

The result is a simple, free app with nice simple easy functionality that runs on 3 OSes -- but it's huge, and it has a huge external requirement.

Such is 21st century programming, alas.

I don't like it, but the result is extremely useful, and it's free.

Which is why I wrote the article, and specifically why in it I pointed out the cost of this: a big binary with a big external "dependency".

7. #### A plea for AsciiDoc i.s.o. Markdown

Use whatever editor you like with or without extensions but rather try to write in AsciiDoc and not in yet another non-standard extended Markdown dialect. And yes, AsciiDoc is Markdown compatible (for the 'standard' Markdown bits).

https://opensource.com/article/22/8/drop-markdown-asciidoc?utm_medium=Email&utm_campaign=weekly&sc_cid=7013a00000383eXAAQ

1. #### Re: A plea for AsciiDoc i.s.o. Markdown

I used AsciiDoc in my previous role.

It's all right. It has strengths and weaknesses.

However, AsciiDoc is basically a simpler notation for DocBook, and to publish AsciiDoc material, we translated it to DocBook first, then rendered that.

It works very well, but it is an entire Soviet-era sledgehammer factory for the roasted peanut level task of journalistic writing.

It's vastly more complicated than I need.

The point of the story was praising a *simple* tool with minimal options which are adequate to the task.

1. #### Re: A plea for AsciiDoc i.s.o. Markdown

The point of the story was praising a *simple* tool with minimal options which are adequate to the task.

I believe "the task" is key here.

I don't do a lot of writing and most of what I do merely requires Notepad and sometimes Wordpad. Beyond that it's HTML and HTML-to-PDF-or-whatever virtual printers.

The last challenge I faced was 'A4 folded in three' table-menu style leaflets to push through letter boxes. Vertical and horizontal text, some simple borders, a couple of images - All simple enough in theory but not when never having done it before.

I am sure what I would have liked to use for that would have been over-complex for some tasks and too dumb for others.

And that's why the editor wars are never going away.

Unlike Ms Hilton. Sorely missed. Never forgotten.

2. #### Re: A plea for AsciiDoc i.s.o. Markdown

All the features of actual Markdown, paraphrased from the original doc: Headers, Blockquotes, Lists, inline and Block Code (w/o syntax highlighting, references, etc.), Horizontal Rules, Links, (two kinds of) Emphasis, Images (w/o captions).

For anything else – and I suspect that in journalism you'd at least need stuff like tables, the occasional footnote, image caption, section link, etc. – you have to use some extension, or give up and write HTML.

So, to completely butcher that analogy: instead of a "sledgehammer", you now have a feather, with a set of pliers, a center punch, and a chisel glued to it, to break those roasted peanuts.

That's the advantage of Asciidoc in this context: instead of a set of pidgins, it offers a single, consistent syntax and semantics. All of this is also an enabler for some definitive documentation – and being able to look up 99% of general-usage features on a single reference page is quite a time-saver.

1. #### Re: A plea for AsciiDoc i.s.o. Markdown

Well, once again, actually: no.

The Reg, like virtually any website, has a CMS. It also has editors.

I don't do the tables. You may not the 2 recent articles with tables, comparing resource usage of the official and the unofficial Ubuntu remixes.

I made the tables with this:

https://www.tablesgenerator.com/markdown_tables

Dead easy, quick, free. I pasted the result into Panwriter. It did its magic behind the scenes to make that into HTML (I presume; I don't know, I never see it; it's never in a file, just in the clipboard.)

The wonderful human editors did the formatting. That's not my job, and they wouldn't be happy with me if I did it.

I don't do images either. The CMS does that for us.

So, no, I don't have, or need, or use, *any* extra external tools with Markdown or Panwriter, and I have used that table generator a grand total of twice, and TBH, I could have just done it by hand, but I couldn't be bothered.

I didn't write the article because this was one of a thousand tools that are all just as good. I wrote it because I know of ONE (1) tool that sounds closely comparable, and it costs money.

No, no text editor is good for this. The best I found was Atom, for its live preview, but it's bigger and clunkier and has 1000 more features I don't need, and needs extensive manual tweaking.

3. #### Re: A plea for AsciiDoc i.s.o. Markdown

Thanks for confirming my suspicion!

8. #### "This editor is the best ..."

DUCK ... 50 year old arguments incoming!

1. #### Re: "This editor is the best ..."

The editor wars never ended. The opponents just decided to mostly sit in their own trenches.

LOL

2. #### Re: "This editor is the best ..."

Hey, once every 1.5-2 years I fire-up EMACS and run through the tutorial and try it again. The finger gymnastics just doesn't quite click for me.

1. #### Re: "This editor is the best ..."

Much the same here, TBH.

ErgoEmacs makes the UI saner, but it can only go so far, and there's about SIXTY YEARS of semi-proprietary horror in there. It can only paper over the cracks.

I do not have a Meta key, and neither does anyone else. My keyboard is 32 years old, and it was made a decade or two after the last new keyboard with a Meta key rolled off a production line.

https://ergoemacs.github.io/

2. #### Re: "This editor is the best ..."

> ... 50 year old arguments incoming!

Aw come on now. Notepad is not fifty years old!

(exit stage left)

9. #### LibreOffice

LibreOffice may not have an Outline mode as such, but it does have a nice Navigator tool, basically navigable lists of Headings, Tables, Images, Sections, etc. etc. You can use it to drag-and-drop copies of stuff in the main text, but not to simply move stuff around. Even so, the times I miss Outline view are few and far between these days.

What I really miss is the old Tags-On (semi-WYSIWYG) view when banging down HTML, as in HoTMetaL Pro and Seamonkey.

1. #### Re: LibreOffice

I've tried it.

For my uses of Word's outliner, it is utterly useless. It is roughly equivalent to trying to a pit stop of a Formula 1 car using a bent paperclip.

You might be able to get the job done, very badly, eventually, but it is hopelessly inadequate to the task I am doing and the tool I want.

10. I find metapad supplies over 99% of my text editing needs in only 190K. The odd time I have a file with weird control code in it, I load it into StrongEd, fix it, and save it back out.

Is there a StrongEd for Windows?

1. Metapad looks nice, but it's a text editor, which isn't what I'm after, and it's a Windows app, and I'm running on Linux... so while I probably could run it under WINE, I don't really want to.

I don't know of a StrongEd (or Zap) for Windows, no. I occasionally consider switching to RISC OS for writing, but the thing is that I need to constantly look up stuff online, so I need a really good web browser... not to mention multiple proprietary and semi-proprietary chat protocols. :-(

11. #### Abiword

If you want something in between PanWriter and LibreOffice there's AbiWord.

1. #### Re: Abiword

I have used AbiWord in the past, but on a scale of complexity, between Panwriter and LibreOffice, it is about 95% of the way over towards LibreOffice Writer.

The point of Panwriter is when you *don't want* fonts, margins, page sizes, styles, indents, and so on. When all you want is a block of text with bold, underline and italics, and nothing more, because someone else or some other automated tool is going to do the formatting and display part.

I am not knocking AbiWord. It's a good tool. But it's a tool for a different task: it's something for someone who is trying to produce nicely-formatted output. I am not creating output at all. I am creating text, for other people and tools to insert into other systems.

The thing that makes it valuable is that it removes all that extra functionality and leaves you with almost nothing... but the stuff it leaves are the core essentials.

If AbiWord is a well-equipped home garage compared to a professional motorsports workshop, then Panwriter is a Swiss Army knife.

12. #### Interesting option

This looks pretty interesting. I usually use scrivener because it provides an easy way of re-organising chapters and paragraphs, but it's more complex than I need. I will give this a go.

1. #### Re: Interesting option

I have had a play with Scrivener, and it looks like a very good, capable tool, but my impression is that it is very strongly focused on novelists. I am not a novelist, and I don't intend to become one.

For the Reg, most of my pieces are between 350 and 2000 words.

1. #### Scrivener

Scrivener is good, and it does more than novels. It is, however, essentially focussed on creative writing and related media (screen writing, for example), rather than being a simple text editor with outlining.

It would cover, I think, what you want, but there is a lot of other stuff you absolutely don't need. It covers that because, as for you, a novelist / screenwriter / etc is not concerned with details of font and format per se, but with proper outline. The text is then submitted to a publisher, usually, who will handle those details, typically in several different versions (large text edition, paperback, etc).

13. #### Markdown

I don't know about PanWriter, but I find Markdown useful.

I create a local static version of my website then sync my hosting service website to it. I use webgen/ruby to create the local static website. It allows one to use Markdown. So, for very light pages, I use Markdown. For slightly more complicated pages I use HTML. For complicated documents LaTeX -> HTML. The editor stays the same. Vim. ;)

The Nextcloud notes Android app also uses Markdown. I think it good to have a very lightweight markup language.

Best wishes,

Bob

14. #### Ed is the standard

So, I take it that you don’t like ed?

1. #### Re: Ed is the standard

And troff as a pretty printer.

Best wishes,

Bob

1. #### Re: Ed is the standard

I used to use vi+troff+pic+tbl+gc (internal AT&T text mode diagramming tool), and then previewed it using xdit (I think it was called that) on a AT&T 630 Blit terminal for preview to write technical documentation, normally with the MM macro set.

That was a long time ago (actually, before Word ran on Windows), and since then I've mainly used Word, because that is what my employer(s) expected to be used. But all the manuals and technical documents I've written in the last 20 years have typically been less that 30 pages long.

Liam, I have to ask, although you are the author, the manuals you wrote belonged to the company contracting you. Do you leave instructions to anybody who has to amend the documents you create so that they can realistically update the documents? That is where Word scores, as it is just expected that people can use it. I've never been a big fan of Word myself, although I do use Outline mode (I think that I first used it on AmiPro and WordPro, but that's another story).

1. #### Re: Ed is the standard

Ooh, does AmiPro have an outliner? I think I have it on a machine around here somewhere. I must check.

Re the ownership of the document: that's a *very* good and entirely valid question.

No, I strongly suspect the company has nobody who knows how to use Outline Mode. I worked with an hardware engineer who showed me how to totally strip and rebuilt the machine (several times), and I carefully showed him, but it's not his job and I don't think he was interested or would remember.

OTOH, for a company with no existing tooling, which already used Windows and Office everywhere, this was about the best available option. They could edit it in Normal or Page Mode and make amendments. Ultimately that would screw up the formatting, but at least they can do it.

If I had used, say, AsciiDoc (which I didn't know back then) and some Linux tools to render it, they would not have been able to amend the doc at all. Ditto FrameMaker or MadCap Flare or some other commercial tool I'd have had to persuade them to buy. (And TBH neither of which I know well.)

So, yes, this is an excellent point, but Word still seemed to be the least-bad option.

15. #### I Support the Author's Panhandling

I am always interested to read about someone's newfound success with a tool that hits the spot. Of course, everyone's spot is different, as the comments prove.

The more details on what hits your particular spot and why, the better. Same goes for URLs and tips.

Who knows when any of us will need the special sauce that your editor offers!

16. #### A markdown editor

So it's a markdown editor then. If you're just looking for a lightweight markdown editor, then when not just use vim? Ultra-lightweight, intuitive commands (e.g. 'w' to Write a file, 'q' to Quit, can even be strung together so a simple :wq is sufficient to enter command mode, write the file, and then quit).

Flames incoming in 3... 2... 1...

1. #### Re: A markdown editor

Many people don't like or just can't get on with modal editors.

I've been watching people struggle with vi and vim for well over 30 years.

Once you get used to it, it is possible to write with it, but there's a lot of people who just can't. I mean, it does not even do word wrap on the fly when inserting in the middle of a line, something people take for granted now. It really is better suited for programming than prose, which is why embedded formatting tools like the various *roff tools came about to do the line wrap, paragraph generation, justification etc. without you having to bother with it in the text you write.

I used to think that it was useful to separate the writing from the formatting, because it allowed you to concentrate on the meaning of the words separately from how they look on the page , but it's just not done like that nowadays (although outline mode is a bit like that, I suppose).

I was working in a UK Polytechnic when the first waves of students who had used things like the simple compilers (and their editors) on 8 bit micros and simple word processors like TASword cam through who thought that vi was almost impossible to use because the concept was so foreign.

1. #### Re: A markdown editor

The editor in Devpac Gens for the Spectrum is very vi-like. At uni when first introduced to vi I couldn't "get" it until it suddenly clicked - oohhhh!!!! It's just VIEW, but instead of ESC to switch between editing and command mode, it's : and then i to go back to editing. Why. Didn't. You. Say?!?!?!?

2. #### Re: A markdown editor

100% this.

Larry Tesler said it in 1982, and he was right:

Don't mode me in.

https://wiki.c2.com/?DontModeMeIn

Modal editors should have died when we got CRT terminals. If they had, nobody sane would miss them, any more than anyone today misses Morse code in favour of a QWERTY keyboard (or QWERTZ or AZERTY or Dvorak or whatever you prefer.)

As per the late great Mr Tesler's number plate: NOMODES

1. #### Re: A markdown editor

Ah, morse code. I was a US Coast Guard radioman from 1974-1978. We used morse code. For SAR and all of that. Do I miss it? If everything else failed, it usually could be got to work, even if relays were needed. My phone ring is my morse handle. But, generally, it is better to text or talk.

Best wishes,

Bob

2. #### Re: A markdown editor

As someone who doesn't want to use editors - as you've said very repeatedly in these comments, you're a writer not a programmer - you're extremely opinionated about editors.

1. #### Re: A markdown editor

I am a writer *now*.

I also spend about a decade doing tech support and tech training, then another decade as a sysadmin. I have administered umpteen network and server (and client) OSes, and that has meant a *lot* of editing config files.

I've also done a bit of coding in my time, mostly for pleasure rather than for work, but a bit of both. I've done Fortran, Pascal, C, Java, Python, Bash, Sendmail/M4, and umpteen BASIC variants. *Lots* of Novell Netware login scripts and DOS batch files, back in the day.

So, yes, I most definitely do have strong opinions about editors. And as a Linux professional, one of the most controversial is that almost all console text editors for Linux are utter junk. Obsolete rubbish of the worst order that should have been forgotten in the last century.

3. #### Re: A markdown editor

Modal editors should have died when we got CRT terminals. If they had, nobody sane would miss them, any more than anyone today misses Morse code in favour of a QWERTY keyboard (or QWERTZ or AZERTY or Dvorak or whatever you prefer.)

Oh, what rubbish. The fact that you don't like modal interfaces doesn't mean they aren't fine for people who do like them. God, but I'm tired of assholes like Tesler who believe that everyone is the same as them and they know better than users. Do try to be better than that, please.

2. #### Re: A markdown editor

I covered this in the article. I have also covered it in replying to the previous commenter who said "why not use Vim then?"

I specifically said:

> crusty old things from the 1970s that require you to actively cultivate Stockholm Syndrome

That was specifically addressed at Vi and Emacs.

Both are, in my not-even-slightly-humble opinion, *terrible* editors.

There are very few that still exist that are worse. Edlin in DOS 3.3? Their only excuse is that they are from a period before computer UI was standardised, before computer keyboards had standard dedicated keys for cursor movement, deletion forward, deletion backwards, etc.

But that stuff was all standardised some FORTY YEARS AGO now, and there is no good reason for them not to adopt more modern conventions.

There are standard cross-OS keystrokes for block selection, for block movement, for file actions, etc. and I refuse to use any prehistoric flint axe of an editor that doesn't respect them. That is why I wrote this:

https://www.theregister.com/2021/12/17/tilde_text_editor/

I don't care if their fans think the UI is more efficient. It isn't: that's Stockholm Syndrome.

I don't care if it's programmable: I don't want that, and I don't want to do that. I have simple needs and I expect my tool to come preprogrammed to do that.

I don't care if it has amazing tools for programmers. I'm not a programmer. I don't want that. It gets in my way.

The kinds of things I care about are:

* if it has a standard UI.

* if it intelligently supports standard file formats.

* if it can show basic formatting live on screen.

* if it can understand multiple binary formats without me doing any work.

* if it can show me errors in my formatting or logic.

Vim can't do any of those.

Vim is a programmers' tool. I am not programming.

1. #### Re: A markdown editor

Funny that. I just looked, and vim with latex-suite shows \textbf{text} with "text" in bold, and \textit{text} shows "text" in italics. Not that I care, of course. I was just curious.

Best wishes,

Bob

17. Something else that is nice is suckless's 'sent' tool, which you can think of as being latex but extremely simple. Even the code is simple, at around 1000 lines. I've tested it out a bit, and it makes good presentations. All you need is a text editor!

18. #### You need this!

Here's a blast from the past:

https://www.lancaster.ac.uk/~steveb/cpaap/pfe/default.htm

19. HTML works for me

Manually in any text editor (or plenty of basic HTML editors around)

Although my personal email default view is plain text, HTML is generally a good format to email to (most) people (and obviously viewable in any web browser)

If you want it exporting to non HTML format then XSL transform to xsl-fo and from that standardised point can create various output types using various freebie tools that are publicly available (Apache fop is a common choice of tool)

Could also use XSL transform HTML directly to OOXML if you wanted a word docx style output (though could also do taht from xsl-fo intermediary)

Plenty of stylesheets out there to convert HTML to xsl-fo, OOXML etc.

Once everything is in place a few lines of parameter driven script calling xsl transform(s) and chaining to 3rd party tools if necessary makes it a trivially simple task in future.

Did have a similar thing in place I once used a lot (though in that case it was XML* straight to xsl-fo, as was using it to create PDF invoices)

*XML from queries against financial "billing" data stored in SQL Server (using FOR XML construct to get XML output)

20. #### I use vacs (I did try emi, but it wasn't as good).

So you want something that will do bold, italic, have an outline mode, and a word count. But somebody else has a slightly different set of essential features. And somebody else a third set. And that's why word processors end up so big. Everybody only uses 5% of the features. But everybody uses a different 5%.

Also, JournoWrite seems really niche. The outline feature is in such huge demand that Microsoft has relegated it to an after thought and Libre Office don't implement it. And then you turn down Scrivener which maxes out the same feature.

It's nice you've found something. If I get hired to do journalism, I might look at it. But it's not my niche. (Or probably that of most of your readers.)

21. #### Spiel Chucker

One thing I don't see is any mention of spell checking or similar.

I would have expected such a thing - supporting a personalised dictionary, to be an essential for a writer or journalist, particularly name spelling.

My common errors are duplicating words and and too many uses of "that", plus the inveitable finger trouble typos. All are easy to miss in one's own proof reading without a red squiggle underneath.

1. #### Re: Spiel Chucker

Oddly enough, that never even crossed my mind.

It is a fair and valid point, and I can see that that would be useful to many people, but in more than 6 months, I've never even thought of it or missed it for a second.

OTOH, that is what editors are for. :-D

22. Sorry but I really need a Word Count so not for me.

23. #### Suggestions

A very basic editing capability would be nice:

- Trim Leading Whitespace (spaces and tabs; selection or whole document)

- Trim Trailing Whitespace (spaces and tabs; selection or whole document)

- Text to Uppercase (selection)

- Text to Lowercase (selection)

- Capitalize (selection)

- Invert Case (selection)

- Insert Date and Time

Also:

- Line Numbers (that you may toggle on and off)

- A status bar with cursor position (Line, Coloumn) and total lines.

- a menu item to keep windows always on top.

- and the already suggested character count and word count.

1. #### Re: Suggestions

Apart from word count, no thanks, I don't want a single one of those. :-)

All would be pointless clutter to me.

24. #### Runs on anything?

Sorry, but I can't see how to run it on RISC OS and produce output to Impression.

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