Zettlr – Markdown Editor for Writers and Researchers

There are quite a few Markdown editors available for Linux, with more popping up all of the time. The problem is that like Boostnote, most are designed for coders and may not be as welcoming to non-techie people. Let’s take a look at a Markdown editor that wants to replace Word and expensive word processors for the non-techies. Let’s take a look at Zettlr.

Zettlr Markdown Editor

Zettlr Light Mode
Zettlr Light Mode

I may have mentioned it a time or two on this site, but I prefer to write all of my documents in Markdown. It is simple to learn and does not leave you tied to a proprietary document format. I have also mentioned Markdown editor among my list of open source tools for writers.

I have used a number of Markdown editors and am always interested to try out someone’s new take on the idea. Recently, I came across Zettlr, an open source markdown editor.

Zettlr is the creation of a German sociologist/political theorist named Hendrik Erz. Hendrik created Zettlr because he was frustrated by the current line up of word processors. He wanted something that would allow him to “focus on writing and reading only”.

After discovering Markdown, he tried several Markdown editors on different operating systems. But none of them had what he was looking for. According to Hendrik, “But I had to realize that there are simply none written for the needs of organizing a huge amount of text efficiently. Most editors have been written by coders, therefore tailored to the needs of engineers and mathematicians. No luck for a student of social sciences, history or political science like me.”

So he decided to create his own. In November of 2017, he started to work on Zettlr.

Zettlr About
Zettlr About

Zettlr Features

Zettlr has a number of neat features, including:

  • Import sources from your Zotero database and cite them in your document
  • Focus on your writing with the distraction free mode with optional line muting
  • Support for code highlighting
  • Use tags to sort information
  • Ability to set writing goals for the session
  • View writing stats over time
  • Pomodoro Timer
  • Light/Dark theme
  • Create presentation using reveal.js
  • Quick preview of a document
  • Search all Markdown documents in a project folder with heatmap showing the density of word searched
  • Export files to HTML, PDF, ODT, DOC, reStructuredText, LaTex, TXT, Emacs ORG, TextBundle, and Textpack
  • Add custom CSS to your document

As I am writing this article, a dialog box popped up telling me about the recently released 1.3.0 beta. This beta will include several new themes, as well as, a boatload of fixes, new features and under the hood improvements.

Zettlr Night Mode
Zettlr Night Mode

Installing Zettlr

Currently, the only Linux repository that has Zettlr for you to install is the AUR. If your Linux distro is not Arch-based, you can download an installer from the website for macOS, Windows, Debian, and Fedora.

Final Thoughts on Zettlr

Note: In order to test Zettlr, I used it to write this article.

Zettlr has a number of neat features that I wish my Markdown editor of choice (ghostwriter) had, such as the ability to set a word count goal for the document. I also like the option to preview a document without having to open it.

Zettlr Settings
Zettlr Settings

I did run into a couple issues, but they had more to do with the fact that Zettlr works a little bit different than ghostwriter. For example, when I tried to copy a quote or name from a web site, it pasted the in-line styling into Zettlr. Fortunately, there is an option to “Paste without Style”. A couple times I ran into a slight delay when I was trying to type. But that could because it is an Electron app.

Overall, I think that Zettlr is a good option for a first time Markdown user. It has features that many Markdown editors already have and adds a few more for those who only ever used word processors

As Hendrik says on the Zettlr site, “Free yourselves from the fetters of word processors and see how your writing process can be improved by using technology that’s right at hand!”

If you do find Zettlr useful, please consider supporting Hendrik. As he says on the site, “And this free of any charge, because I do not believe in the fast-living, early-dying startup culture. I simply want to help.”

Have you ever used Zettlr? What is your favorite Markdown editor? Please let us know in the comments below.

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  • The best feature, in my mind, is folding–the ability to expand or collapse text by markdown header level. Zettlr makes it easy to keep the structure of long documents straight.