Have you ever wanted to format your iPhone email messages? Today we’re going to look at a popular new app, MarkdownMail, which makes it incredibly easy to create HTML formatted emails with the simplicity of Markdown markup.
The default iOS Mail app works great for most emailing purposes, but if you want to format your text or include lists, links, and more, you’ll need a more advanced app. MarkdownMail fills in this gap by letting you quickly create HTML formatted messages using simple Markdown formatting. No matter what email client your receiver is using, including the iOS Mail app, your message will be formatted just like you intended. Let’s take a look at this app and see if it will make emailing from your iOS device better for you.
Getting Started with MarkdownMail
MarkdownMail is a no frills app that gets out of the way to let you get your work done. When you first run the app, you’ll see an example message that explains the app’s features … in Markdown formatting, of course. Tap the compass icon, second to right, to preview the post as it will look in rendered HTML.
From the edit screen, tap the Drafts button in the top left corner to see all posts saved in MarkdownMail. There’s only the default example one at first, so press the plus button to add a new post. Start typing anything you’d like, and add Markdown markup to get your message formatted.
It’s fairly quick to add the formatting you want with Markdown. If you’re already used to using it in 37signals webapps and other tools, you’ll be ready to format beautiful emails quickly. Otherwise, you can get an overview of Markdown on Daring Fireball.. For a quick refresher, just press the left menu button and select Syntax Review for a quick glance at the formatting options right from the app.
Or, here’s some quick formatting options you may want to use – just replace the text between the symbols with the text you want to format:
- #Header 1# (same as <H1></H1> in HTML)
- ##Header 2##
- To make a list, just add numbered or * lists in individual lines
Once your message is ready to send, press Done to close the keyboard then tap the email icon in the toolbar to send the message. Enter your subject and recipients as normal, then send your message. All messages you’ve written will stay in the MarkdownMail Drafts folder, so you can quickly access them to get formatting for a future message.
One thing we found very useful was using MarkdownMail for HTML snippets we wanted to use commonly in email messages. We wrote out our standard email signature in Markdown, then preview it in HTML, copy it and then paste it into any app, including the default Mail app, in seconds. This is not what you’d think of as the default use for an app like this, but it works well, especially with the Drafts folder that makes it easy to save messages.
Use MarkdownMail for Blogging
Another thing MarkdownMail works great for is for composing blog posts. Most of the major blogging systems offer their own mobile apps for creating new posts on the go, but most don’t let you format your posts with rich text and formatting.
There’s a couple ways you can use MarkdownMail to overcome these limitations. First, Tumblr and Posterous both let you email Markdown formatted posts to publish directly. Alternately, you can copy HTML formatted text to your clipboard to post to another blogging system such as WordPress using its native app.
To post to Tumblr or Posterous, just type up a new post in MarkdownMail with Markdown formatting. Once you’re finished, press the menu button on the left and select Email Markdown to email the post in Markdown formatting. Now just email it to your special posting email address you’ll find in your account info, and you’ll have a new formatted post on your blog in minutes. Alternately, if your blogging system doesn’t support markdown, just copy the HTML formatting and paste it into an email or the mobile app; this works well with the WordPress app.
If you’re emailing a post to Tumblr, remember to put !m in the subject line before your post title, or otherwise Tumblr will not recognize the markdown formatting.
Pros and Cons
In general, it’s fairly easy to use Markdown to make nicer emails than you could with the Mail app. The only problem with entering Markdown formatting on the iPhone is that you have to navigate between 3 keyboards to get all of the characters. It’s still easer than entering raw HTML markup, but we did find it tiring in our tests. If you have the TextExpander app, though, you can cut some of your editing time by making shortcuts for the text you enter the most. We wish it offered formatting options via a tweaked keyboard or extra editor buttons. Additionally, it would be nice if there was an option to not save messages as Drafts if you want; sometimes you want to send a formatted message one time only, and don’t want it filling up the drafts folder.
If the default Mail app has been killing you with its lack of formatting options, MarkdownMail will be like a breath of fresh air. It makes it quick and easy to create formatted messages, and is terribly useful for a snippet manager for those little bits of formatted text you need daily.
Even if you’ve never used Markdown formatting, it’s easy enough to learn that you’ll be using it like a pro quickly. There’s tons of reasons having full HTML editing support can be useful on an iPhone, from creating a rich footer for your emails to sending your client a list of things left on their project to writing a well-formatted post for your blog on the go. If you’ve used MarkdownMail for something unique, be sure to let us know in the comments below!