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Ghostwriter, a free software markdown editor for everyone

18th August 2018

Ever since I started to use markdown, I searched for the best editor for my needs. I search the web and AUR every couple of months for new programs, but I always seem to return to Ghostwriter.

In the past year I used mostly Emacs for writing, but honestly you can use it for so many things, it's almost gets in the way.

That's why I went back and see what's the latest development around Ghostwriter, an free software markdown editor.

What is markdown and why it is good for writing?

If you look at a traditional word processor like Microsoft Word or LibreOffice Writer, you will see screenwide toolbars with functions that people barely use in their lifetime. These functions have their useage, but most people who wants to write don't need a bloated software, which supports few formats that will be in use later in the 21st century.

Markdown however is just a text file, and it can be read by any text editor, doesn't matter if it is Notepad, Kate or Vim and Emacs. With the markdown format you can focus on writing and care about less on formating. Markdown is basically an even simpler HTML (where you still need to know the tags, and how to close them, etc.). With a markdown editor you'll get highlighting and optimally some functions for even faster writing.

Ghostwriter: why this is the best?

What was amazing during the last day or two, that while I rediscovered Ghostwriter is that I've read many things about some of the decisions behind making this excellent editor.

The developer's reason behind not using a WYSIWYG editor, that it would have needed an own markdown interpreter, and for large texts - which has thousands of words - it would make writing really slow.

This make sense to me, and I love that he actually thought about it, before just going with the flow, and do what others are doing.

It has a traditional menu system, and almost every function has a keybinding. Some of the stuff are available from the bottom statusbar too: fullscreen mode, or distraction free mode. On the left you see some of the settings, like export and live preview. These are not just great things to have in front of us, but it looks good, because of the nice, mono style icons.

Unlike most markdown editors these days, Ghostwriter is not based on electron, instead it uses Qt, which is much faster!


One of my favorite feature is the theme system. A theme can put you into the mood for writing. Anybody can easily create their own theme, with (or without) background image and coloring, down to spell check and markdown syntax colors. The only things is missing is the fonts, which is universal to every theme, and you can only switch it seperately.

If you want something ready made by others, check out this github repo. Luckily every theme has a screenshot.

A great plus that, if you know a little CSS, you can create your own live preview theme.

Note: If you are using a GTK based desktop environment, like Gnome Shell, Cinnamon, Xfce or MATE, you might want to configure the UI with Qt5 Settings to look the same as your GTK programs.

Smaller things

There are some small, but essential features like showing clock when you are in fullscreen mode, or a word count in the middle of the statusbar.

The HUD system is also nice. These are floating little panels with different useful stuff, like:

  • document and session statistics (it shows even how long do you edit a document since you've opened it!)
  • a document outliner
  • a cheat sheet for learning markdown

You can easily hide these with Ctrl+Shift+H shortcut.

Preferences (Settings -> Preferences) has ton of different options: autosave (with backup!), focus mode, editor width, spell check, etc.

Formats: Ghostwriter can export to HTML, Word, ODT, PDF, etc.

How to install Ghostwriter?

Very simple because I am sure you can find it in every repository for almost every distro.

While I love AUR, I don't recommend to install it that way, because I simple couldn't change themes. It may have some Qt problems, I don't know. However I compiled it from source - the Github page has a really great guide, easy to follow - and now I have no problem with it. The developer is very helpful and active.

n the same page there are instructions for Ubuntu based distros too.

Important note for Windows users Sadly as of the latest version (1.7.2) the developer can't support the Windows version, and he needs volunteers to do it. If you are using Windows and want this awesome software to stay alive on your platform, message him through github.

The 1.7.1. version is the last usable Windows version for now.