Creating nicely formatted printed documents from Markdown

I’m responsible for producing the printed meeting minutes for the organising committee of a society that I’m a member of.

Historically I’ve produced these in Word (don’t judge !), but I’m looking to switch to using Markdown.

I’m currently using IA Writer on Mac/iPad to edit the Markdown text and Marked 2 on the Mac to format the output.

I like the workflow and the tools, but I’m less happy with the format of the finished output.

A lot of the default themes and styles seem to be geared for online publishing and don’t look look good in a printed document (fonts too large, too much white space etc).

Does anyone have any tips for producing nicely formatted printed documents from Markdown text ?

I recently switched over to Ulysses, and control over nice looking pdfs was one of the reasons. The other reason was I needed to track footnotes and I couldn’t find another markdown client that could handle footnotes and nicely printed output. Another option to check out is Marked. Marked is nice for one off pieces that need to be printed, but I find it cumbersome to load up a third party app simply for this purpose. I prefer to edit and “print” (to pdf) from the same app.


Have you evaluated Typora?
It’s pretty interesting, and has options for PDF formatting with heading ranges other than billboard to speck.
The diagrams below were both created using text in Typora. It optionally hides the source for these objects. (If you just see headers here, click to see the full image.)

Interesting export options too.

I get what you mean. I keep telling myself I’ll devise a really good Marked CSS of my own one of these days for some of what I do. Right now the Yeti theme is what I get the most mileage out of.

There’s also Pandoc for converting directly to Word. I don’t know about iA writer, but other Markdown writing apps I’ve used haven’t made Markdown headers into headers Word recognizes in its stylesheet. At least that way, I can tweak from there to fit what I want. I’m generally pretty comfortable with command-line tools, but Pandoc was a bit intimidating for whatever reason. I wind up using the Pandoc plug-ins with Sublime Text instead.

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Thanks for the feedback.

Based on the suggestion from @Doty I decided to take another look at Ulysses (which I have used a little previously, but moved away from when they went to a subscription model as my usage at the time didn’t warrant the annual fee).

I definitely agree that it looks good with a nice variety of export styles and it doesn’t look too hard to customise these.

My only reservation is that checkboxes don’t seem to render very well in exports (although they look fine in the on screen preview).

I’ve attached pictures from IA Writer and Ulysses exports below to show what I mean.

IA Writer


Unfortunately I use these extensively in meeting minutes etc.

Does anyone know if there’s a way to fix this in Ulysses ?

I did also check out Typora as suggested by @JohnAtl. This looks interesting, but I don’t think it’s right for me for a couple of reasons.

  • Lack of iPad app (I use this a lot)
  • I like the idea of focussing on content first and then worrying about presentation afterwards and I think a WYSIWYG editor would distract me to tinkering with the format as I’m creating the content

So if it’s not possible to fix the checkbox issue with Ulysses then I’m probably down to the types of solutions suggested by @ehler .

Creating a custom Marked CSS looks doable, but non-trivial. It also requires me to publish from the Mac when ideally I’d like to be able to do so from the iPad as well.

The final option I’m considering is creating a custom export template for IA Writer, however, these look a bit intimidating at first glance. Has anyone ever tried to create or tailor one of these ?

Check out - there’s a lot there which will all export on iOS.

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My biggest issue, and this happens with any markdown to docX conversion that I’ve done in any app, is the automatic double spacing. I don’t know how to keep it from happening, and I don’t know how to fix it when it happens. Maybe it’s a “styles” thing. I usually have to copy to clipboard and then “paste and match style” on a fresh document.

For iOS export, you could always use the same CSS from Marked for use with the Markdown preview features of Drafts.

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Thanks, that’s a really useful tip.

I was able to get pretty similar output on iOS using this technique to Marked on the Mac.

Only thing I couldn’t get was the checkboxes I mentioned above.

If I’m reading the Marked documentation correctly then it’s doing some pre-processing on the markdown to generate these before applying the CSS.

Marked works with Ulysses as well.

Ulysses produces good pdf with Markdown. It has several styles and is easy to use: there is a short learning curve I would recommend the Sweet Set Up course on it. You can be up and running in a few days with it. It is a subscription app but you would find yourself using it a lot I think. It is also included in Setapp I think.