New Project: Leaf

From the “scratch an itch you’ve had for years” department, I’m excited to share Leaf, a new tool I’m building to publish nicely-formatted Markdown files online.

Writing in Markdown is great! It’s the perfect balance between a bare-bones plain text file and the full-featured (but bloated) options in rich text editors like Microsoft Word or Google Docs. Once you learn Markdown’s lightweight formatting commands, creating beautifully formatted documents is fast and easy. I use Markdown for almost everything I write. This blog is written in Markdown, as are all of my emails, work documents, personal notes, shopping lists… you get the idea.

One of the few areas where Markdown falls short is when I need to share my finished output. While most Markdown editors let you export files as HTML, PDF, or other formats, what I usually want is to share a link to the document with someone. Sharing is the killer feature in Google Docs and something that’s been lacking in every Markdown editor I’ve tried.

The closest solution was Github’s Gist, which is designed for sharing code snippets and doesn’t present the written word as nicely as I want. It also has some very Github-specific product features that I never need, like automatically creating a git repository for every file. Even with these quirks, Gist showed me the potential for a fast, simple Markdown sharing tool.

I kept waiting for someone else to build the perfect way to easily share a Markdown file online. Eventually, I got tired of waiting and decided to just build it myself.

Plants on a desk with a computer

Introducing Leaf

Leaf is built with three core beliefs.

  1. Publishing a file should be as simple as possible.
  2. Keeping with the spirit of Markdown, Leaf’s design should elevate your writing without getting in the way.
  3. No surprises. Leaf is a tool and should work exactly like you’d expect.

Here’s how those values translate to the product so far:

To publish a Markdown document on Leaf, upload the file from the Leaf homepage by dragging it onto the page or opening the file picker. You’ll be asked to create an account so that you can manage your documents later.

Once your file has uploaded, it will have a unique URL you can share with anyone. Shared pages are viewable without having to create an account, so it’s painless for your readers. Leaf pages look great on any device or screen size.

Only you can edit or delete your files, and in the future you will have more privacy, sharing, and display options.

Feedback

I’m writing this about a week after I shared the first public version of Leaf, and the input so far has been invaluable. Feel free to email me or reach out on Twitter with your questions and suggestions. Your feedback is much appreciated.

Check out Leaf at https://useleaf.app.


Photo by Slava Keyzman

Written by Mark Allen, who lives in Toronto and is currently open to a new product management role in Toronto or with a distributed team. Say hello on Twitter.

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