iA / Writer / Support / Basics

Markdown Guide

Our apps use Markdown formatting. This lets you apply basic formatting by adding a few punctuation characters. You can also use the Lightning menu in iA Writer for iPad and iPhone, the toolbar, and the Format menu on Mac.

Basics Advanced


If you are not familiar with Markdown, it might look a little scary at first. Once you get the basics, you will quickly love it as it allows you to format your text without taking your hands off the keyboard. iA Writer’s Auto-Markdown will give you instant feedback if you got the formatting right or not.


You can use up to up to six levels by writing # at the start of a line; the number of hashtags defines the hierarchy of the heading.

# First level heading
## Second level heading
### Third level heading

Emphasis and Importance

Emphasis (“italics”) and important (“bold”) are written by putting * or _ around the text you want to see in a different format.


You can use double tildes to make strikethrough text:



You can use double equals signs to highlight text:


Numbered Lists

Type 1. then a space. Any number (followed by a full stop and space) can be used and the list items will be ordered from 1 when exported.

1. Ordered list item
2. Ordered list item
3. Ordered list item

Bulleted Lists

Type *, - or + then a space. Create a bulleted list by using an asterisk (*), hyphen (-), or plus sign (+), followed by a space.

* Bulleted list item
* Bulleted list item
* Bulleted list item

Task Lists

Type - [ ] or 1. [ ] then a space. Adding an x between the square brackets will tick off a task list item in the Preview. iA Writer for Mac and iOS also support clicking or tapping the list item marker to toggle it.

- [ ] Unfinished task list item
- [x] Finished task list item

Nesting Lists

You can nest lists several levels deep, and combine them:

* First level
    * Second level

1. First level
    1. Second level

* First level unordered list item
    1. Second level ordered list item

Nested list items are indented with four spaces or a tab. iA Writer for iOS includes keys to indent and outdent list items. They can be found by tapping the button in the keyboard bar.


Type > plus a space (just like email):

> A quoted paragraph
>> A quoted paragraph inside a quotation

iA Writer 5 offers a keyboard shortcut for blockquotes: +> These also now autocomplete in the same manner as lists.


Create a link by surrounding the link text in square brackets, followed immediately by the URL in parentheses:

[text to link](http://example.com/)

You can also use reference links. Add the reference in square brackets after the text to link. Then, on a line by itself add the reference with a colon, space, and the URL:

[text to link][ref]
[ref]: http://example.com/


iA Writer for iOS, iPadOS and macOS support cross-references using the following syntax:

# My Level 1 Header

Some text and a link to [My Level 1 Header][]. 

In a document where # My Level 1 Header exists.

You can also use the following syntax:

# My Level 1 Header

Click here to [jump to section][My Level 1 Header]

You can define the label for a specific header by adding a space and [Label] following the header:

# My Level 1 Header [My Label]

This can be referenced by:

Here is a link to [My Label][].


Click here to [jump to section][My Label].

iA Writer for Windows supports cross-referencing headers using the following syntax:

# Header

[link text][Header]

You can use this like so:

# My Level 1 Header

Click here to [jump to section][My Level 1 Header]. 


Both local and web URLs are supported. Markdown uses the following syntax for images:


When using local images, they must be in a folder added as a Library location. This gives iA Writer permission to use the file. Folders can be added as Locations by clicking the + beside the label in the Organizer on Mac, or by dragging them from Finder into the Location section. iOS supports images from any location except From Other Apps. To add a Location, tap Edit and then Add Location…

Note: Markdown image syntax and HTML image filename rules are different from Content Blocks. When using Markdown syntax, spaces must be encoded as %20, and the leading slash must be omitted because it refers to the root directory of a device.


You can mark up code in-line using backticks (code), or add a code block by adding at least four spaces to the start of a line:

    This is a code block

In iA Writer, it’s also possible to start a code block with a tab, as long as the text doesn’t start with list, header or blockquote syntax characters (1., *, -, +, #, >).

In addition, you can use Fenced code blocks, which begin and end with triple backticks, and don’t need indenting. Note that inline formatting (like _underscores_) is ignored in code.

This is a fenced code block


Add a footnote in square brackets preceded by a caret. Then add the footnote content like a reference link, for example:

Some text with a footnote[^1].

[^1]: The linked footnote appears at the end of the document.

On Mac and iOS you can also add an inline footnote in the following manner:

Some text with a footnote[^This is the footnote itself.].

Note: Markdown was designed for web where there is no concept of pagination. As such footnotes are essentially endnotes. When rendered, these are placed at the end of the document.

Table of Contents

Generating a table of content is as easy as it gets. Just add {{TOC}} wherever you want the table of content to appear and iA Writer generates it from the Headlines you use in your text. There is a custom key for it on iOS.

On Mac you can add it via the toolbar or the Format Menu. The TOC will become visible and clickable in preview.


To make a table, use vertical bar characters to denote cells. Start with column headers, separate with a row of cells with hyphens, then add further rows of cells. For example:

|Header |Column 1 | Column 2 | Column 3  | 
|:--- |:---- |:----:| ----:|
|1. Row| is | is | is  |
|2. Row| left | nicely | right  |
|3. Row| aligned | centered | aligned  |  

Let’s be real. This is a mess. Markdown tables look more reasonable than HTML-Tables, but they are the weak point of Markdown. That being said, they still translate nicely when rendered:

iA Writer includes a menu option to automatically generate the cells for a table.

There is a trick though you can use when writing Markdown tables with a monospaced font. You can feign the correct column width by adding space characters to align the table:


In Writer for Windows you can clean up a Markdown table by selecting the whole table and using FormatTableReformat.

Note: If you find your table does not render correctly in Preview, please ensure Smart Dashes are turned off in EditSubstitutions.

Separating Paragraphs

A line starting with a tab indicates a block of code. Because of this it is currently not possible to use a return-plus-tab to indicate a new paragraph in Writer. Instead, please use two returns to separate paragraphs.

Line Breaks

From the Markdown specification:

When you do want to insert a <br /> break tag using Markdown, you end a line with two or more spaces, then type return.

iA Writer also allows you to insert a <br /> into a paragraph by using Shift+Enter. This will add the spaces required at the end of the line for you.

Horizontal Rules

You can add a thematic break which will be represented by a dividing line (<hr>) when exported to HTML. To do so, add three or more asterisks (*), hyphens (-), or underscores (_) on a line by themselves, optionally separated with spaces. For example:

* * *



Page Breaks

Sometimes your document doesn’t flow exactly how you want it when printing or exporting to PDF. You can force a page break in iA Writer using three plus marks (+) on a line by themselves:


Note: Manual page breaks are currently unavailable in iA Writer for Android.


Markdown doesn’t have an official syntax for comments. So we don’t try to make a bespoke one that will only render correctly in iA Writer.

Since HTML is completely valid in Markdown, you can use HTML comments instead:

<!-- This is a comment -->

“Escaping” Formatting Characters

If you want to type a formatting character and have Writer treat it as text not formatting, type a backslash first \. This means \* gives *, \_ gives _ etc. Escaping isn’t needed in code blocks.


iA Writer supports TeX math expressions on Mac and iOS. These are easy to write in plain text and then formatted beautifully in the Preview. For inline expressions, use $ or \\( and \\):

An example of math within a paragraph --- \\({e}^{i\pi }+1=0\\)

Or use dollar signs instead --- ${e}^{i\pi }+1=0$

For block format expressions, use $$ or \\[ and \\]:

To show an expression by itself:

\\[ {x}_{1,2}=\frac{-b\pm \sqrt{{b}^{2}-4ac}}{2a} \\]


$${x}_{1,2}=\frac{-b\pm \sqrt{{b}^{2}-4ac}}{2a}$$

If using the dollar sign syntax, there must be no space between the $ and the contents of the expression and there must be space on the outside.


Writer supports metadata at the beginning of documents. They must be separated from the rest of the document by three dashes.

First, define your metadata at the very top of your document, followed by an empty line.

Customer: M. Bluth
Me: Bob Loblaw
Date: April 3rd, 2023

You can then use the metadata in the text by putting it in [brackets] and adding a % sign.



Core Components

A quick tour of the interface of Writer for first time users.

Markdown Guide

Apply basic formatting by adding a few punctuation characters.


An overview of our features on different platforms.


A wide range of options to fit the various use cases, professional and personal needs.


Supported languages for the localization, spell-check, Syntax Highlight and Style Check, per platform.

Writer vs Word

What are the advantages of a focused writing app like iA Writer compared to Microsoft's WYSIWYG classic?

Writing Tips

Six rules for better writing, a rundown on how to use parts of speech, lectures on style, and the elements of style.