I’ve been a fan of Christian Tietze for a while. He was one of the original people to fork Notational Velocity in a more Markdown-centric direction—a burst of evolution in 2010 that later culminated in Brett Terpstra and David Halter’s nvALT.
Christian’s latest contribution to the world of plain text writing is TableFlip, a wonderful Mac app that solves a problem that’s as old as HTML: making tables for the web sucks.
Even though Fletcher Penney’s MultiMarkdown made creating tables in a Markdown-kind-of-way possible—and significantly easier than hand-coding HTML tables—creating a table in plain text is still a visually challenging task. For very small tables (e.g. 2x2), it’s fairly straightforward. But for larger tables, the column alignment becomes cumbersome.
Before TableFlip, I usually created MultiMarkdown tables with a spreadsheet workflow. This worked well, but required a lot of ad hoc spreadsheet formula writing and also meant I had to store spreadsheet files indefinitely for any tables that I might want to edit later.
TableFlip is the best of the plain text and spreadsheet-like world in one. It provides an intuitive spreadsheet-like tabular interface, which makes creating tables from scratch really easy.
When you’re ready to plant the table in your plain text file, you can simply copy it as MultiMarkdown to your clipboard. As a bonus, it comes out beautifully aligned in plain text as well.
You can go the other way, too. TableFlip can read an existing MultiMarkdown table into its tabular UI. You can even copy an existing MultiMarkdown table and create a new table in TableFlip from the clipboard.
For me, this two-way feature is brilliantly simple and effective. It shows that TableFlip is made for anyone who knows all the practical difficulties of working with tables.
I’m excited for the future of TableFlip. Christian is planning to add even more features, including LaTeX export. I really think TableFlip is a must-have for anyone that routinely creates tables as a part of any kind of plain text writing workflow. Like I said before, making tables sucks. But now I have to modify that statement:
Making tables sucks unless you own TableFlip.
At $18.99, it’s a no-brainer, but you can get it even cheaper than that through October 31.