Happy Birthday, Zettlr!

Happy Birthday, Zettlr!

Another year has passed, and today, Zettlr turns 6. This is quite an impressive age, and the year 2023 has seen a huge amount of improvements: We have released Zettlr 3.0, surpassed 1 million downloads, and caught up with the competition in terms of functionality. Read all on the achievements of 2023, and all our plans for 2024, in this year's birthday post!

Happy Birthday, Zettlr!

Happy Birthday, Zettlr!

Another year has passed – today, Zettlr turns six years old! This makes the app old enough to attend school. This year, many things have happened, and we can look back on an unusually successful year.

As always, in preparation for this post, I’ve read last year’s birthday post to check what I’ve promised and what I’ve actually delivered. I was very surprised to see that I already mentioned the split view and multi-window functionality that – for the vast majority of users – only landed in September 2023 with the release of Zettlr 3.0.0. But this goes to show you how long release cycles can become with larger software packages.

I think I’ve finally developed a good feeling for making promises that I can actually keep: In that post, there was not much that I didn’t also deliver in the following year! With that being said, let’s review what has happened this year.

Looking back at 2023

2023 started with a big beta release in January, which for the first time exposed the aforementioned new functionality to users who immediately started testing the changes. And since I didn’t want to release half-baked software, I took my time to release the stable 3.0 version. In fact, it would take a whole nine months of beta testing before I deemed Zettlr 3.0 stable enough to actually release it on September 1.

Zettlr 3.0 shipped with an insane amount of new functionality, all of which you can read up on here, if you’re interested. It has finally brought the app on-par with its competitors in terms of functionality. Now it has next-gen technology under the hood, supports split-view and is in general much more performant.

But not just Zettlr has received a facelift: the documentation and website were also rewritten extensively. Just in time for the 3.0 release, I worked many evenings to fully reorganize the documentation and bring it up to speed with how Zettlr has developed in the meantime. Now, community translations are better distinguished from the main documentation and the main documentation is now streamlined to what new users need. Now, most new users will be able to just follow the documentation from start to finish to learn everything there is to learn.

The website, on the other hand, has received a facelift as well. While we still use the same template under the hood, we have reorganized the landing page in such a way that it now represents the new branding of the app. There is no “Markdown Editor for the 21st century” anymore. Instead, Zettlr is now “Your One-Stop Publication Workbench”.

The new tag line has been coined sometime in 2022 (the first message mentioning the idea that I could find is this one) and has been continuously developed into what it is now. The final step was simply to build a new landing page around it that conveys the benefits and features of Zettlr in a more modern way. I have rewritten the introduction, reorganized the page, and highlighted the new features that were contained in the big Zettlr 3.0 release.

Before we look into what will be happening in 2024, there is one last success story to share from 2023: This year, Zettlr finally passed 1 million downloads! It makes me very happy to see that the app has become so popular. One thing I’m hoping for in 2024 is to get 10,000 stars on GitHub – can we make it happen?

As you can see: Zettlr in 2023 has been a success story, and I am amazed by how far we were able to go thus far!

Looking forward into 2024

So, where does this leave us going forward? Well, a few things are already in the pipeline. For example, together with UX artist Artem Barinov, I have developed a new preferences UI that will drop in early 2024. It will make changing the settings much more ergonomic and faster. The new preferences UI is the first step towards reworking the user interface of the app, and you can expect more changes to happen going forward.

In addition, I finally managed to rewrite the file system manager (again). I’ve done this many times already, but the file manager is one of the most complex (and most critical) parts of the app, and it really shows. But hopefully this will be the last rewrite of that component for the foreseeable future.

Other smaller plans of mine are to finally enable the Quarto integration – Zettlr already detects a Quarto installation on your system, so it is about time to finally enable exports with Quarto. Another thought I have been pondering over for months now is to finally move the “other files” (i.e., those that Zettlr can’t open) into the file manager so that it’s easier to find them and open them externally if you need to.

One bigger thing that I really want to do, but cannot promise yet, is to make the tabs more general. Instead of simply opening text files, I want to enable displaying other types of content in those tabs. Think PDF files, images, or a live Markdown preview. Also, one thing that would then be possible would be to open the graph view directly in a tab. But as I said, I cannot yet promise whether it will come in 2024.

When it will come, however, you can be among the first to note. Another novelty I have started now is to add a Roadmap for Zettlr: https://go.zettlr.com/roadmap. In this project, I want to keep everyone updated on the rough implementation timelines for various projects. The times are all tentative, since the project is still fully based on volunteer work. So expect me to be somewhat conservative at first with announcing work on there, but my plan is to give you a better overview over what will be coming when.

Final Thoughts

Zettlr has passed the first five years, and we are now closer to the first ten-year-anniversary than to when it all started. I have no idea what we could possibly do for the anniversary, but there is still a lot of time to think about that. For now, my main focus is in improving the app gradually to introduce many mainly smaller features that have been on my and your wishlist for somewhat longer.

To another year — I wish you all a few less stressful days and a good arrival in 2024. Happy New Year, and see you then!