Quick Start

If you are unsure whether or not Zettlr fulfills your needs or want to directly start using it, this page is for you. In the next few paragraphs I will explain to you the most common tasks Zettlr has been built for.

Open directories and files

If you open up Zettlr for the first time, the app will tell you that you have no open directories or files. Also, if any previous directories and files cannot be located anymore, Zettlr will not attempt to open them.

Because Zettlr writes app-agnostic files, you can easily select directories that are synced via Nextcloud, Dropbox, GDrive, OneDrive, iCloud or other cloud-based services and open them on several computers simultaneously.

Press Cmd/Ctrl+O to open the dialog, select another directory and click on Open. You can also trigger the dialog with the first toolbar button. You can create a directory in the open-dialog, if your operating system supports that.

Zettlr will always save the paths of files and directories you've opened in its configuration file and open them on every launch of the app to reduce the friction in your workflow.

Remember to give root directories a catchy name so that you can easily identify where it resides. If you open files inside already opened directories, Zettlr will simply open the file in your directory tree and not add it to the list of root files.

Create a subdirectory

The next task you might want to do immediately after trying out Zettlr for the first time is creating a new directory in your root, e.g. My Papers or My Projects. It is useful to imagine Zettlr root directories to be something similar to your Home-Directory. Your Home-directory contains directories for images, videos, music, your documents and, mostly, a dedicated directory for your Dropbox or Nextcloud installation if you are backing up your data with these services. Zettlr-Root-Directories are something very similar.

Press Cmd/Ctrl+Shift+N, right-click on the parent directory or click the Add dir-button in the toolbar to open up the popup to create a new directory. Now just enter a name and the directory will be created. You can add as many subdirectories as you like.

The shortcut for creating a directory will always use the currently selected directory to add the new one to.

All popups opened by Zettlr can be closed (and the action therefore aborted) either by pressing ESC while the input field is focused or left-clicking outside of the popup.

Most actions in Zettlr can be found in three locations at once: The toolbar, the application menu and the context menu at the appropriate position.

Create files

After you have set up your structure, you may want to begin adding files that hold your notes, papers and other documents you might want to create.

Press Cmd/Ctrl+N to add a new file to the currently selected directory or right-click on a directory to create a file in another directory. You will then be prompted to enter a new name. If you do not specify the .md-extension, Zettlr will automatically add it. Your new file will automatically be opened so that you can directly begin writing.

Don't worry if you change your mind about the name of your files and directories — you can always rename them using either the shortcuts Cmd/Ctrl+Shift+R (for directories) or Cmd/Ctrl+R (for files) to rename the currently selected directory or file, or use the context menu on any directory or file. A popup will open that lets you change the name to your liking. If you do not provide the .md-Extension, Zettlr will automatically add it for you.

Zettlr will automatically save all changes after a small delay. A small star in the title bar (and, on macOS, the Modified-indicator) will indicate that there are unsaved changes, as long as Zettlr has not saved your changes.

Previewing files

A last step for this quick start is how to preview your files. Of course, Markdown comes only with the bare minimum of formatting and therefore it depends upon the editor on how to display it. Also, Word processors like Microsoft Word or LibreOffice do not support Markdown. Therefore, I've implemented a way to export your files.

You can export the currently opened file by pressing Cmd/Ctrl+E. A small popup will open, letting you choose the target format of the export.

When you first use Zettlr and haven't been using some special programs to write your texts before, you will be presented with warnings. Zettlr relies on two external software packages for exporting files, called pandoc and LaTeX.

To export, just follow the links to download and install pandoc and download and install LaTeX. Then restart Zettlr so that it can detect the newly installed software packages and offer you the export options you want.

Both pandoc and the LaTeX packages are free and trustworthy software packages. By separating these programs from Zettlr, you can be sure that all three programs will work properly and therefore I've added this small caveat.

Because pandoc and LaTeX offer a magnitude of different software formats to choose from, I will in the future try to implement all exporting options so that you can make use of the full power of both pandoc and LaTeX.

Now you should be up and ready for using Zettlr. If you want to learn more about what the app is capable of, simply begin reading In Depth.