idea-multimarkdown 0,1

Markdown language support for IntelliJ IDEA.

Markdown Navigator 2.0

Markdown Navigator plugin provides Markdown language support for IntelliJ IDEA, RubyMine, PhpStorm, WebStorm, PyCharm, AppCode, Android Studio, CLion and DataGrip.

You can download it on the JetBrains plugin page.

Table of Contents

Plugin Benefits

This plugin generates a preview that is as close as possible to how the page will look on GitHub but do it with more IntelliJ IDE intelligence to make editing and maintaining markdown documents easier. Developing with pleasure is only half the job. Real projects need to be documented. This plugin extends the pleasure principle to the inevitable documentation part of the project.

The parser and rendering differences are greatly reduced by the new parser which offers a lot of flexibility in tweaking parsing rules to allow better emulation of other markdown parsers.

The plugin includes some syntax extensions from Fletcher T. Penney’s MultiMarkdown project which are not supported by GFM.

Two tier model

  1. Previewing and syntax highlighting functionality is available in the Basic open source edition. Intended for mostly previewing markdown documents and unaided editing. Wiki link refactoring and completions are also available in the basic edition to ease the task of wiki maintenance.

  2. Advanced features used for creating and maintaining markdown documents with a split editor, refactoring, find usages, validation, auto formatting and HTML page customizations are only available in the Enhanced licensed version. 15-day free trial licenses are available from idea-multimarkdown page on my website.


Source Update is Long Overdue

There was much code churn in the enhanced version and I have not had time to merge them into the open source version. Initially, most of the differences were limited to a few files making it easy to keep them separated and sync the rest. Now, with major preferences and settings re-work, directory layout changes and new features, the differences have spread out where keeping them in sync is a major effort. I started factoring out the enhanced only changes to separate files so that future synchronization of the two branches can be less time consuming.

I will address the open source release after version 2.0 release of the plugin. I only want to go through the effort of merging these major differences once.

Release Road Map

The Markdown parser used by the plugin has changed from pegdown to flexmark-java.

flexmark-java is my fork of commonmark-java, with the following changes:

  • source element based AST with detailed break down of each element for syntax highlighting
  • complete source position tracking for all elements and their lexical parts
  • optimized for efficient parsing with many parser extensions installed
  • unified core and extension options API to simplify parser/renderer configuration
  • options to tweak core parser rules

In the process of making the needed modifications to the original commonmark-java parser, performance was impacted by about 25-35%. This still makes the new parser 7x-10x faster than intellij-markdown parser used by Markdown Support and 25x-50x faster than pegdown. As an added benefit, the new parser does not suffer from pegdown’s idiosyncrasies of exponential parse times or pathological input cases that cause infinite loops in the parser’s state machine.

On the coding end, the new parser is a joy to maintain and enhance. The parser architecture, inherited from commonmark-java, is easy to debug and test. Markdown element parsers have little or no interdependencies with other element parsers making it easy to fine tune parser behaviour on a per element basis and add parser configuration options to emulate other markdown processors. All this is in contrast to pegdown’s one big PEG grammar implementation with everything potentially inter-dependent.

Version 2.1.1

All parsing and rendering is now done by the new parser. Performance and typing response is simply amazing. For small files, about 100k and less than a thousand lines, you can set the syntax highlighter to “Lexer”. For larger files or when you want fastest typing response, then syntax highlighter should be set to “Annotator”, which is the default. For best typing response in very large files, you can turn off the preview while editing.

For a full list of changes see the Version Notes

  • Add: Smart copy/paste between files
    • change relative links/references to reflect destination file’s location
    • change relative links/references to absolute if relative format will cannot be resolved
    • append footnotes/references that are not included but are referenced in the copied text
  • Add: Breadcrumbs support for markdown documents
  • Add: Structure View elements now compatible with text search

Version 2.1.0

  • Add: GFM table rendering option to render tables text that GFM would render as text.

  • Add: JavaFX preview scroll to source position

  • Add: JavaFX highlight preview element at caret position, with detail down to source line

  • Add: flexmark parser for all parsing and rendering.

  • Some elements still missing but they are not supported by GFM:

    • Definitions
    • Typographic: Quotes, Smarts
    • Multi-Line Image URLs
  • Add: Languages & Settings > Markdown > Debug settings for which parser is to be used for: lexer, parser, annotator and HTML renderer. Highly recommended these are all set to “flexmark” but if you want to compare or need pegdown parsing then set them to how it used to be, set one or all to pegdown.

    :warning: Pegdown version is no longer supported so you are on your own for any issues and problems caused by using pegdown parser. :smiling_imp: I couldn’t wait to be able to say that.

Version 1.8.4

:warning: This is the last release using pegdown and compatible with JRE 1.6. Later releases are based on the flexmark-java and require JRE 1.8.

  • Project module names added to inline code completions

  • More flexible inline code completions, will allow qualified class names and multi-class name matches when completing members. If more than one class name matches then the combined set of members is used from all matched classes.

  • Inline code elements are now treated as literal so that classes, methods and fields can be refactored with search in strings.

    :warning: this only works if syntax highlighting is set to lexer not annotator. Lexer used when annotator syntax highlighting is selected only distinguishes html comments from plain text. The comments are needed to allow for TODO processing to work with either highlighter.

Recent Additions:

  • JavaFX preview scroll to source with highlight element in preview

    Preview Scroll To With Highlight

  • Table of Contents tag that works with basic markdown syntax and is updated by the plugin. The table of contents at the top of this page is an example. For more information see the wiki

  • Java class, method and field completions in inline code. Great if you need to reference code elements in your project from a markdown document.

  • toolbar buttons and actions, see Enhanced Features

    List Item Actions

  • Document Structure View with sections for:

    • Headers to show header hierarchy by level
      Screenshot Structure Headers
    • Images
    • Links
    • References
    • Tables
    • Footnotes
    • Abbreviations
    • Document section showing all abbreviations, block quotes, footnotes, headers, images, lists, references and tables in the document. According to markdown element hierarchy and in order of their location in the document.
      Screenshot Structure Document
  • Document format toolbar button and action to format the document to code style settings. Document Format Options

  • Dynamically created syntax highlighting attributes to simulate overlay of element style with transparency. This creates consistent colors when multiple attributes are combined, such as inline elements in tables, headers and definition terms. Additionally allows for bold, italic, and effect type and color to be combined for nested markdown inline elements. Screenshot Combination Splits

  • Actual character display font width can be used for wrapping and table formatting, allowing best alignment for multi-byte characters and proportional fonts:

    With character width taken into account: Screen Shot multibyte sample

    Without taking character width into account: Screen Shot nomultibyte sample

  • Block Quote increase/decrease level toolbar buttons and actions.

  • Emoji support added to preview.

  • Toolbar, Live Template and Table editing improved. See Enhanced Features.


Create and edit a markdown table with ease:

Table Format

Still Great GitHub Rendering Resemblance for your preview pleasure

Screen Shot Jfx WebView

Split your editor and see the preview as you type


Peek at the HTML


Change options, customize the syntax colors and CSS to your liking.

Screen Shot Settings Intentions

Screen Shot Settings Color

Screen Shot Settings Markdown

Screen Shot Settings Parser

Screen Shot Settings Css

Screen Shot Settings Html

Working with the source

This plugin is using a modified version of sirthias/pegdown, I post my PR’s but there is always a delay in both generating them and for them to be merged. Additionally, some changes are specific to this plugin and have no wide appeal.

The pegdown source used in this plugin can be found vsch/pegdown.

The Background

It all started with a desire to see Markdown files in PhpStorm IDE as they would look on GitHub. I was already using nicoulaj/idea-markdown plugin but found its preview was more like Craig’s List than GitHub. It did not appear to have been recently updated, so I decided to fork it and modify the style sheet it uses. How hard could that be?

I found out quickly that there was more to it than meets the eye. Rendering is done by Java not a browser, the parser is HTML 3.1 and not all features are implemented. Additionally, the Table extension did not work in the version of pegdown used by the plugin. I needed that because maintaining HTML tables is a pain. So I upgraded the plugin to use the latest pegdown, parboiled and fixed a few bugs. Since I was already in the code, I might as well add a few more desired features like user editable style sheet, fix a few more bugs, add updates to preview so that I could split the editor pane and edit in one while seeing the preview in the other.

Then I encountered some bugs in parsing of compound nested lists in pegdown and had to dive into its source to fix them. Having done that and gotten familiar with it, I decided to add a new extension. Finally, to help me with debugging and generating test expectations for pegdown, I had to have the HTML Text tab to display the generated HTML.

It has been a fun trip down the rabbit hole of IntelliJ IDEA plugin development that started with a simple desire for a Markdown preview that looked like GitHub’s.

* This plugin is based on the nicoulaj/idea-markdown plugin by nicoulaj, which is based on pegdown library by sirthias.

Markdown Navigator, Copyright © 2016, V. Schneider, All Rights Reserved.

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