lowdown — simple markdown translator
lowdown is a Markdown translator producing HTML5, roff documents in the ms and man formats, LaTeX, gemini, and terminal output. The open source C source code has no dependencies.
% ./configure % make % make regress # make install
One major difference between lowdown and other Markdown formatters it that it internally converts to an AST instead of directly formatting output. This enables some semantic analysis of the content such as with the difference engine, which shows the difference between two markdown trees in markdown.
lowdown produces HTML5 output in XML mode with -Thtml. It may produce either a fragment or standalone HTML5 document with -s.
It also produces simple LaTeX documents with -Tlatex. It uses the most basic packages possible.
The experimental -Tgemini outputs into the Gemini format.
lowdown can output to ANSI-compatible UTF-8 terminals with -Tterm. This glow-inspired mode renders stylised Markdown-looking output for easy reading. (The traditional text output facilities of groff and mandoc may also be used for this.)
-Tman -Tterm -Tms
Only -Thtml and -Tlatex allow images and equations, though -Tms has limited image support with encapsulated postscript.
Beyond traditional Markdown syntax support, lowdown supports the following Markdown features and extensions:
- fenced code
- disabled inline HTML
- “smart typography”
- commonmark (in progress)
- definition lists
- extended image attributes
Want to quickly review your Markdown in a terminal window?
lowdown -Tterm README.md | less -R
I usually use lowdown when writing sblg articles when I’m too lazy to write in proper HTML5. (sblg is a simple tool for knitting together blog articles into a blog feed.) This basically means wrapping the output of lowdown in the elements indicating a blog article. I do this in my Makefiles:
.md.xml: ( echo "<?xml version=\"1.0\" encoding=\"UTF-8\" ?>" ; \ echo "<article data-sblg-article=\"1\">" ; \ echo "<header>" ; \ echo "<h1>" ; \ lowdown -X title $< ; \ echo "</h1>" ; \ echo "<aside>" ; \ lowdown -X htmlaside $< ; \ echo "</aside>" ; \ echo "</header>" ; \ lowdown $< ; \ echo "</article>" ; ) >$@
If you just want a straight-up HTML5 file, use standalone mode:
lowdown -s -o README.html README.md
This can use the document’s meta-data to populate the title, CSS file, and so on.
The troff output modes work well to make PS or PDF files, although they will omit equations and only use local PS/EPS images in -Tms mode. The extra groff arguments in the following invocation are for UTF-8 processing (-k), tables (-t), and clickable links and a table of contents (-mspdf).
If outputting PDF, use the pdfroff script instead of -Tpdf output. This allows image generation to work properly. If not, a blank square will be output in places of your images.
lowdown -sTms README.md | groff -itk -mspdf > README.ps lowdown -sTms README.md | pdfroff -itk -mspdf > README.pdf
The same can be effected with systems using mandoc:
lowdown -sTman README.md | mandoc -Tps > README.ps lowdown -sTman README.md | mandoc -Tpdf > README.pdf
More support for PDF (and other print formats) is available with the -Tlatex output.
lowdown -sTlatex README.md | pdflatex
For terminal output, troff or mandoc may be used in their respective -Tutf8 or -Tascii modes. Alternatively, lowdown can render directly to ANSI terminals with UTF-8 support:
lowdown -Tterm README.md | less -R
Read lowdown(1) for details on running the system.
The canonical Markdown tests are available as part of a regression framework
within the system. Just use
make regress to run these tests.
I’ve extensively run AFL against the compiled sources with no failures—definitely a credit to the hoedown authors (and those from whom they forked their own sources). I’ll also regularly run the system through valgrind, also without issue.
The code is neatly layed out and heavily documented internally.
First, start in library.c. (The main.c file is just a caller to the library interface.) Both the renderer (which renders the parsed document contents in the output format) and the document (which generates the parse AST) are initialised.
The parse is started in document.c. It is preceded by meta-data parsing, if applicable, which occurs before document parsing but after the BOM. The document is parsed into an AST (abstract syntax tree) that describes the document as a tree of nodes, each node corresponding an input token. Once the entire tree has been generated, the AST is passed into the front-end renderers, which construct output depth-first.
There are a variety of renderers supported: html.c for HTML5 output, nroff.c for -ms and -man output, latex.c for LaTeX, gemini.c for Gemini, term.c for terminal output, and a debugging renderer tree.c.
For example, consider the following:
## Hello **world**
First, the outer block (the subsection) would begin parsing. The parser would then step into the subcomponent: the header contents. It would then render the subcomponents in order: first the regular text “Hello”, then a bold section. The bold section would be its own subcomponent with its own regular text child, “world”.
When run through the -Ttree output, it would generate:
LOWDOWN_ROOT LOWDOWN_DOC_HEADER LOWDOWN_HEADER LOWDOWN_NORMAL_TEXT data: 6 Bytes: Hello LOWDOWN_DOUBLE_EMPHASIS LOWDOWN_NORMAL_TEXT data: 5 Bytes: world LOWDOWN_DOC_FOOTER
This tree would then be passed into a front-end, such as the HTML5
front-end with -Thtml. The nodes would be appended into a buffer,
which would then be passed back into the subsection parser. It would
paste the buffer into
<h2> blocks (in HTML5) or a
.SH block (troff
Finally, the subsection block would be fitted into whatever context it was invoked within.
lowdown is fully compatible with the original Markdown syntax as checked by
the Markdown test suite, last version 1.0.3. This suite is available as part
make regress functionality.
How Can You Help?
Want to hack on lowdown? Of course you do.
Using a perfect hash (such as gperf) for entities.
There are bits and bobs remaining to be fixed or implemented. You can always just search for
FIXMEin the source code. This is your best bet.
Footnotes in -Tms with groff extensions should use pdfmark to link to and from the definition.
If you want a larger project, a -Tpdf seems most interesting (and quite difficult given that UTF-8 need be present). Another project that has been implemented elsewhere is a parser for mathematics such that
eqnor similar may be output.