Last several months I’ve been lazily working on markdown parser. My goal was not to compete with earmark or any other markdown parser already existing in the wild. Even more, from the day one I knew I am not going to make it fully compatible with Commonmark. What I actually was after would be to produce a blazingly fast, customizable‌ markup parser.

I created a tool for myself in the first place and I wanted to allow custom syntax in markdown spirit, like ^2^ for superscript, @mudasobwa for twitter handles, #hashtag for hashtags etc. Markdown itself has a lot of contrived features, which are barely known and literally never used by regular adopters. Did you know you could have a bulleted list inside a blockquote which lives withing an item of another numbered list? Well, now you know; would you ever use it?

Seaview in El Masnou

I have no clue who had introduced the alignment in tables with colons in the head separator (|:---:|,) but this fellow developer surely never thought about how drastically they broke the whole markdown paradigm by introducing a markup that has an effect on the content before declaration. Yes, these colons change the alignment of the text in head’s columns, introducing the necessity for lookbehinds and ruin the performance (and the original idea in general.)

Md is SAX-like parser, which goes through the input, pattern-matching the control sequences as they come, and emits parsed stuff as XHTML. It does not do lookbehinds and it’ll never do. Whenever one needs to be full-compliant with Commonmark tests, I’d suggest to pick any other library, generously presented on the market.

Md is five times faster than earmark because of its approach (and lack of some features which I voluntarily decided to be redundant, like the aforementioned table column alignment.) That does not mean Md is unusable for the average user, dealing with markdown; I have it tested against the whole Elixir documentation and it gets parsed without a glitch.

Still, the main advantage of using Md compared to other markdown implementations is its full customization. Let’s see how one would implement Slack parser.

defmodule SlackParser do
  use Md.Parser

  @syntax %{
    flush: [{"---", %{tag: :hr, rewind: true}}],
    paragraph: [{">", %{tag: :blockquote}}],
    list: [
        {"- ", %{tag: :li, outer: :ul}},
        {"* ", %{tag: :li, outer: :ul}}
    block: [
        {"```", %{tag: [:pre, :code], mode: :raw, pop: %{code: :class}}}
    brace: [
      {"*", %{tag: :b}},
      {"_", %{tag: :i}},
      {"~", %{tag: :s}},
      {"`", %{tag: :code, mode: :raw, attributes: %{class: "code-inline"}}}
    magnet: [
      {"@", %{transform: &SlackHandle.apply/2}}

What if we wanted to support headers as well?

-    paragraph: [{">", %{tag: :blockquote}}],
+    paragraph: [
+      {"##", %{tag: :h2}},
+      {"###", %{tag: :h3}},
+      {">", %{tag: :blockquote}}
+    ],

Table?—Nothing could have ever been easier.

    matrix: [
      {"|", %{
        tag: :td,
        outer: :table,
        inner: :tr,
        first_inner_tag: :th,
        skip: "|-"}}],

Allow some custom tag?—Sure, despite we suggest to use a dedicated syntax, why not?

    tag: [{"sup", %{}}, {"sub", %{}}]

Besides the standard syntax definition through @syntax attribute (it’s accumulated, btw, so one might break the definition into several ones,) we support DSL. For instance, defining the allowed tags via DSL would look like

defmodule MyDSLParser do
  use Md.Parser
  @syntax %{}

  import Md.Parser.DSL

  tag "sup", %{}
  tag "sub", %{}

With all that freedom, one might easily extend the syntax to support their business needs (custom tags, named entities, youtube embeds, etc.)

Happy marking it right!