Markdown Navigator


pre-new-lists (Oct 2, 2015)
Mar 13, 2015
Nov 17, 2018
Vladimir Schneider (vsch)
Vladimir Schneider (vsch)
Source code


Markdown Navigator 2.0

Table of Contents


Markdown language support for IntelliJ platform

A Markdown plugin with GFM and a matching preview style.

You can download it on the JetBrains plugin page.

Get Markdown Navigator enhanced edition to unlock all productivity features.

Document with pleasure!

Work with Markdown files like you do with other languages in the IDE, by getting full support for:

  • Paste images into documents for fast screen capture links
  • Drag & Drop files and images for fast link insertion
  • Formatting to cleanup documents with a key stroke
  • Navigation and Find Usages to find references without effort
  • Copy Markdown as JIRA, YouTrack or HTML formatted text
  • Convert HTML to Markdown by pasting it into a Markdown document.
  • Export to HTML or PDF to share with others
  • Refactoring of all referencing elements:
    • files ⟺ links
    • headings ⟺ ref anchors
    • footnotes ⟺ footnote refs
    • references ⟺ ref links/ref images
  • Completions to reduce typing:
    • link address ⇐ files
    • ref anchors ⇐ headings
    • footnote refs ⇐ footnotes
    • ref links/ref images ⇐ references
    • link text ⇐ ref anchor/link address
  • Error and Warning annotations to help catch mistakes early
  • Intention actions for fast results with less effort
  • Wrap on Typing to keep it nicely formatted as you edit
  • GitHub style rendering that you are used to, out of the box
  • Fast typing response for distraction free editing
  • Fully customizable to adjust to your preferences and project needs

Two tier model

  1. Previewing and syntax highlighting functionality with a split editor 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: 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 Markdown Navigator page on my website.

Release Road Map

Future Release: Version 3.0.0

Major Refactoring Release

  • Faster rendering solution to get around WebView caching issues and many large images slowing performance and overflowing memory.
  • Improved Multiple Module Support
  • Link resolution support for non-GitHub VCS providers
  • Plus the usual bug fixes that come up between now and the release.

Version 2.7.0

Bug and compatibility fixes you can find in Version Notes.

Install EAP plugin version to preview next release.

  • Add: inspection for validation which used to be implemented as annotations. This allows customizing and running inspection profiles against markdown files for validation.
  • Add: Parser Macros Extension
  • Add: option to enable validation of remote links (annotates unresolved link if server returns error)
  • Add: error annotation for links to HTML files in project with anchor refs which do not link to a or h1 through h6 html tags with name or id attribute given by anchor ref
  • Add: anchor link completion for links to HTML files in project to a or h1 through h6 html tags with name or id attribute giving the anchor ref
  • Add: anchor link completion on external URLs which do not resolve to a project file.
    • Special handling if file extension matches a Markdown Language extension, will download the markdown file and will render it as HTML to extract anchor definitions
    • Special handling for GitHub (ones starting with http:// or https:// followed by
      • markdown files: If the link is to a blob type then will use raw type URL to get Markdown so it can be correctly rendered as HTML to extract anchor definitions.
      • html content:
        • remove user-content- prefix from anchor refs (GitHub adds these automatically)
        • remove [0-9a-fA-F]{32}-[0-9a-fA-F]{40} looking anchor ids
    • Special handling for GitLab (ones starting with http:// or https:// followed by
      • markdown files: If the link is to a blob type then will use raw type URL to get Markdown so it can be correctly rendered as HTML to extract anchor definitions.
      • html content:
        • remove [0-9a-fA-F]{32}-[0-9a-fA-F]{40} looking anchor ids

Version 2.6.0

  • Add: Join Lines option to Remove Prefixes
  • Fix: style changes are now highlighted to properly reflect the last change, not whole document reformat changes
  • Add: GitLab Flavoured Markdown extensions
    • Math inline using $``$ and fenced code blocks with info of math using Katex
    • Chart fenced code blocks with info of mermaid using Mermaid
    • Inserted text (underlined) via {+text+} or [+text+]
    • Deleted text (strike through) via {-text-} or [-text-]
    • Multiline block quotes using >>> at start of line to mark block start and <<< at start of line to mark block end. GFM: Multiline Blockquote
    • Video image link rendering GFM: Videos
  • Add: Tab/Backtab overrides for table navigation and list indent/unindent actions
  • Add: Move Table Column left/right actions
  • Add: HTML Paste Options to suppress generation of some markdown elements
  • Add: HTML comment folding and options

Version 2.5.4

Bug and compatibility fixes you can find in Version Notes.

  • Shorten toolbar by moving actions to popup menus
  • Folding of list items when longer than one line of text
  • Options to disable gutter margin and icons for markdown documents
  • Option to disable Rename To: on spelling fix intention
  • Experimental Translate Document Powered by Yandex.Translate

Version 2.5.2

  • Support for IDE versions 2016.3.8 or newer. Older IDEs can only use plugin version 2.4.0 and older.
  • Google Chrome Dev Tools integrated for JavaFX WebView browser script debugging.
  • Directories as link targets for completion, validation, navigation and drag/drop or copy/paste to create links
  • Settings management: Copy project settings to/from project defaults and import/export project settings.
  • Anchors of the form <a .... attr=anchorId ...>...</a> where attr is id or name to be treated as anchor ref targets. NOTE: the first name or id attribute will be treated as the "anchor target" the other as a reference to the anchor target. If both have the same string value then renaming one will rename the other.
  • Project Ref Anchor explorer intention
  • Vertical Split text/preview option
  • Help topics for all settings panes
  • Text/Preview toggle action option
  • Attributes Parser extension
  • Enumerated References Parser extension
  • Admonition, Parser extension based on Admonition Extension, Material for MkDocs

Version 2.4.0

  • CommonMark (spec 0.28) compliant
  • Navigate using links with GitHub Line Reference anchor refs
  • Code Folding of Headings
  • Code Folding option in settings for embedded image links
  • Copy Reference then Paste to get link with line reference
  • Encode/Decode Base64 Images Intention
  • Paste Images with Base64 Encoded embedded image links
  • Embed Images HTML generation option
  • Base64 embedded image display in Swing browser
  • Convert Markdown to HTML intention for fenced code elements

Version 2.3.8

  • Add GitHub Line reference anchors in the form L# or L#-L# for line ranges. Now navigating to such an anchor in a project file will move the caret to the line and if second form is used select the lines.
  • Add clicking on task item box in preview toggles open/closed task status in source (JavaFX browser).
  • Add Apply all '...' in file intentions where these make sense.
  • Add intention to convert between typographic symbols and markdown smarts/quotes extension text.
  • Add HTML block deep parsing parser option to allow better handling of raw text tag parsing when they are not the first tag on the first line of the block.
  • Add Launching external URLs inside the browser, now navigate to declaration opens url in browser, ftp or mail client depending on the link. Can also use line markers for navigation of these elements.
  • Add GitBook compatible include tags when GitBook compatibility mode is enabled in Parser options.
  • Add handling of optional quotes for jekyll include tags. Either single ' or double " quotes will be ignored if the file name is wrapped in them.
  • Add Insert table column on right actions and changed description of previous action to insert table column on left.
  • Add #411, Network drives links are not resolved correctly, URI links outside of project now error highlighted if the file does not exist
  • Add #433, Support external links for the Link Map (eg. JIRA link), Reference to Link Map to allow creating automatic reference URLs from Reference IDs
  • Fix HTML generation with line source line highlighting when inline styling spans source lines
  • Fix #459, PDF export does not resolve local ref anchors
  • Fix #456, Register r markdown code chunk prefix
  • Fix #453, Option to hide toolbar
  • Fix breadcrumb tooltip of task items would be missing the task item marker
  • Fix #447, Exported HTML has unexpected CSS and JS URLs
  • Fix #445, there should no be default language injection in bare code chunks
  • Fix #444, Markdown Navigator 2.3.7 breaks paste of github checkout url
  • Fix #441, false positive typo annotation in header, caused by using IdentifierSplitter instead of TextSplitter to handle elements that can have references.
  • Fix #442, Image Paste in Windows always pastes absolute file:// regardless of selection
  • Fix #440, Auto links should not appear in fenced code

Version 2.3.7

  • Fix erroneous escape sequence processing in fenced code block content causing parser exception in some circumstances.

Version 2.3.6

⚠️ GitHub has changed its Markdown document parsing to CommonMark which mostly affects the parsing and results of lists. You may need to change list syntax in parser options to CommonMark from GitHub

  • Add Heading anchor ID display in editor
  • Add annotation to detect when list syntax is set to GitHub

Version 2.3.5

  • File Drop/Paste operation options based on caret location.

  • Copy Modified Image to Clipboard in Copy/Paste Image Dialog to replace clipboard image contents with modified image, can use it to replace image on clipboard then Cancel dialog to not modify the Markdown document but still have the modified image on the clipboard.

  • Copy/Modify Image intention that will open the Image Copy/Paste Dialog for the image content of the image link element at caret position. Works with local files and URLs. Get the option to change directory, file name and modify the image.

  • Markdown application settings for:

    • Use clipboard text/html content when available disabled by default, enabling it will allow pasting text/html when available
    • Convert HTML content to Markdown enabled by default, disabling will paste text/html content without conversion to Markdown

  • Option highlight selection in preview, Show source selection in preview enabled by default. Wraps selection in <span> with selection-highlight class.

  • Option to highlight search results in preview, Show source search highlights in preview enabled by default. Wraps search highlights in <span> with search-highlight class.

  • Option to vertically align synchronized position in Preview Settings, selected by default in Preview settings.

Source Update is Long Overdue

Now that I unified the display between the licensed and unlicensed versions by removing support for preview tabs in favour of split editor as the only option, I will be updating the open source with a new version much easier.

The update will be more like a replacement of the source than an evolution of it. The directory structure has changed significantly and a lot of Java has been converted to Kotlin.

The enhanced version is now 120k lines of code so my goal is to separate the open source functionality from the proprietary code with a clean boundary to make open source releases synchronized with plugin releases like they used to be but without the need for manual merging between the two.

Working with the source

Standard IntelliJ Plugin development environment.

Some internal details, should you care to know

The pegdown Markdown parser used by the plugin in its original incarnation was changed to flexmark-java and pegdown dependencies have been removed as of version 2.2.0.

flexmark-java is my fork of commonmark-java, with 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.

Older Versions

Version 1.8.4

⚠️ 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.

    ⚠️ 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.

Rogues Gallery of Features

  • JavaFX preview scroll to source with highlight element in preview

  • 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

  • Document Structure View with sections for:

    • Headers to show header hierarchy by level
    • 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.
  • 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.

  • 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:

    Without taking character width into account:

  • 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:

Still Great GitHub Rendering Resemblance for your preview pleasure

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.


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 was originally based on the nicoulaj/idea-markdown plugin by nicoulaj, which was based on pegdown library by sirthias.

Markdown Navigator, Copyright (c) 2015-2018, V. Schneider, All Rights Reserved.