A extensible lightweight markup language

April 24, 2018

mexdown is a a lightweight markup language that is easily extensible. Here are some of its properties:


Perhaps the most important feature of mexdown is the directive. A directive consists of n >= 3 consecutive backticks and an executable command. Its body follows directly after, terminated by another sequence of n backticks. Here is an example used to include a latex equation into a document.

```svglatex --inline
$\cos (2\theta) = \cos^2 \theta - \sin^2 \theta$

In this example, the body is an inline latex equation that is sent verbatim into svglatex, a small utility command I wrote that converts a latex document into SVG using dvisvgm. The output of svglatex then replaces everything between the triple-backquotes. Here is the result after compilation:

One neat feature is if I want to display triple-backquotes like I do above, I simply wrap it in 3+1=4 backquotes. A directive without an executable command is simply preformatted text. One can make a directive for any text they want to present, because a directive is simply the output of a process that exists on their system. One can conceivably create directives that include images, generate diagrams, include interactive models, etc...

Support for Multiple Backends

The parser is completely decoupled from the backend document generators. A major flaw in many lightweight markup languages is that they narrowly target a specific language for code generation, like HTML. mexdown aims to be language-agnostic in its construction, so the parser is oblivious to the subsequent phases of compilation. It's sole job is to produce a syntax tree representation of the document. Details like html escaping and overlapping markup are treated in the backend, and don't pollute the parser. Although I currently only have an html backend, my plan is to create a Google Slides backend to automatically generate a presentation.

Also a Library

Although mexdown works on the command line with various options and configurations, it can equivalently be used as a Go library. This is particularly useful for server-side document-generation.

ast := parser.MustParse(reader)
gnr := html.Gen(ast)
gnr.Stdout = os.Stdout
if err := gnr.Run(); err != nil {


I hope you will use this library and welcome your contributions. Please file issues at