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0a9a388 Sep 12, 2018
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RFC Author Status SupercededBy Version Area Comments Due Plan to implement
Aditya Patwardhan
Formatting and Output

Native Markdown Rendering

Render markdown content on console to improve readability.


Markdown is a common authoring format used by the community. There is no easy way in PowerShell to visualize a markdown document on console. Since the PowerShell help is authored in markdown, these components will be used for rendering help content.


This RFC proposes to use VT100 escape sequences to render markdown content. ConvertFrom-Markdown cmdlet as part of Microsoft.PowerShell.Utility PowerShell module would consume a string or a file path and output a PSObject containing three properties, Tokens, Html, VT100EncodedString. The Tokens property has the AST for the markdown document from markdig. The Html property has the markdown document converted to HTML. The VT100EncodedString property has the markdown documented with VT100 escape sequences. By default, the Html property will be populated. The VT100EncodedString property will be populated only when -AsVT100EncodedString is specified. The Tokens property will be populated in all cases.

For converting strings to VT100 coded strings, we will be writing an extension to markdig. The extension will insert VT100 escape sequences as appropriate.

Specification for ConvertFrom-Markdown

ConvertFrom-Markdown [-Path] <string[]> [-AsVT100EncodedString] [<CommonParameters>]

ConvertFrom-Markdown [-LiteralPath] <string[]> [-AsVT100EncodedString] [<CommonParameters>]

ConvertFrom-Markdown [-InputObject] <psobject> [-AsVT100EncodedString] [<CommonParameters>]


  • Path : Accepts an array of file paths with markdown content.
  • LiteralPath : Accepts an array of literal paths with markdown content.
  • InputObject : Accepts an InputObject of System.IO.FileInfo, string type.
  • AsVT100EncodedString : When selected, the VT100EncodedString property is populated.

There will be support for changing the colors for various elements using the Set-MarkdownOption cmdlet. To retrieve the current settings Get-MarkdownOption cmdlet can be used.

Output Type

The output type will be MarkdownInfo object with properties for Html, VT100EncodedString and Tokens.

Specification for Set-MarkdownOption

Set-MarkdownOption [-Header1Color <string>] [-Header2Color <string>] [-Header3Color <string>] [-Header4Color <string>] [-Header5Color <string>] [-Header6Color <string>] [-CodeBlockForegroundColor <string>] [-CodeBlockBackgroundColor <string>] [-ImageAltTextForegroundColor <string>] [-LinkForegroundColor <string>] [-ItalicsForegroundColor <string>] [<CommonParameters>]

Set-MarkdownOption -Theme <string> [<CommonParameters>]

Set-MarkdownOption -InputObject <psobject> [<CommonParameters>]

The properties can individually customize the rendering on console. The properties for color must be expressed as a VT100 escape sequence, like

Set-MarkdownOption -Header1Color "$([char]0x1b)[7m"

Dark will be the default theme. The individual colors for the dark theme are specified in the subsequent sections.

Specification for Get-MarkdownOption

Get-MarkdownOption [<CommonParameters>]

Specification for Export-MarkdownOption

Export-MarkdownOption -Path <string> [<CommonParameters>]

Export-MarkdownOption -LiteralPath <string> [<CommonParameters>]

Export the current markdown settings to a JSON file.

Specification for Import-MarkdownOption

Import-MarkdownOption -Path <string> [<CommonParameters>]

Import-MarkdownOption -LiteralPath <string> [<CommonParameters>]

Import the markdown settings from the specified file and returns a PSObject of the options. This can be used as an InputObject for Set-MarkdownOption.

Specification for Show-Markdown

Show-Markdown -InputObject <psobject[]> [<CommonParameters>]

Show-Markdown -InputObject <psobject[]> -UseBrowser [<CommonParameters>]

Render the VT100EncodedString property of MarkdownInfo on console. If the VT100EncodedString property is null, then a non-terminating error will be thrown.

If the switch -UseBrowser is specified, display the content of Html property in a web browser. If the Html property is null, then a non-terminating error will be thrown.

Supported Markdown Elements

We will be supporting a limited set of markdown elements in the initial version.

Block Elements

The block elements include paragraphs and line breaks, headers, block quotes, code blocks and horizontal rules.

Paragraphs and line breaks

These will be rendered as plain text. Semantic line breaks will be rendered as paragraphs.


VT100 escape sequences for headers are as follows:

Element Markdown Rendered Escape Sequences (Dark Theme) Escape Sequences (Light Theme)
ATX Header 1 ESC[7mHeader 1ESC[0m ESC[7mHeader 1ESC[0m
ATX Header 2 ESC[4;93mHeader 1ESC[0m ESC[4;33mHeader 1ESC[0m
ATX Header 3 ESC[4;94mHeader 1ESC[0m ESC[4;34mHeader 1ESC[0m
ATX Header 4 ESC[4;95mHeader 1ESC[0m ESC[4;35mHeader 1ESC[0m
ATX Header 5 ESC[4;96mHeader 1ESC[0m ESC[4;36mHeader 1ESC[0m
ATX Header 6 ESC[4;97mHeader 1ESC[0m ESC[4;30mHeader 1ESC[0m
Setext Header 1 ESC[7mHeader 1ESC[0m ESC[7mHeader 1ESC[0m
Setext Header 2 ESC[4;93mHeader 1ESC[0m ESC[4;33mHeader 1ESC[0m

Code Blocks

Code blocks will be rendered with a lighter background color and a dark foreground text. Background color will be applied for the console width. No syntax highlighting will be done. ESC[500@ is used to have sufficiently wide background color.

Markdown Rendered Escape Sequences

Span Elements

Span elements will have varying degree of support depending on element type.


Links in paragraphs will add double quotes around the link label and append the link URL surrounded by parenthesis. The link will be colored to differentiate from plain text.

Markdown Rendered Escape Sequences
ESC[4;34m( )ESC[0m

If the links are part of a container like a pipe table, block quote or list; then just the link label will be shown.


Emphasis will be rendered using escape sequence ESC[1mBold TextESC[0m and ESC[36mItalics TextESC[0m for bold text and italics text respectively.

Element Markdown Rendered Escape Sequences
Bold ESC[1mBold TextESC[0m
Italics ESC[36mItalics TextESC[0m


Inline code elements will be rendered similar to code blocks, with the exception on background color to not extend beyond the markdown element.

Markdown Rendered Escape Sequences


The alt-text of the image will be surrounded by [ and ] and colorized to differentiate from plain text. Escape code for images alt-text

Markdown Rendered Escape Sequences

Rendered output

Input Markdown

VT100 Rendered output

Future Work

Paragraphs and Line Breaks, Block Quotes, Lists, Horizontal Rules, Pipe tables and HTML code will be considered for future versions and rendered as plain text in this version.

Alternate Proposals and Considerations

Introduce a new sigil to define a markdown string. This would be later rendered using formating files. The limitations of this approach are:

  1. Can be used only in script.
  2. Adds a new dependency of markdig to System.Management.Automation.

Open Questions

  • Investigate paging behavior.