An implementation of vfmd in C++
C C++ Other
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vfmd is a Markdown parsing engine that adheres to the vfmd specification. vfmd handles all syntax constructs in the original Markdown, and is designed to be cleanly extended to support additional syntaxes without affecting the handling of the core syntax constructs. It can therefore be used as the parsing engine for different variants of Markdown.

For more information on vfmd, please see

Unique features


vfmd expects input in UTF-8 encoding and inherently handles multi-byte UTF-8 code points.

  1. Tab expansion is done based on the number of Unicode code points before the tab character in the line (most Markdown parsers count the number of bytes rather than code points).
  2. Detection of word boundaries (e.g. for identifying emphasis and automatic links) is done using Unicode Character Properties, to enable the parser to work well for non-English text too.
  3. Any bytes in the input that are invalid in UTF-8 (or insecure, like overlong sequences) are assumed to be a byte in ISO-8859-1 encoding as per the vfmd specification. As a consequence, vfmd always outputs valid and secure UTF-8, even if the input contains bad UTF-8 bytes.


This implementation of vfmd uses a HTML parser to correctly handle any inline HTML, including HTML5 elements.

  1. HTML tags and HTML comments can appear anywhere in a line, not necessarily at the start of the line
  2. HTML tags and HTML comments can span multiple lines
  3. Raw-HTML elements can contain Markdown-enabled blocks by separating the raw-HTML part and the Markdown part with a blank line, as described in the syntax guide
  4. vfmd looks out for well-formed pre, style and script elements and treats them as a single block, even if they contain blank lines within. (This is not done if they are not well-formed - i.e. open tag without a matching close tag or vice versa.) This is done because these elements can potentially contain blank lines within that should not be treated as Markdown-block-separating blank lines.
  5. On encountering a HTML tag without a matching opening or closing tag in a text block, vfmd just gets out of the way by not wrapping the text in p tags, thereby allowing for the tag to get matched elsewhere, possibly in another text block.
  6. When HTML is mixed with Markdown text, vfmd recognizes a span-level Markdown syntax only if it is valid for it to contain any contained raw HTML. For example, the asterisks in *A <u>B</u> C* are recognized as emphasis tags, but those in *A <p>B</p> C* are not (because p tags cannot be contained in em tags).

For information on using HTML with Markdown in vfmd, see Mixing HTML with vfmd.

For information on how vfmd's handling of inline HTML is different from the original Markdown, see Differences: Including raw HTML.


vfmd first converts the input document into a parse-tree in memory. The parse-tree is then rendered into HTML output. After the document has been parsed, the parse-tree can be obtained and traversed to observe or analyze the document.

The basic structure of the parse tree can be seen by using the -t option to the vfmd command.


Given that the vfmd specification allows for extending the syntax, this implementation of the spec is designed to be able to easily add support for additional syntax constructs.

Base classes are defined in C++ that describe the interface for recognizing block-level and span-level syntaxes. To add a new syntax construct, one has to inherit these base classes, implement the code for the new syntaxes and register an instance of the new class with a registry of syntax constructs to enable them to be used during parsing. The core syntaxes themselves are implemented using the same interface.


vfmd uses waf as the build system. It compiles in Linux and Mac OS X - I have not tried it on Windows yet (please let me know if you manage to).

To build a debug version of the vfmd command:

$ cd vfmd-src/
$ ./waf configure
$ ./waf build_debug

Then you can run vfmd like:

$ echo "Hello *World*" | ./build/debug/vfmd     # HTML output
<p>Hello <em>World</em></p>

$ echo "Hello *World*" | ./build/debug/vfmd -t  # Parse-tree structure
+- block (paragraph)
   +- span (text-span)
   |  'Hello '
   +- span (emphasis)
      +- span (text-span)

$ ./build/debug/vfmd > output.html

vfmd is tested against the vfmd-test testsuite for compliance with the vfmd specification.


Bug reports and pull requests are welcome. You can also contact me at or at @roopeshchander.