mdpre Markdown Preprocessor

mdpre Markdown Preprocessor

A few days ago I released md2pptx, a Markdown to Powerpoint converter on GitHub as an open source project. You can find it here.

Now I’m releasing a companion program – mdpre. This is a preprocessor for Markdown. You can find it here.

I would’ve released them together and why I didn’t is a small story at my own expense: We in IBM have a system for requesting permission to open source software. I put in the cases for both mdpre and md2pptx at the same time. I got the permission email for md2pptx but didn’t spot the one for mdpre. I should have checked the status of the mdpre case but, life being too short, I didn’t get there for another week. Meanwhile I open sourced md2pptx.

All this by way of saying the pairing of mdpre and md2pptx is a strong one: Almost all my presentations are run through mdpre and the resulting Markdown through md2pptx. And one of the features of mdpre is a key reason why I do that.

My Workflow

When I begin a customer study I use a Keyboard Maestro macro that:

  • Creates a folder for the study within the customer’s folder in Documents.
  • Creates subfolders of this one for each presentation within the study.
  • Creates files with the .mdp extension in these folders for each presentation.
  • Pulls in some stock graphics and include files into the relevant subfolders.
  • Creates a make file in each subfolder.

That saves me a lot of time and it’s very consistent. I’m showing you this as it might be a helpful model to follow if you use md2pptx and mdpre.

The Killer Feature For Me

But what is the key feature I mentioned just now?

It’s the ability to convert CSV data into a Markdown table.

For example, you might code

=csv
"A",1
"B",2
=endcsv

And you get something like this:

A 1
B 2

The default for alignment in Markdown is left. But I don’t always want that, so I invented =colalign:

=colalign l r
=csv
"A",1
"B",2
=endcsv

This aligns the first column left and the second column right -using the Markdown :- and -: syntax.

There is one further nuance – which would be ignored by a normal Markdown processor: =colwidth:

=colalign l r
=colwidth 2 1
=csv
"A",1
"B",2
=endcsv

Here the first column is twice the width of the second – but only when rendered on a slide in md2pptx.

Other Notable Features

I less frequently need a few other things:

  • Inclusion of files. The time I use this is when I want to include a CSV file but don’t want to paste it into the main document.
  • Conditional processing. I used this in a couple of my conference presentations.
  • Variables. Again, useful in conference presentations – to create consistency.

As with most things I do, if I get fed up enough I automate it. So I expect there will be additional features added to mdpre over time.

Talking of which, testing, bug reports and even contributions welcome.

Published by Martin Packer

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