RFC: Markdown Table Syntax

David E. Wheeler david at kineticode.com
Thu Feb 26 19:54:40 EST 2009

On Feb 26, 2009, at 9:51 AM, I wrote:

> I can see that really opened a can of worms here. Sorry about that.

> I'll have to move up my plan to formally propose a table syntax. The

> comment that started this sub-thread was a throwaway line, really. I

> probably should have omitted it.

And then, on Feb 26, 2009, at 3:28 PM, John Gruber wrote:

> 3. A hypothetical official table syntax for Markdown will almost

> certainly look very much, if not exactly, like Michel's table syntax

> in PHP Markdown Extra.

Well, perhaps it's foolish of me, but since I'd already spent several
hours writing it up before I saw that post, I went ahead and finished
my proposal as an informal request for comments, which I've [blogged

[blogged here] http://www.justatheory.com/computers/markup/markdown-table-rfc.html

The high-level overview is this:

* I looked at prior art from database clients and MultiMarkdown
* I identified a few things I liked in the DB clients that aren't
in MultiMarkdown (continuing lines, implicit cell alignment)
* I offered some refinements of the MultiMarkdown syntax

Those refinements, in a nutshell, are, simply:

* Implicit cell alignment using space characters, rather than
the explicit formatting hints in the header lines
* Cell content continuation using : for succeeding lines
* Stricter use of space, for proper alignment in plain text (which
all of the MultiMarkdown examples I’ve seen tend to do anyway)
* Allow + to separate columns in the header-demarking lines
* A table does not have to start right at the beginning of a line

Many if not all of these refinements can preserve compatibility with
what's already there, although such was not my goal. Overall, what I
was concentrating on was how I'd like tables to look in plain text,
given how often I've created them in code documentation, and how often
I look at them in terminal-based database clients. I like what I've
come up with, drawing as it does on solid prior art, and would
appreciate those who take an interest in such arcana taking a look.

Again, I appreciate how friendly and willing the folks have been on
this list, especially to a presumptuous n00b like myself, and hope to
continue to contribute to that for a long time.



More information about the Markdown-Discuss mailing list