The Markdown Service Tools are a collection of OS X Services designed to make writing Markdown text that much easier. Services (also known as Quick Actions) work in any Cocoa-based application (which is most of the apps on your Mac). The Services are prefixed with “md” to keep them grouped in the Services menu that shows up when you right click in a text field or editor. You can assign your own keyboard shortcuts (see the last section of this document) to make accessing them more convenient.
Special thanks to Joe Workman for his help in getting these back up to date.
- End note
The following Services are included:
- md - Code - Make Code Block
- md - Code - Make Fenced Code Block
- md - Convert - Clean Up Smart Punctuation
- md - Convert - Clipboard URL to Markdown
- md - Convert - HTML to Clipboard
- md - Convert - HTML to Markdown
- md - Convert - MultiMarkdown to HTML
- md - Convert - MultiMarkdown to RTF
- md - Emphasis - Bold
- md - Emphasis - Italics
- md - Footnotes - Convert Inline Format
- md - Footnotes - Make IDs Unique
- md - Indentation - Indent
- md - Indentation - Outdent
- md - Links - Chrome Tabs
- md - Links - Clipboard
- md - Links - Flip Link Style
- md - Links - New Link
- md - Links - Safari Tabs
- md - Links - Self-Link URLs
- md - Links - To References
- md - Lists - Bullet List
- md - Lists - Numbered List
- md - Paragraphs - Blockquote
- md - Paragraphs - Compress Empty Lines
- md - Paragraphs - Preserve Line Breaks
- md - Paragraphs - Unwrap
- md - Tables - Cleanup
- md - Wrap - Angle Brackets
- md - Wrap - Parenthesis
- md - Wrap - Square Brackets
Note: some Services are only available when text is selected, and some only when no text is selected but a text field is focused.
The suggested key bindings in each description are just what work for me, personally; there’s no consequence for using something completely different. Just be aware that an application’s default keyboard commands will override any in the Services menu, so a command’s shortcut may become unavailable if it’s already in use by the current application.
- Convert - Clean Up Smart Punctuation
- This service will take selected text and straighten any smart (curly) quotes, replace guillemets with straight double quotes, convert em and en-dashes to
--respectively, and convert ellipsis (…) characters to three periods. It will also fix non-breaking spaces that can otherwise break markdown rendering.
- Convert - HTML to Clipboard
- This service does the same thing as “MultiMarkdown to HTML,” but leaves the selection alone and copies the resulting HTML directly to the clipboard.
- Suggested key bindings: Command-Shift-Option-C
- Convert - HTML to Markdown
- This Service “Markdownifies” HTML source, creating readable Markdown from it. It does not work directly on Rich Text, but if you use it on the source of a web page it will do its best to recreate the document in clean Markdown.
- Convert - MultiMarkdown to HTML
- Processes the selected text through Markdown and SmartyPants to generate clean, typographically correct HTML. The selected text is replaced with the final HTML, but if you want both you can select it again, copy it (Command-C) and then Undo (Command-Z) to get the original text back. Markdown and SmartyPants are bundled in this Service, so no external installation is required.
- Convert - MultiMarkdown to RTF
- This Service does an in-place conversion to styled text in any field that handles Rich Text. It’s ideal for writing an email in Markdown and converting it directly in the field before sending.
- See this post for more information and requirements. Full credit to Tobias O’Leary for figuring out this magic.
- Convert - Clipboard URL to Markdown
- Markdownify the contents of a URL in the clipboard using Marky the Markdownifier. Two versions included, one (Readability) attempts to remove extra cruft like menus and ads from the page, the other returns the Markdown conversion of the full source.
- Footnotes - Convert Inline Format
- Allows you to write footnotes inline using
(*This is a footnote*)syntax and converts them to standard MultiMarkdown footnotes when run on the full text of the document. Works with multi-paragraph footnotes, keeps markers unique and recognizes existing footnote ids.
- You can also use
(*[marker] This is a footnote*)to define a custom name for the footnote.
- Footnotes - Make IDs Unique
- When working on short documents — such as blog posts — that will be combined with other documents on a page, footnotes can end up with conflicting names or ids. This service, when run on the full text of a single document, will update all existing footnote pairs with a unique, time-based string to avoid any conflicts with other documents.
Using the Firefox Tabs service:
Because Firefox (still) doesn’t have decent AppleScript support, the only way to get the necessary info from it is by sending keystrokes to it using System Events. On macOS 10.15 (and probably future versions) you need to authorize the Service and its components to send the keystrokes to Firefox:
- Open System Preferences->Security & Privacy and go to the Privacy tab
- On the left, select Accessibility
- Click the lock in the lower left corner and provide your password to unlock it
- Click the plus (+) symbol under the application list to add a new app
- In the dialog that comes up, hit ⌘⇧G (Command-Shift-G), type
/usr/bin/osascriptin the field, and click “Go” to focus that file in the dialog
- Click “Open” with “osascript” highlighted
- Repeat steps 4-6 with the path
/System/Library/CoreServices/System Events(instead of the
Even with all of these steps the Service may still fail to operate intermittently. I believe this is due to a bug in macOS’ security features that will hopefully be fixed soon.
- Lists - Bullet List/Numbered List
- These two commands create and clean up bulleted and ordered lists. They will remove any current list characters at the beginning of each line, compress blank lines in the selection, fix minor indentation mistakes while maintaining the original structure of the list, and properly increment the leading characters of ordered lists. Just select multiple lines and run one of the Services.
- Suggested key bindings: Command-Shift-1 (ordered list) and Command-Shift-8 (unordered list)
- Paragraphs - Blockquote
- This service will look for tab indents at the beginning of each line and assume they define the depth of a quote. Tabs at the beginning of each line will be replaced with “>” characters.
- Paragraphs - Compress Empty Lines
- Compresses consecutive newlines into a single blank line, good for cleaning up documents after formatting.
- Paragraphs - Preserve Line Breaks
- In Markdown, text without blank lines between it is concatenated into one continuous paragraph, removing line breaks. This is prevented by two spaces at the end of each line, and this Service just adds the spaces to the end of each selected line of text.
- Paragraphs - Unwrap
- Removes single line breaks within the selection to remove the effects of “hard wrapping.” It doesn’t change the way the final document renders, but it makes the original Markdown document more readable on variable-width screens.
- Tables - Cleanup
- Based on the Perl script by Fletcher Penney, this Service will take MultiMarkdown-formatted tables and clean them up to be readable in plain text.
- Tables - Convert from CSV
- Allows easy creation of MultiMarkdown tables with simple CSV syntax. See here for usage info.
- Code - Make Code Block
- Indents the selection by 5 spaces, creating a code (or poetry) block that preserves line breaks and indentations. This format is recognized by all Markdown processors.
- Code - Make Fenced Code Block
- Surrounds the selection with a backtick “fence” as is common on GitHub and other modern Markdown interpreters, creating a verbatim (code) block that preserves line breaks and indentations. A dialog is presented for adding an optional language specifier to the fenced code.
- Emphasis - Bold/Italics
- These simply wrap selected text in Markdown emphasis syntax.
- Suggested key bindings: Command-Shift-B (bold) and Command-Shift-I (italics)
- Indentation - Indent/Outdent
- These Services shift the beginning of all selected lines to the left or right by 4 spaces. Useful for manipulating sections of lists to create nested portions.
- Suggested key bindings: Command-Shift-] (indent) and Command-Shift-[ (outdent)
- Wrap - Angle Brackets/Parenthesis/Square Brackets/Backticks
- These services wrap the selected text in angle brackets (
<>), parenthesis (
()), square brackets (
), or backticks (
\``). To be useful, they need intuitive shortcuts assigned for quick triggering. You may also consider using keybindings for this.
For more information, see Stephen Margheim’s post at Hackademic.
You can double-click on the Services to install them individually, but to add multiple (or all) of them, it’s easiest to just place them in ~/Library/Services. Simply drag the Services you want to use into
~/Library/Services (where ~ represents your user’s home folder). If you can’t find your Library folder in Finder, type Shift-Command-G and enter “~/Library/Services” to jump directly to the folder. You will have to enable the Services manually in the Keyboard Shortcuts preference pane of System Preferences. Locate them in the list and check the box to the left. You may have to restart running applications to get them to show up. They will become available in the Application Menu->Services menu, as well as from the right/Control-click contextual menu, under the Services submenu (Snow Leopard).
For more information, see my article on installing System Services.
Customizing key bindings
To add keyboard shortcuts to your Services, open System Preferences and choose the Keyboard Shortcuts tab at the top. Sometimes there’s a delay when loading this tab as OS X indexes all of the available applications and services. Click on the Services item in the left side of the panel, and then locate your new Service on the right. Note that you can use the checkboxes you see there to enable and disable Services without having to remove them from the Services folder.
Double click in the blank, white area to the right of your Service, as shown with the arrow in the image. When the blank area turns into a text field, press the key combination you want to use to activate the Service. Use a combination of modifier keys (Command, Shift, Control, Option) and a letter or number. If the combination is available (not used by another Service or existing system shortcut), the input field will disappear and be replaced by your new shortcut. If it doesn’t do anything, you’ll need to try a different combination of keys.
If you see a yellow “warning” triangle next to your Service, it means that there is another Service or Application Shortcut using that key combination, but it let you add it anyway. This can cause odd results, but mostly just results in neither shortcut doing anything if both associated actions are available at any given time. Sometimes, if one action is only available in one place, and the other in another place, it can be useful to have the same shortcut on related actions. If you’re not sure what’s conflicting, it’s safest just to change your shortcut and avoid the warning.
The original Markdown Service Tools were created in Perl, Bash and Ruby and made into Services using ThisService. I found the Services created by Automator in Snow Leopard to be a bit slow, but have switched to using Automator for newer Services created in Lion and later. All Services sometimes lag on the first run, but are quite fast for me after first use.
Markdown Service Tools v3.0.1
- v3.0.0 Updated 6/15/20
- New: “Wrap - Backticks”
- New: “Links - Firefox Tabs”*
- New: “Links - Microsoft Edge Tabs”
- New: “Links - Brave Tabs”
- New: “Code - Make Fenced Code Block”. Accepts a language via dialog, can be left blank.
- New: “Convert - Clipboard URL to Markdown”. Markdownify the contents of a URL in the clipboard using Marky the Markdownifier
- Improved: Combined “Numbered List” and “Fix Numbered List” into one service, good for both converting to a numbered list and cleaning up numbering on existing numbered list
- Improved: “Links - New Link” defaults to https when generating links from incomplete urls
- Improved: Chrome, Safari, Firefox, Edge, and Brave Tabs clean all Google Analytics and ref= tags from URLs
- Improved: “Convert - Clean up Smart Punctuation” handles en (–) and em (—) dashes, and converts guillemets («») to straight double quotes
- Improved: “MutliMarkdown to RTF”, updated RTF style to use San Francisco, system font stack
- Improved: All MMD conversion services now use the binary version of MultiMarkdown (v6). If it’s not installed, it will link you to the download page.
- Improved: “Indentation - Indent” uses tab instead of 4 spaces
- Updated 10/7/17
- Added non-breaking space conversion to “Clean Up Smart Quotes” service, and renamed to “Clean Up Smart Punctuation”
- Updated 4/3/17
- Added “Clean Up Smart Quotes” service
- Updated 7/27/16
- Added CSV -> MMD converter
- Updated 5/29/15
- Improved “Unwrap paragraphs” service
- Updated 1/9/14
- UTF-8 character compatibility
- Updated 3/10/13
- Inline footnotes now accept an optional marker name
- New Service: Compress Empty Lines
- Updated 3/09/13
- New Service: Convert Inline Footnotes
- New Service: Unique Footnote IDs
- Updated 3/08/13:
- New service: Markdown to RTF (in-place conversion)
- Updated 1/13/13:
- Minor fixes
- Updated 8/22/12:
- Fixed Auto Link Service
- Updated 2/22/12:
- New Service: Blockquote
- New Service: Convert Indents To Quote Levels
- Unwrap Paragraphs improved (ignores code blocks, indented text, better hyphenation handling)
- New Service: Self-link Standalone URLs
- Updated 2/14/12:
- New service: Unwrap Paragraphs (experimental)
- Updated 2/11/12:
- New services and revisions to existing services.
- Updated 9/2/11:
- Fixed UTF-8 handling in HTML to Clipboard
- Added Inline Links to References Service
- Removed the German text that I was using for testing UTF8 and forgot about.
- Updated 9/1/11:
- Links from Chrome tabs and HTML to Clipboard services added.
Speaking of Markdown Service Tools…
- Markdown Service Tools v3.0
- Markdown Service Tools 2.16
- SearchLink and Markdown Service Tools updates
- CSV to MultiMarkdown table update
- A new Markdown Service Tool for easy MultiMarkdown tables
- Paragraph unwrap update for Markdown Service Tools
- Titler 1.1.0
- Titler: instantly add page titles to URLS in your text
- Markdown Service Tools and UTF-8
- SearchLink 1.8 is the new Auto-Link Service
- Markdown Service Tools update for Mavericks
- A Markdown Service to strip Markdown
- A fix for the Auto-Link Web Search Service
- An Inline Footnote Service redux just for Gabe
- Footnote utilities for the Markdown Service Tools
- New in the Markdown Service Tools: in-place Markdown to RTF
- Markdown Service Tools 2.0
- Markdown Service Tools updates and fixes
- Markdown Linking Services with the Google API
- Lucky Duck
- Markdown Service Tools get blockquotes, self-links and more
- Unwrap Paragraphs for the Markdown Service Tools
- Markdown Service Tools 1.3
- A Service for writing MultiMarkdown footnotes inline
- Auto-convert your inline Markdown links to references
- Some Chrome love for the Markdown Service Tools
- New Markdown Service tool: HTML to Clipboard
- Auto-link text service updated
- Quick Tip: clean up your MultiMarkdown tables