Markdown and Visual Studio Code

Working with Markdown files in Visual Studio Code is simple, straightforward, and fun. Besides VS Code's basic editing, there are a number of Markdown specific features that will help you be more productive.

Editing Markdown

Document outline

The Outline view is a separate section in the bottom of the File Explorer. When expanded, it will show the symbol tree of the currently active editor. For Markdown files, the symbol tree is the Markdown file's header hierarchy.

Markdown Outline view

The Outline view is a great way to review your document's header structure and outline.

Snippets for Markdown

There are several built-in Markdown snippets included in VS Code - press ⌃Space (Windows, Linux Ctrl+Space) (Trigger Suggest) and you get a context specific list of suggestions.

Tip: You can add in your own User Defined Snippets for Markdown. Take a look at User Defined Snippets to find out how.

Go to header in file

Use ⇧⌘O (Windows, Linux Ctrl+Shift+O) to quickly jump to a header in the current file.

Jumping to a header in a Markdown file

You can browse through all headers in the file or start typing a header name to find just the one you are after. Once you've found the header you what, press Enter to move your cursor to it. Press Esc to cancel jumping to the header.

Go to header in workspace

Use ⌘T (Windows, Linux Ctrl+T) to search through headers across all Markdown files in the current workspace.

Jumping to a header across all Markdown files in a workspace

Start typing a header name to filter down the list and find the header you are after.

Path completions

Path completions help with create links to files and images. These paths are shown automatically by IntelliSense as you type the path of an image or link, and can also be manually requested by using ⌃Space (Windows, Linux Ctrl+Space).

Path completions in a Markdown link

Paths starting with / are resolved relative to the current workspace root, while paths staring with ./ or without any prefix are resolved relative to the current file. Path suggestions are automatically shown when you type / or can be manually invoked by using ⌃Space (Windows, Linux Ctrl+Space).

Path IntelliSense can also help you link to headers within the current file or within another Markdown file. Start the path with # to see completions for all the headers in the file (depending on your settings, you may need to use ⌃Space (Windows, Linux Ctrl+Space) to see these):

Header section suggestions in a Markdown link

You can disable path IntelliSense with "markdown.suggest.paths.enabled": false.

Quickly insert images and file links by dragging and dropping. To start, drag a file from VS Code's explorer over your Markdown code and then hold down Shift to start dropping it into the file. The preview cursor shows where it will be inserted when you drop it.

Inserting a Markdown link by dragging and dropping from the explorer

Dropped images insert a Markdown image ![](path/to/image.png). Dropped files insert a normal Markdown link [](path/to/file.md).

Smart selection

Smart selection lets you quickly expand and shrink selection in Markdown documents. This can be used to quickly select entire block elements (such as codeblocks or tables) and to select the entire contents of a header section in the Markdown file.

Smart selection uses the following commands:

  • Expand: ⌃⇧⌘→ (Windows, Linux Shift+Alt+Right)
  • Shrink: ⌃⇧⌘← (Windows, Linux Shift+Alt+Left)

Selection applies to the following, and follows a traditional hierarchical pattern:

  • Headers
  • Lists
  • Block quotes
  • Fenced code blocks
  • Html code blocks
  • Paragraphs

Smart select within a Markdown document expands from a block element, to the block element containing it, to the rest of the content under a header, to the header itself

Link validation checks local links in your Markdown code to make sure they are valid. This can catch common mistakes, such linking to a header that has been renamed or to a file that no longer exists on disk.

A warning shown in the editor when linking to a file that does not exist

Link validation is off by default. To enable it, just set "markdown.validate.enabled": true. VS Code will then analyze Markdown links to headers, images, and other local files. Invalid links will be reported as either warnings or errors. All link validation happens locally and there is no checking of external http(s) links.

There are a few settings you can use to customize link validation:

  • markdown.validate.fileLinks.enabled - Enable/disable validation of links to local files: [link](/path/to/file.md)
  • markdown.validate.fragmentLinks.enabled - Enable/disable validation of links to headers in the current file: [link](#_some-header)
  • markdown.validate.fileLinks.markdownFragmentLinks - Enabled/disable validation of links to to headers in the other markdown file: [link](other-file.md#some-header)
  • markdown.validate.referenceLinks.enabled - Enable/disable validation of reference links: [link][ref].
  • markdown.validate.ignoredLinks - A list of link globs that skip validation. This is useful if you link to files that don't exist on disk but do exist once the Markdown has been published.

Use the Find All References (⇧⌥F12 (Windows, Linux Shift+Alt+F12)) command to find all locations in the current workspace where a Markdown header or link is referenced:

Jumping to a header in a Markdown file

Find All References is supported for:

  • Headers: # My Header. Shows all links to #my-header.
  • External links: [text](http://example.com). Shows all links to http://example.com.
  • Internal links: [text](./path/to/file.md). Shows all links to ./path/to/file.md
  • Fragments in links: [text](./path/to/file.md#my-header). Shows all links to #my-header in ./path/to/file.md

Tired of accidentally breaking links when you change a Markdown header? Try using Rename Symbol (F2) instead. After you type the new header name and press Enter, VS Code will update the header as well as automatically updating all links to that header:

Renaming a Markdown header to update all links to it

You can also use F2 on:

  • Headers: # My Header. This will update all links to #my-header.
  • External links: [text](http://example.com/page). This will update all places that linked to http://example.com/page
  • Internal links: [text](./path/to/file.md). This will rename the file ./path/to/file.md and also update all links to it.
  • Fragments in links: [text](./path/to/file.md#my-header). This will rename the header in ./path/to/file.md and also update all links to it.

Markdown preview

VS Code supports Markdown files out of the box. You just start writing Markdown text, save the file with the .md extension and then you can toggle the visualization of the editor between the code and the preview of the Markdown file; obviously, you can also open an existing Markdown file and start working with it. To switch between views, press ⇧⌘V (Windows, Linux Ctrl+Shift+V) in the editor. You can view the preview side-by-side (⌘K V (Windows, Linux Ctrl+K V)) with the file you are editing and see changes reflected in real-time as you edit.

Here is an example with a simple file.

Markdown Preview

Tip: You can also right-click on the editor Tab and select Open Preview (⇧⌘V (Windows, Linux Ctrl+Shift+V)) or use the Command Palette (⇧⌘P (Windows, Linux Ctrl+Shift+P)) to run the Markdown: Open Preview to the Side command (⌘K V (Windows, Linux Ctrl+K V)).

Dynamic previews and preview locking

By default, Markdown previews automatically update to preview the currently active Markdown file:

The preview automatically switching to preview the current Markdown document

You can lock a Markdown preview using the Markdown: Toggle Preview Locking command to keep it locked to its current Markdown document. Locked previews are indicated by [Preview] in the title:

A locked Markdown preview

Note: The Markdown: Toggle Preview Locking command is available only if Markdown preview is the active Tab.

Editor and preview synchronization

VS Code automatically synchronizes the Markdown editor and the preview panes. Scroll the Markdown preview and the editor is scrolled to match the preview's viewport. Scroll the Markdown editor and the preview is scrolled to match its viewport:

Markdown Preview editor selection scroll sync

You can disable scroll synchronization using the markdown.preview.scrollPreviewWithEditor and markdown.preview.scrollEditorWithPreview settings.

The currently selected line in the editor is indicated in the Markdown preview by a light gray bar in the left margin:

Markdown Preview editor line marker

Additionally, double clicking an element in the Markdown preview will automatically open the editor for the file and scroll to the line nearest the clicked element.

Markdown Preview double click switches to editor

Extending the Markdown preview

Extensions can contribute custom styles and scripts to the Markdown preview to change its appearance and add new functionality. Here's a set of example extensions that customize the preview:

Using your own CSS

You can also use your own CSS in the Markdown preview with the "markdown.styles": [] setting. This lists URLs for style sheets to load in the Markdown preview. These stylesheets can either be https URLs, or relative paths to local files in the current workspace.

For example, to load a stylesheet called Style.css at the root of your current workspace, use File > Preferences > Settings to bring up the workspace settings.json file and make this update:

// Place your settings in this file to overwrite default and user settings.
{
  "markdown.styles": ["Style.css"]
}

Keep trailing whitespace in order to create line breaks

To create hard line breaks, Markdown requires two or more spaces at the end of a line. Depending on your user or workspace settings, VS Code may be configured to remove trailing whitespace. In order to keep trailing whitespace in Markdown files only, you can add these lines to your settings.json:

{
  "[markdown]": {
    "files.trimTrailingWhitespace": false
  }
}

Markdown preview security

For security reasons, VS Code restricts the content displayed in the Markdown preview. This includes disabling script execution and only allowing resources to be loaded over https.

When the Markdown preview blocks content on a page, an alert popup is shown in the top right corner of the preview window:

Markdown security alert

You can change what content is allowed in the Markdown preview by clicking on this popup or running the Markdown: Change preview security settings command in any Markdown file:

Markdown security selector

The Markdown preview security settings apply to all files in the workspace.

Here are the details about each of these security levels:

Strict

This is the default setting. Only loads trusted content and disables script execution. Blocks http images.

It is strongly recommended that you keep Strict security enabled unless you have a very good reason to change it AND you trust all Markdown files in the workspace.

Allow insecure content

Keeps scripts disabled but allows content to be loaded over http.

Disable

Disables additional security in the preview window. This allows script execution and also allows content to be loaded over http.

Markdown extensions

In addition to the functionality VS Code provides out of the box, you can install an extension for greater functionality.

Tip: Select an extension tile above to read the description and reviews to decide which extension is best for you. See more in the Marketplace.

Next steps

Read on to find out about:

  • CSS, SCSS, and Less - Want to edit your CSS? VS Code has great support for CSS, SCSS, and Less editing.

Common questions

Is there spell checking?

Not installed with VS Code but there are spell checking extensions. Check the VS Code Marketplace to look for useful extensions to help with your workflow.

Does VS Code support GitHub Flavored Markdown?

No, VS Code targets the CommonMark Markdown specification using the markdown-it library. GitHub is moving toward the CommonMark specification, which you can read about in this update.