Auto-formatting is known to be a Very Good Thing when multiple programmers work together. But it turns out the same idea can be hard to apply for Markdown, for subtle reasons mostly related to the handling of paragraphs of text.
Existing auto-formatters standardize the common annoyances of inconsistent indentation, different heading styles, and the like. But the real challenge of collaborative editing is confusing diffs and merge conflicts common with multiple people editing paragraph-long lines on large GitHub-hosted Markdown files.
Flowmark tries a different approach: It intelligently breaks lines on sentence boundaries when they are reasonable, while still preserving the way the Markdown will render. This may seem like an odd idea at first, but is a solution to two goals:
The hope is that you—or anyone else you collaborate with—can run it any time to clean up your Markdown consistently and routinely and with minimal diff churn. Other GitHub features also work better: Unlike the situation with paragraph-long lines, shorter lines mean diff line counts and Git blame also become meaningful (just as with a normal programming language). Note that the Flowmark formatting rules are a little complex, but that’s okay, as long as they’re consistent.
Install as usual in Atom, by going to preferences, select install, and search for “flowmark”. You’ll then have a Flowmark menu item under Packages. Or use the hot key Shift-Cmd-M to reformat the whole doc.
Auto-formatting Markdown has been done before, notably with tidy-markdown and atom-tidy-markdown (also used in atom-beautify), markdownfmt (in Go), and atom-markdown-format (an Atom plugin based on markdownfmt but now deprecated). These don’t try to reflow text, however. A related approach, just to detect errors, is linter-markdown, which uses remark-lint’s framework in Atom.
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