Using Python-Markdown on the Command Line

While Python-Markdown is primarily a python library, a command line script is included as well. While there are many other command line implementations of Markdown, you may not have them installed, or you may prefer to use Python-Markdown’s various extensions.

Generally, you will want to have the Markdown library fully installed on your system to run the command line script. See the Installation instructions for details.

Python-Markdown’s command line script takes advantage of Python’s -m flag. Therefore, assuming the python executable is on your system path, use the following format:

$ python -m markdown [options] [args]

That will run the module as a script with the options and arguments provided.

At its most basic usage, one would simply pass in a file name as the only argument:

$ python -m markdown input_file.txt

Piping input and output (on STDIN and STDOUT) is fully supported as well. For example:

$ echo "Some **Markdown** text." | python -m markdown > output.html

Use the --help option for a list all available options and arguments:

$ python -m markdown --help

If you don’t want to call the python executable directly (using the -m flag), follow the instructions below to use a wrapper script:


Upon installation, the markdown_py script will have been copied to your Python “Scripts” directory. Different systems require different methods to ensure that any files in the Python “Scripts” directory are on your system path.

  • Windows:

    Assuming a default install of Python on Windows, your “Scripts” directory is most likely something like C:\\Python26\Scripts. Verify the location of your “Scripts” directory and add it to you system path.

    Calling markdown_py from the command line will call the wrapper batch file markdown_py.bat in the "Scripts" directory created during install.

  • *nix (Linux, OSX, BSD, Unix, etc.):

    As each *nix distribution is different and we can’t possibly document all of them here, we’ll provide a few helpful pointers:

    • Some systems will automatically install the script on your path. Try it and see if it works. Just run markdown_py from the command line.

    • Other systems may maintain a separate “Scripts” (“bin”) directory which you need to add to your path. Find it (check with your distribution) and either add it to your path or make a symbolic link to it from your path.

    • If you are sure markdown_py is on your path, but it still is not being found, check the permissions of the file and make sure it is executable.

    As an alternative, you could just cd into the directory which contains the source distribution, and run it from there. However, remember that your markdown text files will not likely be in that directory, so it is much more convenient to have markdown_py on your path.


Python-Markdown uses "markdown_py" as a script name because the Perl implementation has already taken the more obvious name “markdown”. Additionally, the default Python configuration on some systems would cause a script named "" to fail by importing itself rather than the markdown library. Therefore, the script has been named "markdown_py" as a compromise. If you prefer a different name for the script on your system, it is suggested that you create a symbolic link to markdown_py with your preferred name.


To use markdown_py from the command line, run it as

$ markdown_py input_file.txt


$ markdown_py input_file.txt > output_file.html

For a complete list of options, run

$ markdown_py --help

Using Extensions

To load a Python-Markdown extension from the command line use the -x (or --extension) option. The extension module must be on your PYTHONPATH (see the Extension API for details). The extension can then be invoked by the name of that module using Python’s dot syntax:

$ python -m markdown -x input.txt

To load multiple extensions, specify an -x option for each extension:

$ python -m markdown -x markdown.extensions.footnotes -x markdown.extensions.codehilite input.txt

If the extension supports configuration options (see the documentation for the extension you are using to determine what settings it supports, if any), you can pass them in as well:

$ python -m markdown -x markdown.extensions.footnotes -c config.yml input.txt

The -c (or --extension_configs) option accepts a file name. The file must be in either the YAML or JSON format and contain YAML or JSON data that would map to a Python Dictionary in the format required by the extension_configs keyword of the markdown.Markdown class. Therefore, the file config.yaml referenced in the above example might look like this:

    PLACE_MARKER: ~~~~~~~~
    UNIQUE_IDS: True

Note that while the --extension_configs option does specify the “markdown.extensions.footnotes” extension, you still need to load the extension with the -x option, or the configuration for that extension will be ignored.

The --extension_configs option will only support YAML configuration files if PyYAML is installed on your system. JSON should work with no additional dependencies. The format of your configuration file is automatically detected.


The previously documented method of appending the extension configuration options as a string to the extension name will be deprecated in Python-Markdown version 2.6. The --extension_configs option should be used instead. See the 2.5 release notes for more information.