Switching and Customizing Preview Themes

Preview Themes control how the Preview Window renders your Markdown text into HTML. Because Markdown is a text representation of an HTML document, some sort of engine has to render the Markdown into HTML and then apply HTML and CSS styling to render that HTML into what you see in the browser.

This process may vary significantly depending on where you display your Markdown. For example, GitHub renders Markdown very differently than BitBucket. If you're using Markdown on your blog, you probably also have some very custom styling and potentially use a completely different Markdown parser to parse Markdown into HTML.

While there will always be some differences between Markdown implementations on different platforms, Preview Themes can help you create or use themes that more closely match your target Markdown platform's layout and styling.

Changing Preview Themes

In Markdown Monster you can easily change themes in the editor's UI by using the status bar theme selector on the lower right:

Theme settings are stored in the configuration under:

"RenderTheme": "Github"

You can easily flip between the provided themes which include Github, Dharkan, Blackout, Medium, Westwind and Hipster. It's also quite easy to create custom themes by copying and modifying existing Preview Themes.

Configuration File Permissions for Sticky Theme

Preview Theme configuration is stored in the Markdown Monster Configuration file, so you have to make sure the configuration file in the configuration folder has write access to save the setting for it to 'stick'.

Theme Customization

A theme is nothing more than a sub-folder in the PreviewThemes folder of your Markdown Monster installation path which typically is c:\Program Files\Markdown Monster\PreviewThemes\Theme-Name (the base folder may vary depending on where MM is installed).

The easiest way to find the folder is by using the Previewer's context menu and using the Edit Preview Theme option:

That folder contains a Theme.html and related Theme.css file which make up the theme. There's also a ../scripts folder that contains a few dependencies like FontAwesome for icon support and HighlightJs for code sytnax highlighting.

Here's what the PreviewThemes folder looks like:

You can easily create custom Preview Themes or change existing themes by simply changing the HTML and CSS files that are provided.

Modify Existing Themes by creating a Copy with a new Name

We recommend you don't directly modify the built-in themes in place, because these Preview Themes are overwritten during updates.

If you want to override a Preview Theme, it's best to make a copy of the folder with a new name and then modify the copy. The folder name is what shows up as the new Preview Theme name.

How Themes work

Themes are found based on the folder name in the PreviewThemes folder. Any sub-folder in the PreviewThemes folder will be available in the Preview theme selector:

Any folder you add to PreviewThemes automatically shows up in this dropdown list. A theme folder is expected to hold Theme.html file which is used as a template to render the markdown by essentially embedding the rendered Markdown into the base page HTML layout. You can think of Theme.html as the site chrome or master layout.

The HTML in this file is minimal as most of the HTML comes from the rendered Markdown, but the default template includes Theme.css which provides the styling as well as links to the dependent scripts and fontawesome CSS:

<!DOCTYPE html>
<!-- saved from url=(0016)http://localhost -->
<html lang="en" xmlns="http://www.w3.org/1999/xhtml">
  <base href="{$docPath}" />
  <meta charset="utf-8" />

  <!--<script type="text/javascript" src="https://getfirebug.com/firebug-lite.js#startOpened,overrideConsole"></script>-->

  <meta http-equiv="X-UA-Compatible" content="IE=edge" />
  <link href="{$themePath}..\Scripts\fontawesome\css\font-awesome.min.css" rel="stylesheet" />
  <link href="{$themePath}Theme.css" rel="stylesheet" />

  <script src="{$themePath}..\Scripts\jquery.min.js"></script>
  <link href="{$themePath}..\Scripts\highlightjs\styles\vs2015.css" rel="stylesheet" />
  <script src="{$themePath}..\Scripts\highlightjs\highlight.pack.js"></script>
  <script src="{$themePath}..\Scripts\highlightjs-badge.js"></script>
  <script src="{$themePath}..\Scripts\preview.js" id="PreviewScript"></script>


<div id="MainContent">
  <!-- Markdown Monster Content -->
  <!-- End Markdown Monster Content -->


If you want to add site branding or other items, in order to match an online site that will eventually host your Markdown you can add it around your Markdown content. Just make sure to leave the <div id="MainContent"></div> in your document, as that's where MM expects to Markdown content to go - some of the script code depends on the tag name and block tags to update content efficiently.

If you create a new theme, maintain the overall structure of this document. Typical customization just involves modifying the Theme.css styling, but some people like to add site branding into the preview and for that you can customize Theme.html.

There are a three template variables:

  • {$markdownHtml} This is where your rendered HTML is injected.

  • {$themePath}
    This is the physical disk path to the preview folder (with a trailing slash). Markdown Monster renders HTML from this template into the folder where the Markdown file lives so that it can find any relative images and links properly. In order to find the related theme resources they have to be known and {$themePath} provides this known location.

  • {$docPath}
    This is the HTML base path for the rendered HTML which by default is ./ (ie. the current path), but it can also be a custom value that is overridden. This value can be changed to allow referencing an external location like a Web site and can then render related resources like images or styling from those locations. docPath can be changed per document via YAML properties and via Project settings - or if your template always relies on external resources you can just hard code the basePath directly in the HTML.

Creating a new Local Theme

Local themes simply use local resources for the CSS styling as shown in the last example. The CSS is linked directly from a local resource. This is the easiest way to deal with resources.

To create a new theme:

  • Copy an existing folder from PreviewThemes
  • Rename the folder to the name you want to see in the themes dropdown
  • Modify the theme.html or theme.css files to customize

Web Theme

You can also reference Web resources directly. For example, you might want to use the theme from your Weblog so your preview looks exactly like the blog you're going to post from your markdown.

You can simply link an external stylesheet to make that work. However, you probably will still need a little bit of extra CSS to format the base document.

For example, I have a custom West Wind theme that has the following Theme.html page:

<!DOCTYPE html>
<!-- saved from url=(0016)http://localhost -->
<html lang="en" xmlns="http://www.w3.org/1999/xhtml">
    <meta charset="utf-8" />    
    <meta http-equiv="X-UA-Compatible" content="IE=edge" />
    <link href="{$themePath}..\scripts\fontawesome\css\font-awesome.min.css" rel="stylesheet"/>

    <!-- link style sheet from the site -->
    <link href="https://weblog.west-wind.com/App_Themes/Standard/Standard.css" type="text/css" rel="stylesheet"/>
    <!-- small amount of fixups -->
    <link href="{$themePath}Theme.css" style="text/css" rel="stylesheet" />
    <div id="MainContent" >
    <script src="{$themePath}..\scripts\jquery.min.js"></script>
    <link href="{$themePath}..\scripts\highlightjs\styles\twilight.css" rel="stylesheet" />
    <script src="{$themePath}..\scripts\highlightjs\highlight.pack.js"></script>
    <script src="{$themePath}..\scripts\preview.js"></script>

Notice the link to the external style sheet on weblog.west-wind.com. I still use a local theme.css to style the toolbar and the main HTML page padding:

html, body {
    padding: 5px 20px 5px 10px !important;
    margin: 0;
    scrollbar-track-color: Whitesmoke;
    scrollbar-arrow-color: silver;   
    scrollbar-base-color: #ddd;
    scrollbar-face-color: #ddd;
    -ms-overflow-style: -ms-autohiding-scrollbar !important;

@media(min-width: 970px){
        font-size: 1.1em;

Very minor obviously but this ensures I get the right document margins and the nicer looking scrollbars in the preview.

Another option is to simply download the remote CSS and use it locally rather than load it from the Web site and then reference the local copy:

<link href="{$themePath)Standard.css" type="text/css" rel="stylesheet"/>
<link href="{$themePath}Theme.css" style="text/css" rel="stylesheet" />

Change the Code Snippet Theme in your Preview Theme

The previewer supports code snippets using the popular highlight.js and the corresponding syntax language formats. This is compatible with GitHub for common languages.

If you want to alter the code theme you can change the following style link to reference one of the other code themes available in the referenced highlightjs\styles folder:

<link href="{$themePath}..\scripts\highlightjs\styles\vscodedark.css" rel="stylesheet" />

The default code theme used is twilight. Other code themes include github, vs2015 (dark), vs (light), monokai (dark) and many more. Check the PreviewThemes\scripts\highlightjs\styles folder for more code themes.

Note that Preview Themes explicitly declare a Syntax Highlight Theme so if you create a custom theme you can specifically match a Syntax Highlight Theme to your custom theme.

Override Code Block Styling

In addition to replacing the Code Block theme, you can also add and override individual styles using the Theme.css (or inline <style> in Theme.html) to override existing styles from a Code block theme.

For example to change the background color of the code block rendering you could do:

.hljs {
  background: DarkGreen !important;

If you use the Theme.css style sheet you need to use !important to override settings due to the ordering of the code block theme after the main styles or you can re-arrange the order in Theme.css.

Script Interaction and the previewUpdated Event

You can also add JavaScript code to the template to dynamically inject elements into the page to perform custom fixups of the document in the preview.

One thing of note with this approach is the MM updates the page rendered as you type, so they page is constantly repainted and as a result you need to handle a specific previewUpdated event to run your script.

To demonstrate, I recently got a request for displaying Image titles below an image. So with an image tag like this:

![Markdown Monster](https://markdownmonster.west-wind.com/Images/MarkdownMonsterLogo.jpg)

the Markdown Monster text should display below the image. To do this I added script code to the Theme.html page just above the </body> tag:

// hookup event

function figureTitles() {
  // loop through all images
  $("img").each( function() {
      var $img = $(this);
      var title = $img.attr("alt");
      // if alt title is found add it after the image
      if (title)
         $img.after("<p><small><b>" + title + "</b></small></p>")

Make the Preview your Own!

The concepts for customization is meant to be really easy to customize. You can start with an existing theme and tweak it, or go to town and create a completely new layout and theme for your Preview.

© West Wind Technologies, 2016-2024 • Updated: 01/03/24
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