Configuring Redcarpet

GitHub uses the Redcarpet renderer for .md content.

Jekyll supports various Markdown renderers and each has their own configuration settings. These settings are somewhat confusingly called “extensions”.

The extensions for Redcarpet are documented in the “simple to use” section of the main Redcarpet README.

Jekyll also adds a number of Jekyll specific Redcarpet extensions which are documented in the Redcarpet section of the Jekyll configuration page.

In your _config.yml you can set the various extensions you want for a specific renderer, e.g. like so for Redcarpet:

    extensions: ["no_intra_emphasis", "tables", "autolink", "strikethrough", "with_toc_data"]

Let’s look at all these Redcarpet extensions, both the standard ones and the Jekyll specific ones, and look at if they’re used by GitHub for .md content.

Standard Redcarpet extensions


Set by GitHub - without it the _ character within words would turn on emphasis so foo_bar would render as foobar, i.e. without the underscore and with the “bar” part in italics.


Set by GitHub - without it the following would not be rendered as a table.

Tables Are Cool
col 3 is right-aligned $1600
col 2 is centered $12
zebra stripes are neat $1


Standard Markdown supports code blocks, with no special highlighting, that are created by indenting each line by four spaces.

With fenced_code_blocks code blocks can be fenced by three backticks with an optional language name from languages.yml.

var s = "JavaScript syntax highlighting";
var s = "JavaScript syntax highlighting";

fenced_code_blocks is enabled by default by Jekyll and so doesn’t need to be set explicitly for GitHub-like behavior.

Set by GitHub - without it the following would not automatically be handled as links and you’d need to use [foo@...](mailto:foo@...) etc.


Not set by GitHub - if it were you couldn’t use the traditional Markdown approach of creating code block by indenting them by four spaces.

This is a code block created by indenting each line by four spaces.
As in fenced code blocks you don't have to worry about e.g. <b> being interpreted.


Set by GitHub - with this enabled you can strikethrough text with two ~ characters at the start and end.



Enabled by default by Jekyll and so doesn’t need to be set explicitly for GitHub-like behavior.

In traditional Markdown any HTML has to be bounded by empty lines in order to be interpreted as HTML.

Without this the HTML creating the single cell table seen here would not be handled as HTML as it is surrounded by non-empty lines.

A non-empty line before the HTML.

Single cell HTML table

A non-empty line after the HTML.


Enabled by default by Jekyll and so doesn’t need to be set explicitly for GitHub-like behavior.

In traditional Markdown a # must be followed by a space to be interpreted as a header.

So # some text would be interpreted as a header but #some text would not. For GitHub both are fine.

With a space h5-header

#####Without a space h5-header


Not set by GitHub. If it were the ^ character could be used to create superscripts like so 2^4 or 2^(nd).


Not set by GitHub. If it were you could underline words with _ but as it is both _ and * result in italics.

I.e. _foobar_ and *foobar* both result in foobar.


Not set by GitHub. If it were then ==highlighted== would appear as highlighted.


Not set by GitHub. If it were then “quote” would appear as quote. See also the more sophisticated smart extension below.


Not set by GitHub. If it were you could create footnotes like so:

Here is some text containing a footnote.[^somesamplefootnote]

[^somesamplefootnote]: Here is the text of the footnote itself.


Set by GitHub. Without this headers would not automatically have HTML anchors that can be linked to from elsewhere.

To jump to this header you just need to do [link](#link-to-me) - which results in “link”.

See the separate “Hover anchors” section for more details.


Set by GitHub in some situations and not in others - see the separate “Hard wrap” section for more details.


Not set by GitHub. If it were XHTML-conformant tags would be output, e.g. <br> would be output as <br/>.


Not set by GitHub. If it were the class prettyprint would be added to code tags so that you could use google-code-prettify. Note: this affects both inline code, i.e. text surrounded by backticks, and code blocks. If using this extension one should probably disable fenced code blocks which are handled with the Pygments highlighting system.

Not set by GitHub. It can be used to add attributes like target="_blank" or rel="nofollow" to all links. Note: the extensions sub-setting in _config.yml cannot be used for this extension as it only supports extensions that can be set to true.

Safe HTML extensions

In addition to the extensions already covered there are a number of standard extensions related to constraining the use of HTML in Markdown.

GitHub is fairly lenient in this respect and the following restrictive extensions are not set by GitHub:

The following two extensions, no_styles and safe_links_only are set by GitHub. However for your own pages it presumably doesn’t make sense to restrict your own use of <style> tags or link types.


Set by GitHub. You cannot use the <style> tag to add extra CSS into Markdown content.

Set by GitHub. Only local links, anchors and the protocols http, https, ftp and mailto can be used in links (see sd_autolink_issafe in anchor.c).

Jekyll specific Redcarpet extensions


Not set by GitHub. This allows you to disable Jekyll’s default behavior of enabling fenced code blocks.


Not set by GitHub. If it were “foobar” and ``foobar’’ would both appear as “foobar” and ‘foobar’ would appear as ‘foobar’.

Similarly three periods would appear as a proper elipsis character, two minuses as an en-dash and three as an em-dash.

See SmartyPants for more details.


Language specific highlighting

var s = "JavaScript syntax highlighting";

By default Jekyll uses the Pygments highlighting system for code blocks like the above.

If you look at the HTML generated by Jekyll for the above code block you see:

<div class="highlight">
        <code class="language-javascript" data-lang="javascript">
            <span class="kd">var</span>

However if you look at what GitHub generates you see:

<div class="highlight highlight-javascript">
        <span class="pl-s">var</span>

The <span> classes seen in the GitHub generated output are the ones supported by github-markdown-css.

For the ones seen in the Pygments output from Jekyll you have to generate a .css file like so:

$ pygmentize -S default -f html > css/syntax.css

And then include it in your _layout file. This results in highlighting that is somewhat different to that seen in GitHub.

Note: the difference between the standard Jekyll behavior and that seen in GitHub is definitely not the result of the use or not of highlighter or prettify in _config.yml.

Hard wrap

The GitHub help page “Writing on GitHub” states that GitHub uses the behavior enabled by hard_wrap.

Roses are red
Violets are blue

With hard_wrap the above becomes:

Roses are red
Violets are blue

I.e. newlines within a paragraph end up as <br> tags - in traditional Markdown two newlines result in a new paragraph, i.e. <p>, while single newlines are ignored.

However GitHub seems a bit schizophrenic about the use of hard_wrap - it is enabled for issues, comments and pull request descriptions but not for wiki pages or when viewing .md file.

In a wiki page or .md file the above appears as:

Roses are red Violets are blue

I.e. the lines run together. If you do want a newline you have to end a line with two spaces - this will result in a <br>.

If you don’t like that spaces at the end of a line aren’t obvious in most editors you can also explicitly use <br>.

If you do enable hard_wrap it will introduce <br> tags even in HTML that you embed in your Markdown, e.g.:

        <td>Single cell HTML table</td>

If hard_wrap is enabled this will result in the following being generated:

        <td>Single cell HTML table</td><br>

Which probably isn’t what you’d expect or want. The only way to get around this is avoid newlines in your HTML:

<table><tr><td>Single cell HTML table</td></tr></table>

Hover anchors

The with_toc_data extension just causes id attributes to be added to headers. To also get an anchor to appear when you hover over the header, as happens with GitHub, it was necessary to:

The Jekyll project uses anchor_links.html like this to add hover anchors for their own site but with a somewhat different look to GitHub (a different font for the anchors and the anchors appear to the right of headers).

To get the GitHub style of hover anchors it was necessary to slightly modify anchor_links.html.

<h2 id="my-header">My Header</h2>

With this change the above is now processed to appear as:

<h2 id="my-header"><a class="anchor" href="#my-header"><span class="octicon octicon-link"></span></a>My Header</h2>