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Frontend Cafe

A community for discussing frontend engineering news, best practices, and new technologies.


.mdx proposal

February 9, 2018 at 5:43pm
For a while now at ZEIT we've been using markdown-in-js as a pre-processor with Babel, so that we can write static documents more practically.
In practice, our pages end up looking something like this:
import * as components from './components/text'
import Video from ./components/video'
export markdown(components)`
# hello there
My code snippet ${<Image />}
In addition to letting us quickly write markdown, it has some really powerful benefits:
  • It's still JS, which means we can do imports, define helpers, assert that it's valid via a linter, etc.
  • We can embed JSX components inside Markdown. This is a must for us, because we like writing blog posts ( that have diverse content inside.
However, in my opinion, a lot of the benefits of "writing markdown" are lost. For example, as you see above, escaping code blocks becomes cumbersome.
As a result, I've been playing with an idea in my mind for a potential custom webpack loader and a new format called mdx, which brings the "best of both worlds" of JSX and Markdown.
Imagine my-blog-post.mdx:
import Video from '../components/video'
# My blog post
my code!
And here's a video:
<Video width={300} src="video.mp4" />
This looks great IMO, however, some important problems remain:
  • How do we lint? It should be impossible to include <Vid> because it's not imported, but <Video> should work. Can we extend eslint to understand .mdx ?
  • How do we defined the default set of components? One option would be to pass them to the webpack loader configuration
  • How do we override one component? Let's say we want to use a custom paragraph renderer. An idea here would be to standarize on a series of names, so that you can just do import P from '../components/paragraph'
  • How do we prettify it? Another issue we have with our markdown pages is that the markdown inside ends up looking really ugly, unless you painstakingly format it by hand. Can we extend prettier to understand .mdx?
If someone in the community wants to start playing around with a prototype, please share!

February 9, 2018 at 5:51pm
I need this so badly, pleeease
I've wanted this kind of thing a million times!
This is a really neat idea, I'd love to see an implementation.
This lines up really nicely with recent work on Gatsby:
We've definitely been experimenting with some similar things. For the imports, I like the idea of allowing imports/props/etc to be set with front matter in the markdown
I've gone ahead and open sourced our current experiment with a markdown implementation along the same lines of this proposal: It's a bit different because we've been experimenting more with `.jsx` code blocks and front matter to handle the JSX/React specific functionality. Though it allows for passing in components that are rendered in place of html elements during the transpilation process. Using mdast/remark and based of remark-react.
What's nice about targeting `.jsx` code blocks is that editors/GitHub will syntax highlight, and a linter could quickly discern what is markdown and what is JSX. Though it's also not quite as expressive as inlined JSX in the document.
I would love to see this somewhat standardized in the community as .mdx. I've had to do it multiple times for different design systems' documentation, etc.
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