A picture tells a thousand words, but up until now the only way to include pictures and diagrams in your Markdown files on GitHub has been to embed an image. We added support for embedding SVGs recently, but sometimes you want to keep your diagrams up to date with your docs and create something as easily as doing ASCII art, but a lot prettier.
Enter Mermaid ♀️♂️
Working with Knut and also the wider community at CommonMark, we’ve rolled out a change that will allow you to create graphs inline using Mermaid syntax, for example:
The raw code block above will appear as this diagram in the rendered Markdown:
How it works
When we encounter code blocks marked as
mermaid, we generate an iframe that takes the raw Mermaid syntax and passes it to Mermaid.js, turning that code into a diagram in your local browser.
We achieve this through a two-stage process—GitHub’s HTML pipeline and Viewscreen, our internal file rendering service.
First, we add a filter to the HTML pipeline that looks for raw
pre tags with the
src attribute to the Viewscreen service. This has several advantages:
- Rendering the charts asynchronously helps eliminate the overhead of potentially rendering several charts before sending the compiled ERB view to the client.
- User-supplied content is locked away in an iframe, where it has less potential to cause mischief on the GitHub page that the chart is loaded into.
Here is a visual representation of the path your Mermaid-flavored Markdown takes to become a fully-rendered Mermaid chart. (Here’s the Mermaid code for the diagram.)
The net result is fast, easily editable, and vector-based diagrams right in your documentation where you need them.
Mermaid has been getting increasingly popular with developers and has a rich community of contributors led by the maintainer Knut Sveidqvist. We are very grateful for Knut’s support in bringing this feature to everyone on GitHub. If you’d like to learn more about the Mermaid syntax, head over to the Mermaid website or check out Knut’s first official Mermaid book.