Excellent Utilities: mdless – formatted and highlighted view of Markdown files

This is a new series highlighting best-of-breed utilities. We’ll be covering a wide range of utilities including tools that boost your productivity, help you manage your workflow, and lots more besides.

I recently spotlighted Abricotine, an open source, cross-platform Markdown editor built for the desktop with inline preview functionality. Continuing the Markdown theme, this article focuses on mdless, a CLI that provides a formatted and highlighted view of Markdown files in a terminal.

If you want to view Markdown files quickly and without cruft, mdless is designed with you in mind.

The software is written in the Ruby programming language. Want to learn more about Ruby? Here’s 15 free Ruby books recommended by our contributor Erik Karlsson.


If you’ve ever used Ruby software, you’ll know that gem offers an easy way of installing Ruby packages. At a shell, type:

$ gem install mdless

This installs mdless to /home/$USERNAME/.gem/ruby/2.6.0/bin. You’ll need to ensure this directory is in your user $PATH.

Assuming you’re running bash, open the file ~/.bashrc in your preferred text editor and add the following line to the end of that file:

export PATH=$PATH:/home/sde/.gem/ruby/2.6.0/bin

You’ll need to replace sde with your username. Then you’ll either need to log out of the shell, or type:

source ~/.bashrc.

You’ll also need to install imgcat, a utility like cat but for images.

Next page: Page 2 – In Operation

Pages in this article:
Page 1 – Introduction / Installation
Page 2 – In Operation
Page 3 – Other Features
Page 4 – Summary

Complete list of articles in this series:

Excellent Utilities
tmuxA terminal multiplexer that offers a massive boost to your workflow
lnavAdvanced log file viewer for the small-scale; great for troubleshooting
PaperworkDesigned to simplify the management of your paperwork
AbricotineMarkdown editor with inline preview functionality
mdlessFormatted and highlighted view of Markdown files
fkillKill processes quick and easy
TuskAn unofficial Evernote client with bags of potential
UlauncherSublime application launcher
McFlyNavigate through your bash shell history
LanguageToolStyle and grammar checker for 30+ languages
pecoSimple interactive filtering tool that's remarkably useful
Liquid PromptAdaptive prompt for Bash & Zsh
AnanicyShell daemon created to manage processes’ IO and CPU priorities
cheat.shCommunity driven unified cheat sheet
ripgrepRecursively search directories for a regex pattern
exaA turbo-charged alternative to the venerable ls command
OCRmyPDFAdd OCR text layer to scanned PDFs
WatsonTrack the time spent on projects
fontpreviewQuickly search and preview fonts
fdWonderful alternative to the venerable find
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