Fun With PowerShell – Extracting Blog Titles and Links from a WordPress Blog with PowerShell – Generating Markdown

Introduction

In my previous blogpost, Fun With PowerShell – Extracting Blog Titles and Links from a WordPress Blog with PowerShell, I described how I extracted the title, link, and publication date for posts in my WordPress blog using PowerShell. I then went on to use PowerShell to generate HTML code that I could insert into a post, or create a basic webpage.

It would also be useful to generate Markdown, instead of HTML, in case I want to use it somewhere such as my GitHub page. In this post we’ll see how to do just that, and create Markdown from the output array of PSCustomObjects.

For all of the examples we’ll display the code, then (when applicable) under it the result of our code. In this article I’ll be using PowerShell Core, 7.2.2, and VSCode. The examples should work in PowerShell 5.1 in the PowerShell IDE, although they’ve not been tested there.

Additionally, be on the lookout for the backtick ` , PowerShell’s line continuation character, at the end of many lines in the code samples. The blog formatting has a limited width, so using the line continuation character makes the examples much easier to read. My post Fun With PowerShell Pipelined Functions dedicates a section to the line continuation character if you want to learn more.

To run a snippet of code highlight the lines you want to execute, then in VSCode press F8 or in the IDE F5. You can display the contents of any variable by highlighting it and using F8/F5.

Where to Start

Much of the work has already been done in the previous post. Review it, stopping at the Creating HTML section. The array we created will now be used in generating Markdown.

This is the reason I created an array of custom objects holding the title, link, and publication date. Just as I used it to create HTML, I can now use it to generate Markdown.

Generating Markdown

Like I did with the HTML, I created a function to create Markdown. This is and advanced function that I’ll pipeline the array of PSCustomObjects into.

function Get-WPMarkdown()
{
  [CmdletBinding()]
  param (
          [Parameter (ValuefromPipeline)] $wpObjects
        , [switch] $FormatAsTable
        )

  process
  {
    # Create a formatted output line
    if (!$FormatAsTable.IsPresent)
    {
      # Create each line as a paragraph
      $outLine = @"
$($wpObjects.PubDate) - [$($wpObjects.Title)]($($wpObjects.Link))
"@
    }
    else
    {
      # Create each line as a row in a table
      $outLine = @"
|$($wpObjects.PubDate)|[$($wpObjects.Title)]($($wpObjects.Link))|
"@
    }

    # Return the formatted line
    $outLine
  }

}

The first parameter accepts the custom objects we generated from the pipeline. The second is a switch that will format the output as a row in a Markdown table, as opposed to just a line of Markdown text.

I then check to see if the switch was passed in, and format the line to return accordingly. Finally I send the generated line out of the function.

Using the Get-WPMarkdown Function

Now all we have to do is call the function. As a reminder, the data in the $outData variable is the array of custom objects we generated in the previous posts.

$outMd = $outData | Get-WPMarkdown

$wpOutputMd = 'D:\OneDrive\BlogPosts\Markdown\arcanecode.wordpress2.md'
Out-File -FilePath $wpOutputMd -InputObject $outMd -Force

This will generate our data as rows in a Markdown file. Below is a small example.

2020-09-29 - [VSCode User Snippets for PowerShell and MarkDown](https://arcanecode.com/2020/09/29/vscode-user-snippets-for-powershell-and-markdown/)
2020-12-05 - [Two New PowerShell Courses for Developers on Pluralsight](https://arcanecode.com/2020/12/05/two-new-powershell-courses-for-developers-on-pluralsight/)
2020-12-14 - [Iterate Over A Hashtable in PowerShell](https://arcanecode.com/2020/12/14/iterate-over-a-hashtable-in-powershell/)

Outputting a Markdown Table

In the code there was a switch to format the output Markdown as a table.

$outMd = $outData | Get-WPMarkdown -FormatAsTable

As I did with the HTML example, I wanted to wrap the generated data in the appropriate Markdown code to make this a complete Markdown table. I created another function to handle this.

function Add-WPMarkdownHeader()
{
  [CmdletBinding()]
  param (
          [Parameter (Mandatory = $true)]
          $markdownData
        )

  # Create a new array
  $outTable = @()

  # Add the html to create a left aligned table header
  $outTable += '|Date|Post|'
  $outTable += '|:-----|:-----|'

  # Add the existing table row data
  foreach ($row in $markdownData) { $outTable += $row }

  # Return the output
  return $outTable
}

As you can see, it creates a new array, adding the Markdown code for a table header, one specific for our data. It then cycles through the array that was passed in and adds it to the new array. Once done this new array is returned by the function.

To call it we simply use the following sample to write it to a file.

$outTable = Add-WPMarkdownHeader $outMd
Out-File -FilePath $wpOutputMd -InputObject $outTable -Force

Here is a sample of the output.

|Date|Post|
|:-----|:-----|
2020-09-29 - [VSCode User Snippets for PowerShell and MarkDown](https://arcanecode.com/2020/09/29/vscode-user-snippets-for-powershell-and-markdown/)
2020-12-05 - [Two New PowerShell Courses for Developers on Pluralsight](https://arcanecode.com/2020/12/05/two-new-powershell-courses-for-developers-on-pluralsight/)
2020-12-14 - [Iterate Over A Hashtable in PowerShell](https://arcanecode.com/2020/12/14/iterate-over-a-hashtable-in-powershell/)

Conclusion

In this post we saw how to generate Markdown code from a WordPress blog extract. Combined with the code in my previous post I now have a handy script I can use to generate HTML and Markdown code from my blog posts. This will be handy for both now, and when I want to create wrap up posts for future series.

These techniques can be easily adapted for any XML file that you wish to create a summary listing for, in HTML or Markdown or both.

The demos in this series of blog posts were inspired by my Pluralsight course PowerShell 7 Quick Start for Developers on Linux, macOS and Windows, one of many PowerShell courses I have on Pluralsight. All of my courses are linked on my About Me page.

If you don’t have a Pluralsight subscription, just go to my list of courses on Pluralsight . At the top is a Try For Free button you can use to get a free 10 day subscription to Pluralsight, with which you can watch my courses, or any other course on the site.

Fun With VSCode Snippets for Markdown and PowerShell

Introduction

I have a confession. I love Markdown. There I said it, my confession is out in the open for all to see.

Seriously though, I do find this documentation language very useful, and easy to use. With just a few commands I can produce a nicely formatted document that can be displayed in my code editor, as well as on platforms like GitHub. I’ve even begun authoring these blog posts in Markdown.

A big reason for me is the ability to integrate it into my projects. VSCode, as well as the full blow Visual Studio, support Markdown (with of course the proper extensions installed). When I create a new PowerShell project in VSCode, I can store the projects documentation in Markdown format right alongside the PowerShell code.

Speaking of VSCode…

VSCode Snippets

A great thing about VSCode is the ability to create your own code snippets. A snippet is a text replacement system where I can enter a few characters of text and VSCode will then replace it with the full snippet. Snippets are activated using the Intellisense feature of VSCode.

One example, I have a standard header I put at the top of my PowerShell scripts. When I defined this header as a snippet, I named it psheader. Now I can enter pshead into my PowerShell script. VSCode’s intellisense feature will prompt me with the list of snippets I have that being with pshead. I can then pick the one I want (psheader), press enter and the snippet of psheader will be replaced with the full text of my file header.

By default, pretty much every language in VSCode has the ability to handle snippets.

Except Markdown.

Markdown Snippets in VSCode

Shocking right? How could such an awesome language like Markdown not have snippets? (And yes, Markdown may not be a language in the strictest sense, but it’s a close enough word for now.)

Well it’s possible to enable Markdown snippets in PowerShell. Sometime back I created a GitHub project that shows you how to enable and use snippets for Markdown. In addition, I included my snippets for both PowerShell and Markdown.

Rather than reiterating everything here, I’ll just point you to that repository.

https://github.com/arcanecode/VSCode_User_Snippets

The main file in the repository, ReadMe.md gives a brief overview and explanation on how to use snippets.

The file Enable_Intellisense_in_Markdown.md does just what is says, shows you how to enable intellisense for Markdown in VSCode.

In VSCode, you can use certain replacements in your snippets. For example, you can embed the $CURRENT_YEAR snippet variable in your snippet (no matter what language) and when the snippet is generated into your code, it will replace the $CURRENT_YEAR with the actual current year.

I included a file, Snippet_Reference.md that lists the various snippet variables and gives a bit more explanation on how to use them.

If you aren’t familiar with Markdown, or don’t use it very often, you’ll find the file Markdown_Cheatsheet.md useful. It has a list of the most often used Markdown formatting commands.

Finally I included two .json files. These are the snippets I use for PowerShell and Markdown on my system. You can use these as a guide in creating your own snippets, or copy the ones you find useful onto your VSCode installation.

If you use the VSCode sync settings feature, they you will be happy to know snippets are included as part of the sync process. You can modify your snippet files on one computer and they will be copied to all the other computers you sync VSCode on.

Conclusion

This was a brief post that primarily served to bring awareness to snippets, as well as the ability to use them with Markdown files. Go take a look at the repository and with just a little effort I believe you’ll find yourself becoming much more productive with the addition of snippets to your toolbox.

VSCode User Snippets for PowerShell and MarkDown

I’ve been working a lot on a new course for Pluralsight, Everyday PowerShell 7 for Developers. I’ve been cranking out a lot of code as a result, PowerShell, obviously, as well as Markdown for documentation.

I’m finding the use of VSCode’s User Snippets to be extremely useful for developing this course. Snippets have allowed me to store my most often used code as templates, quickly manifesting new sections of code.

In PowerShell I’m finding these especially useful for writing Pester tests. Most tests fall into a few simple patterns, using a snippet I can quickly create the bulk of my test, leaving me to fill in the few remaining pieces.

If you know Markdown, you know some of the syntax can be a bit arcane. Using snippets makes it easy to insert commonly used ones, such as being able to type in a snippet name of mdlink and get the correct syntax to appear for a hyperlink.

It also helps with consistency. A small example, for doing italics in Markdown, you can use a singe underscore or a single asterisk. For bold, two underscores or asterisks.

I decided (for no particular reason) to use underscores for italics and asterisks for bold. If it’s been a while since I wrote Markdown though, I may not always remember. So I setup mditalic and mdbold to insert the correct formatting for me.

I’ve placed my snippets in a repository on my github site:

https://github.com/arcanecode/VSCode_User_Snippets

If you aren’t familiar with how to use User Snippets, I have a quick overview in a Markdown file in the repository.

Speaking of Markdown, there is one issue with VSCode. By default, intellisense is not enabled in VSCode for Markdown. While snippets can be used without intellisense, it’s much easier to use them with intellisense turned on.

In the repository I have a Markdown  file with information on how to turn intellisense on in VSCode for Markdown files.

Be aware there are also user snippets available through the Extensions Marketplace in VSCode. Just go into the Extensions, and enter Snippet into the search bar.  I just didn’t happen to find any that quite suited my needs, hence I created my own.

You’re welcome to copy and use the user snippets, just some or all of them, as you need. Do be aware some of them have my name and websites, such as the author info snippet I use for the bottom of all my Markdown files, or the header snippet for the top of my PowerShell files.

I hope you find user snippets as helpful as I do.