»User Guide
Text based document generation
Note New FAQs are appended to the bottom of this document.

1. How do you handle spaces in included file names?

Spaces are not allowed in macro targets so this include macro will not be processed:

include::my document.txt[]

The work-around is to replace the spaces with the {sp} (space character) attribute, for example:


2. How do I number all paragraphs?

Some documents such as specifications and legalese require all paragraphs to be sequentially numbered through the document, and to be able to reference these numbers.

This can be achieved by using the DocBook toolchain but numbering the paragraphs with AsciiDoc using a custom config file containing the following (see http://asciidoc.org/userguide.html#X27 for ways to include such a file):

<formalpara{id? id="{id}"}{role? role="{role}"}{id? xreflabel="{paracounter}"}><title>{title}</title><para>
{title%}<simpara{id? id="{id}"}{role? role="{role}"}{id? xreflabel="{paracounter}"}>
{paracounter} |

References to the paragraphs operate in the normal way, you label the paragraph:

paragraph contents

and reference it in the normal manner:


The text of the reference will be the paragraph number.

For this to work for HTML you have to generate it via the DocBook toolchain.

3. Sources of information on configuring DocBook toolchains

DocBook is a content and structure markup language, therefore AsciiDoc generated DocBook markup is also limited to content and structure. Layout and formatting definition is specific to the DocBook toolchain.

The dblatex toolchain can be configured by setting parameters defined at http://dblatex.sourceforge.net/doc/manual/sec-params.html or for more complex styling by custom Latex stylesheets described at http://dblatex.sourceforge.net/doc/manual/sec-custom-latex.html.

Similarly FOP can be configured by parameters described at http://sagehill.net/docbookxsl/OptionsPart.html and with custom xsl stylesheets generating formatting objects as described at http://sagehill.net/docbookxsl/CustomizingPart.html.

4. How can I include embedded fonts in an EPUB document?

This is a two step process:

  1. Declare the font files and their use in your document’s CSS stylesheet. For example:

    @font-face {
      font-family : LiberationSerif-Regular;
      font-weight : normal;
      font-style: normal;
      src : url(LiberationSerif-Regular.ttf);
    body {
      font-family: LiberationSerif-Regular, serif;
  2. Declare the font file as resource when you use a2x(1) to compile the EPUB. For example:

    a2x -f epub -d book --epubcheck --stylesheet epubtest.css --resource .ttf=application/x-font-ttf --resource LiberationSerif-Regular.ttf epubtest.txt
  • Requires AsciiDoc 8.6.5 or better.

  • The True Type Font mimetype had to be declared explicitly with the --resource .ttf=application/x-font-ttf option because it wasn’t registered on my Linux system.

  • In the above example the font file is in the same directory as the AsciiDoc source file and is installed to the same relative location in the EPUB archive OEBPS directory — if your font file resides in a different location you’ll need to adjust the --resource option accordingly (see the RESOURCES section in the a2x(1) man page for details).

  • The URL value of the CSS src property is set to the destination font file relative to the CSS file.

  • The --resource option allows you to inject any file (not just font files) into the EPUB output document.

  • Using the CSS @font-face rule is a complex subject and is outside the scope of this FAQ.

  • Many EPUB readers do not process embedded fonts.

5. What’s the difference between + quoted text and ` quoted monospaced text?

+ (plus) quoted text is implemented as an AsciiDoc quotes whereas ` (grave accent or backtick) quoted text is implemented as an AsciiDoc inline literal passthrough macro. The semantics are different:

  1. Inline passthrough macros are processed before any other inline substitutions e.g. all of the following line will be processed as a single inline passthrough and rendered as monospaced text (which is not the intended result):

    `single quoted text' and `monospaced quoted text`

    This line works as expected:

    `single quoted text' and +monospaced quoted text+
  2. Backtick quoted text is rendered literally i.e. no substitutions are performed on the enclosed text. Here are some examples that would have to be escaped if plus quoting were used (see also):

    The `++i` and `++j` auto-increments.
    Paths `~/.vim` and `~/docs`.
    The `__init__` method.
    The `{id}` attribute.

6. Why is the generated HTML title element text invalid?

Probably because your document title contains formatting that has generated HTML title markup. You can resolve this by explicitly defining the title attribute in your document’s header.

7. AsciiDoc sometimes generates invalid output markup, why?

AsciiDoc is backend agnostic, the asciidoc command has no knowledge of the syntax or structure of the backend format that it generates. Output document validation (syntactic and structural) should be performed separately by external validation tools. For example, AsciiDoc’s a2x toolchain command automatically performs validation checks using xmllint.

8. The AsciiDoc toclevels attribute does not work with DocBook outputs, why?

DocBook has no provision for specifying table of contents levels but you can set the TOC level further down the toolchain by passing the DocBook XSL Stylesheets toc.section.depth parameter to dblatex (using the --param option) or xsltproc (using the --stringparam option). For example to show only chapter titles in the TOC of a book document set toc.section.depth to 0. Increment the toc.section.depth value to show more sub-section titles. If you are using a2x you can set the options in the source file, for example:

// a2x: --xsltproc-opts "--stringparam toc.section.depth 0"
// a2x: --dblatex-opts "--param toc.section.depth=0"

If the document is of type article use the value 1 to show only top level section titles in the TOC, use the value 2 for two levels etc.

9. How can I include chapter and section tables of contents?

DocBook outputs processed by DocBook XSL Stylesheets (either manually or via a2x) can generate additional separate section and chapter tables of contents using combinations of the TOC parameters. Here are some examples using combinations of the generate.section.toc.level and toc.section.depth DocBook XSL Stylesheets parameters:

generate.section.toc.level toc.section.depth

Single level book chapter TOCs or article section TOCs


Article section TOCs with two levels


Book chapter TOCs with two levels

10. How can I customize the appearance of XHTML and EPUB documents generated by a2x?

You can customize the appearance of an EPUB document with CSS. See the Sherlock Holmes eBook example on the AsciiDoc website.

11. DocBook has many elements for document meta-data — how can I use them from AsciiDoc?

The docinfo, docinfo1 and docinfo2 attributes allow you include document information files containing DocBook XML into the header of the output file.

If you go the DocBook route then yes — just omit the caption from the AsciiDoc xref (<<...>>) macro. Both dblatex and DocBook XSL will use the target element’s title text. Examples:

Section One
Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetuer adipiscing elit. Maecenas
ultrices justo porttitor augue. Vestibulum pretium. Donec porta

See also <<X3>> (this link displays the text 'A titled paragraph').

[id="X2",reftext="2nd section"]
Section Two
See also <<X1>> (this link displays the text 'Section One').

.A titled paragraph
Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetuer adipiscing elit.

See also <<X2>> (this link displays the text '2nd section').

The AsciiDoc reftext attribute has been used to explicitly set the link text to 2nd section for Section Two.

13. Can I define my own table styles?

In addition to the built-in styles you can define your own. This (simplified) example for HTML backends defines a table style called red which sets the background cell color to red. First put the definition in a configuration file:


bodydata=<td style="background-color:red;">|</td>

Now you can use the style name to style cells or columns (in this example we use an unambiguous shortened abbreviation r):

|Normal cell      r|Red cell

14. How can I add highlighted editorial comments to an AsciiDoc document?

Both block and inline comment lines are displayed on the output if the showcomments attribute is defined. Example:

// A block comment line.

Qui in magna commodo, est labitur dolorum an. Est ne magna primis
// An inline comment line.

Is rendered as:

A block comment line.

Qui in magna commodo, est labitur dolorum an. Est ne magna primis
An inline comment line.

Note Comment blocks are never displayed.

15. What is the preferred file name extension for AsciiDoc files?

The .txt text file extension is preferred, but it’s just a convention and it’s not enforced by the software.

AsciiDoc source files are human readable plain text files which is what the .txt extension is for. All text editors recognize and open files with a .txt extension. The .txt extension is universally recognized and unambiguous — you are not left asking questions like “What on earth is this file with the funny extension?”, “How do I open it?” and “Is it safe to open?”.

16. How can I generate numbered bibliographic entries?

If your outputs are DocBook generated then adding the following inline macro to a custom configuration file will result in auto-incrementing bibliography entry numbers (instead of displaying the bibliographic identifiers):

<anchor id="{1}" xreflabel="[{counter:bibliography1}]"/>[{counter:bibliography2}]

This FAQ submitted by Bela Hausmann.

17. How can I include lines of dashes inside a listing block?

A line of four or more dashes will be mistaken for the ListingBlock terminator, one way round this problem is to use a LiteralBlock styled as a listing block. For example:

Lorum ipsum

18. How can I customize PDF files generated by dblatex?

There are a number of dblatex XSL parameters that can be used to customize PDF output. You can set them globally in the AsciiDoc ./dblatex/asciidoc-dblatex.xsl configuration file or you can also pass them on the a2x(1) command-line. Here are some examples:

The latex.output.revhistory parameter is used to suppress the revision history:

a2x -f pdf --dblatex-opts "-P latex.output.revhistory=0" doc/article.txt

The doc.layout parameter is used to include the cover page and document body (i.e. excludes table of contents and index), the doc.publisher.show parameter is used to exclude the cover page logo:

a2x -f pdf --dblatex-opts " -P doc.layout=\"coverpage mainmatter\" -P doc.publisher.show=0" doc/article.txt

19. How can I add lists of figures and tables to PDFs created by dblatex?

Set the doc.lot.show XSL parameter — you can set it using the dblatex --param command-line option, for example:

a2x --dblatex-opts="--param=doc.lot.show=figure,table" doc/article.txt

20. How can I stop the document title being displayed?

You could simply omit the document title, but this will result in a blank title element in HTML outputs. If you want the HTML title element to contain the document title then define the notitle attribute (this will just suppress displaying the title), for example:

My document title
:no title:

21. Why am I having trouble getting nested macros to work?

The following example expands the image inline macro, but the expansion contains double-quote characters which confuses the ensuing footnoteref macro expansion:

footnoteref:["F1","A footnote, with an image image:smallnew.png[]"]

The solution is to use unquoted attribute values, replacing embedded commas with the comma character entity (&#44;):

footnoteref:[F1,A footnote&#44; with an image image:smallnew.png[]]

Similarly, you can embed double-quote characters in unquoted attribute values using the &#34; character entity.

22. Why am I getting DocBook validation errors?

Not all valid AsciiDoc source generates valid DocBook, for example special sections (abstract, preface, colophon, dedication, bibliography, glossary, appendix, index, synopsis) have different DocBook schema’s to normal document sections. For example, a paragraph is illegal in a bibliography.

Don’t forget if your document is a book you need to specify the asciidoc -d book command option, if you don’t an article DocBook document will be generated, possibly containing book specific sections, resulting in validation errors.

23. How can I disable special section titles?

For example, you want to use References as a normal section name but AsciiDoc is auto-magically generating a DocBook bibliography section. All you need to do is explicitly specify the section template name, for example:


24. How can I insert XML processing instructions into output documents?

Use an inline or block passthrough macros. This example inserts <?dblatex bgcolor="#cceeff"?> into the DocBook output generated by AsciiDoc:

pass::[<?dblatex bgcolor="#cceeff"?>]
Note XML processing instructions are specific to the application that processes the XML (the previous dblatex processing instruction is recognized by dblatex(1) when it processes the DocBook XML generated by Asciidoc).

25. How do I prevent double-quoted text being mistaken for an inline literal?

Mixing doubled-quoted text with inline literal passthroughs can produce undesired results, for example, all of the following line is interpreted as an inline literal passthrough:

``XXX'' `YYY`

In this case the solution is to use monospace quoting instead of the inline literal:

``XXX'' +YYY+

Use the pass:[] macro if it’s necessary to suppress substitutions in the monospaced text, for example:

``XXX'' +pass:[don't `quote` me]+

26. How can I generate a single HTML document file containing images and CSS styles?

With the advent of Internet Explorer 8 all major web browsers now support the data URI scheme for embedded images. The AsciiDoc xhtml11 and html5 backends supports the data URI scheme for embedded images and by default it embeds the CSS stylesheet. For example the following command will generate a single article.html file containing embedded images, admonition icons and the CSS stylesheet:

asciidoc -a data-uri -a icons article.txt

27. Are there any tools to help me understand what’s going on inside AsciiDoc?

AsciiDoc has a built-in trace mechanism which is controlled by the trace attribute; there is also the --verbose command-line option. These features are detailed in Appendix G of the User Guide.

28. One-liner ifdef::[]'s are disproportionately verbose can they shortened?

This is the response to a question posted on the AsciiDoc discussion list, it illustrates a number of useful techniques. The question arose because the source highlight filter language identifier for the C++ language is c++ when generating PDFs via dblatex (LaTeX listings package) or cpp when generating HTML (GNU source-highlight).

Using straight ifdef::[] block macros we have:

class FooParser {
        virtual void startDocument() = 0;
        virtual void endDocument() = 0;

This can be shortened using the short form of the ifdef::[] macro:

class FooParser {
        virtual void startDocument() = 0;
        virtual void endDocument() = 0;

Using a conditional attribute instead of the ifdef::[] macro is even shorter:

class FooParser {
        virtual void startDocument() = 0;
        virtual void endDocument() = 0;

If you have a number of listings it makes sense to factor the conditional attribute to a normal attribute:

:cpp: {basebackend@docbook:c++:cpp}

class FooParser {
        virtual void startDocument() = 0;
        virtual void endDocument() = 0;

Even shorter, set the default source highlight filter language attribute so you don’t have to specify it every time:

:language: {basebackend@docbook:c++:cpp}

class FooParser {
        virtual void startDocument() = 0;
        virtual void endDocument() = 0;

29. Some of my inline passthroughs are not passed through, why?

Most likely the passthrough encloses another passthrough with a higher precedence. For example trying to render this pass:[] with this `pass:[]` results in a blank string because the pass:[] passthrough evaluates first, instead use monospaced quoting and escape the passthrough i.e. +\pass:[]+

You can’t use a BlockId block element inside a list but you can use the syntactically identical anchor inline macro. For example:

one:: Item one.
[[X2]]two:: Item two.
three:: Item three.

This will not work:

one:: Item one.
two:: Item two.
three:: Item three.

31. How can I stop lists from nesting?

If you place two lists with different syntax hard up against each other then the second list will be nested in the first. If you don’t want the second list to be nested separate them with a comment line block macro. For example:

1. List 1.
2. List 1.

a. List 2.
b. List 2.

32. Is it possible to include charts in AsciiDoc documents?

There are a number of programs available that generate presentation charts from textual specification, for example Pychart is a library for writing chart scripts in Python. Here’s an example from the Pychart documentation:

# Example bar chart (from Pychart documentation http://home.gna.org/pychart/).
from pychart import *

data = [(10, 20, 30, 5), (20, 65, 33, 5), (30, 55, 30, 5), (40, 45, 51, 7),
        (50, 25, 27, 3), (60, 75, 30, 5), (70, 80, 42, 5), (80, 62, 32, 5),
        (90, 42, 39, 5), (100, 32, 39, 4)]

# The attribute y_coord=... tells that the Y axis values
# should be taken from samples.
# In this example, Y values will be [40,50,60,70,80].
ar = area.T(y_coord = category_coord.T(data[3:8], 0),
            x_grid_interval=20, x_range = (0,100),
            x_axis=axis.X(label="X label"),
            y_axis=axis.Y(label="Y label"),
            bg_style = fill_style.gray90,
            border_line_style = line_style.default,
            legend = legend.T(loc=(80,10)))

# Below call sets the default attributes for all bar plots.
chart_object.set_defaults(bar_plot.T, direction="horizontal", data=data)

# Attribute cluster=(0,3) tells that you are going to draw three bar
# plots side by side.  The plot labeled "foo" will the leftmost (i.e.,
# 0th out of 3).  Attribute hcol tells the column from which to
# retrive sample values from.  It defaults to one.
ar.add_plot(bar_plot.T(label="foo", cluster=(0,3)))
ar.add_plot(bar_plot.T(label="bar", hcol=2, cluster=(1,3)))
ar.add_plot(bar_plot.T(label="baz", hcol=3, cluster=(2,3)))

To execute the script and include the generated chart image in your document add the following lines to the AsciiDoc source:

// Generate chart image file.
sys2::[python "{indir}/barchart.py" --format=png --output="{outdir}/barchart.png" --scale=2]

// Display chart image file.
  • The barchart.py script is located in the same directory as the AsciiDoc source file ({indir}).

  • The generated chart image file (barchart.png) is written to the same directory as the output file ({outdir}).

33. How can I render indented paragraphs?

Styling is backend dependent:

Create an indented paragraph style (xhtml11 and html5 backends)

  1. Define an indented paragraph style, for example, by putting this in a custom configuration file:

    <div class="paragraph"{id? id="{id}"} style="text-indent:3em;">{title?<div class="title">{title}</div>}<p>
  2. Now apply the indented style to normal paragraphs, for example:

    Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetuer adipiscing elit. Maecenas
    ultrices justo porttitor augue. Vestibulum pretium. Donec porta
    vestibulum mi. Aliquam pede. Aenean lobortis lorem et lacus. Sed
    lacinia. Vivamus at lectus.

Use the role attribute (xhtml11 and html5 backends)

  1. Add the following line to custom stylesheet:

    div.paragraph.indented p {text-indent: 3em;}
  2. Apply the role attribute to indented paragraphs, for example:

    Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetuer adipiscing elit. Maecenas
    ultrices justo porttitor augue. Vestibulum pretium. Donec porta
    vestibulum mi. Aliquam pede. Aenean lobortis lorem et lacus. Sed
    lacinia. Vivamus at lectus.
  3. Include the custom stylesheet by setting the stylesheet attribute (either from the command-line or with an attribute entry in the document header).

Use the role attribute (docbook backend)

  1. Add the following line to the distributed docbook-xsl.css stylesheet or include it in a custom stylesheet:

    p.indented {text-indent: 3em;}
  2. Apply the role attribute to indented paragraphs, for example:

    Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetuer adipiscing elit. Maecenas
    ultrices justo porttitor augue. Vestibulum pretium. Donec porta
    vestibulum mi. Aliquam pede. Aenean lobortis lorem et lacus. Sed
    lacinia. Vivamus at lectus.
  3. If you have included the custom CSS in a separate stylesheet you will need to specify the stylesheet file name (along with the default docbook-xsl.css stylesheet file name) with the html.stylesheet XSL parameter. If you are using a2x(1) use the --stylesheet option (it sets the html.stylesheet XSL parameter), for example: --stylesheet "docbook-xsl.css mycss.css".

Note This applies to HTML outputs not PDF. To achieve the same results with PDF outputs you will need to customize the DocBook XSL Stylesheets to render indented paragraphs from DocBook simpara elements containing the the role="indented" attribute.

34. Is there a way to set default table grid and frame attributes?

You can set the grid and frame attributes globally in your document header with Attribute Entries or from the command-line using the --attribute option. In the following example tables that don’t explicitly set the grid and frame values will default to all and topbot respectively:

:grid: all
:frame: topbot
Tip This technique can be applied to any block element attribute (just beware of possible ambiguity, for example, table and image blocks both have a width attribute).

35. How can I place a backslash character in front of an attribute reference without escaping the reference?

Use the predefined {backslash} attribute reference instead of an actual backslash, for example if the {projectname} attribute has the value foobar then:


would be rendered as:


36. How can I escape AsciiDoc markup?

Most AsciiDoc inline elements can be suppressed by preceding them with a backslash character. These elements include:

  • Attribute references.

  • Text formatting.

  • Quoting,

  • Macros.

  • Replacements.

  • Special words.

  • Table cell separators.

But there are exceptions — see the next question.

37. Some elements can’t be escaped with a single backslash

There are a number of exceptions to the usual single backslash rule — mostly relating to URL macros that have two syntaxes or quoting ambiguity. Here are some non-standard escape examples:

AsciiDoc Renders
joe.bloggs@example.com <joe.bloggs@example.com> mailto:[joe.bloggs@example.com]
\\http://www.example.com[Foobar Limited]
http://www.example.com http://www.example.com[] http://www.example.com[Foobar Limited]
A C\++ Library for C++
\*\*F**ile Open\...
A C++ Library for C++ ``double-quotes'' **F**ile Open...

The source of this problem is ambiguity across substitution types — the first match unescapes allowing the second to substitute. A work-around for difficult cases is to side-step the problem using the pass:[] passthrough inline macro.

Note Escaping is unnecessary inside inline literal passthroughs (backtick quoted text).

38. How can I escape a list?

Here’s how to handle situations where the first line of a paragraph is mistaken for a list item.

Numbered and bulleted lists

Precede the bullet or index of the first list item with an {empty} attribute, for example:

{empty}- Qui in magna commodo est labitur dolorum an.  Est ne magna
primis adolescens.

The predefined {empty} attribute is replaced by an empty string and ensures the first line is not mistaken for a bulleted list item.

Labeled lists

Two colons or semicolons in a paragraph may be confused with a labeled list entry. Use the predefined {two-colons} and {two-semicolons} attributes to suppress this behavior, for example:

Qui in magna commodo{two-colons} est labitur dolorum an. Est ne
magna primis adolescens.

Will be rendered as:

Qui in magna commodo:: est labitur dolorum an. Est ne magna primis adolescens.

39. How can I set default list and tables styles?

You can set the element’s style entry in a global or custom configuration file.

This example this will horizontally style all labeled lists that don’t have an explicit style attribute:



This example will put a top and bottom border on all tables that don’t already have an explicit style attribute:


Alternatively you can set the configuration entries from inside your document, the above examples are equivalent to:

:listdef-labeled.style: horizontal
:listdef-labeled2.style: horizontal

:tabledef-default.topbot-style: frame="topbot"
:tabledef-default.style: topbot

40. Why do I get a filter non-zero exit code error?

An error was returned when AsciiDoc tried to execute an external filter command. The most common reason for this is that the filter command could not be found by the command shell. To figure out what the problem is run AsciiDoc with the --verbose option to determine the command that is failing and then try to run the command manually from the command-line.

41. Are there any DocBook viewers?

Yelp, the GNOME help viewer, does a creditable job of displaying DocBook XML files directly.

42. Can you create ODF and PDF files using LibreOffice?

LibreOffice can convert HTML produced by AsciiDoc to ODF text format and PDF format (I used LibreOffice 3.5 at the time of writing, the fidelity is very good but it’s not perfect):

  1. Create the HTML file using AsciiDoc, for example:

    asciidoc -a icons -a numbered -a disable-javascript article.txt

    JavaScript is disabled because LibreOffice does not execute JavaScript, this means that AsciiDoc table of contents and footnotes will not be rendered into ODF (if you want the table of contents and footnotes you could manually cut and paste them from a Web browser).

  2. Convert the HTML file to an ODF text file using LibreOffice:

    lowriter --invisible --convert-to odt article.html

    The images imported from an HTML file will be linked, if your document contains images you should convert them to embedded images:

    1. Open the document in LibreOffice Writer.

    2. Run the Edit→Links… menu command.

    3. Select all links and press the Break Link button.

    Some images may also have been resized. To restore an image to its original size:

    1. Right-click on the image and select the Picture… menu item.

    2. Click on the Crop tab.

    3. Press the Original Size button.

  3. Convert the ODF file to an PDF text file using LibreOffice:

    lowriter --invisible --convert-to pdf article.odt

    A PDF index is automatically created using the section headings.

Alternatively you could manually copy-and-paste the entire document from a Web browser into a blank ODF document in LibreOffice — this technique will bring through the table of contents and footnotes.

This tip was originally contributed by Bernard Amade.

43. How can I suppress cell separators in included table data files?

Use the {include:} system attribute instead of the include::[] macro (the former is not expanded until after the table data has been parsed into cells, whereas the latter is included before the table is processed.

44. How can I preserve paragraph line boundaries?

Apply the The verse paragraph style, the rendered text preserves line boundaries and is useful for lyrics and poems. For example:

Consul *necessitatibus* per id,
consetetur, eu pro everti postulant
homero verear ea mea, qui.

Alternatively, if you are generating PDF files, you can use line breaks. For example:

Consul *necessitatibus* per id, +
consetetur, eu pro everti postulant +
homero verear ea mea, qui.

45. How can I include non-breaking space characters?

Use the non-breaking space character entity reference &#160; (see the next question). You could also use the predefined {nbsp} attribute reference.

46. Can I include HTML and XML character entity references in my document?

Yes, just enter the reference in your document. For example &#946; will print a Greek small beta character β

47. How do I include spaces in URLs?

URL inline macro targets (addresses) cannot contain white space characters. If you need spaces encode them as %20. For example:


48. How can I get AsciiDoc to assign the correct DocBook language attribute?

Set the AsciiDoc lang attribute to the appropriate language code. For example:

a2x -a lang=es doc/article.txt

This will ensure that downstream DocBook processing will generate the correct language specific document headings (things like table of contents, revision history, figure and table captions, admonition captions).

49. How can I turn off table and image title numbering?

For HTML outputs set the caption attribute to an empty string, either globally:


or on an element by element basis, for example:


50. How can I assign multiple author names?

A quick way to do this is put both authors in a single first name, for example:

My Document
:Author: Bill_and_Ben_the_Flowerpot_Men
:Author Initials: BB & BC

asciidoc(1) replaces the underscores with spaces.

If you are generating DocBook then a more flexible approach is to create a docinfo file containing a DocBook authorgroup element (search the User Guide for docinfo for more details).

51. How can I selectively disable a quoted text substitution?

Omitting the tag name will disable quoting. For example, if you don’t want superscripts or subscripts then put the following in a custom configuration file or edit the global asciidoc.conf configuration file:


Alternatively you can set the configuration entries from within your document, the above examples are equivalent to:


52. How can I customize the {localdate} format?

The default format for the {localdate} attribute is the ISO 8601 yyyy-mm-dd format. You can change this format by explicitly setting the {localdate} attribute. For example by setting it using the asciidoc(1) -a command-line option:

asciidoc -a localdate=`date +%d-%m-%Y` mydoc.txt

You could also set it by adding an Attribute Entry to your source document, for example:

:localdate: {sys: date +%Y-%m-%d}

53. Where can I find examples of commands used to build output documents?

The User Guide has some. You could also look at ./doc/main.aap and ./examples/website/main.aap in the AsciiDoc distribution, they have all the commands used to build the AsciiDoc documentation and the AsciiDoc website (even if you don’t use A-A-P you’ll still find it useful).

54. Why have you used the DocBook <simpara> element instead of <para>?

<simpara> is really the same as <para> except it can’t contain block elements — this matches, more closely, the AsciiDoc paragraph semantics.

55. How can I format text inside a listing block?

By default only specialcharacters and callouts are substituted in listing blocks; you can add quotes substitutions by explicitly setting the block subs attribute, for example:

$ ls *-al*

The -al will rendered bold. Note that:

  • You would need to explicitly escape text you didn’t want quoted.

  • Don’t do this in source code listing blocks because it modifies the source code which confuses the syntax highlighter.

  • This only works if your DocBook processor recognizes DocBook <emphasis> elements inside <screen> elements.

Alternative, if the lines are contiguous, you could use the literal paragraph style:

$ ls *-al*

56. Why doesn’t the include1::[] macro work?

Internally the include1 macro is translated to the include1 system attribute which means it must be evaluated in a region where attribute substitution is enabled. include1 won’t work, for example, in a ListingBlock (unless attribute substitution is enabled). include1 is intended for use in configuration files, use the include macro and set the attribute depth=1 instead, for example:


57. How can I make the mailto macro work with multiple email addresses?

For the AsciiDoc mailto macro to work with multiple email addresses (as per RFC2368) you need to URL encode the @ characters (replace them with %40), if you don’t the individual addresses will be rendered as separate links. You also need to replace spaces with %20.

For example, the following call won’t work:

mailto:jb@example.com,jd@example.com?subject=New foofoo release[New foofoo release]

Use this instead:

mailto:jb%40example.com,jd%40example.com?subject=New%20foofoo%20release[New foofoo release]

58. How can a replacement have a trailing backslash?

Quote the entry name — this nonsensical example replaces x\ with y:


If quoting were omitted the equals character (separating the entry name x from the value y) would be escaped.

59. How can I control page breaks when printing HTML outputs?

Here are some techniques you can use to control page breaks in HTML outputs produced by the xhtml11 and html5 backends:

  • You can generate a page break with the <<< block macro. The following example prints the Rats and Mice section on a new page:

    == Rats and Mice
    Lorum ipsum ...
  • You can use the unbreakable option to instruct the browser not to break a block element. The following image and it’s caption will be kept together the printed page:

    .Tiger block image
    image::images/tiger.png[Tiger image]
  • You can apply the unbreakable option globally to all block elements by defining the unbreakable-option attribute in your document header.

  • Finally, the most powerful technique is to create custom CSS containing paged media properties. For example this asciidoc(1) command:

    asciidoc --attribute stylesheet=article.css article.txt

    Will include the following article.css file in the output document:

    div#toc, div.sect1 { page-break-before: always; }

    Which will ensure the table of contents and all top level sections start on a new printed page.

60. Is it possible to reposition the Table of Contents in HTML outputs?

By default the xhtml11 and html5 backends auto-position the TOC after the header. You can manually position the TOC by setting the toc-placement attribute value to manual and then inserting the toc::[] block macro where you want the TOC to appear. For example, put this in the document header:

:toc-placement: manual

The put this where you want the TOC to appear:


61. HTML generated by AsciiDoc fills the width of the browser, how can I limit it to a more readable book width?

You can set the maximum with for outputs generated by html5, xhtml11 and slidy backends by assigning the max-width attribute (either from the command-line or with an attribute entry in the document header). For example:

asciidoc -a max-width=55em article.txt

62. Using roles to select fonts for PDF

Some applications require mixing fonts beyond the set of faces normally provided by default (normal, monospace, italic etc.) for example mixed language text where the font used for the majority of text does not contain suitable glyphs in the minority language.

As AsciiDoc can not provide presentation markup since it is not provided by Docbook this is achieved by marking text which should use a different font with a custom role which can be rendered by the the docbook toolchain.

Note For XHTML outputs AsciiDoc translates the role attribute to a class which can be selected and styled by CSS as described in the AsciiDoc users guide.

The Docbook toolchains will have to be configured to render the text that you mark with the custom role.

For FOP a small XSL wrapper is needed, say a file called my_fo.xsl containing:

<xsl:stylesheet version="1.0"
 <xsl:import href="/etc/asciidoc/docbook-xsl/fo.xsl"/>
 <xsl:template match="phrase[@role='f2']">
   <fo:inline font-family="the font for f2">

This is used with a2x by:

a2x -f pdf --fop --xsl-file=my_fo.xsl input.txt

and the AsciiDoc source marked by:

normal text [f2]#special font is like this# and back to normal

Thanks to Antonio Borneo for this answer.

63. How can I place a footnote immediately following quoted text?

A closing quote is not recognised if it is immediately followed by a letter (the f in footnote in the following example):

``Double-quoted text''footnote:[Lorum ipsum...]

A workaround is to put a word-joiner between the trailing quote and the footnote (the {empty} attribute would also work), for example:

``Double-quoted text''{wj}footnote:[Lorum ipsum...]

64. How can I convert documents from other formats to AsciiDoc?

You can use Pandoc to convert documents in markdown, reStructuredText, textile, HTML, DocBook, or LaTeX to AsciiDoc.

65. How can I insert raw HTML in a document processed by a2x?

a2x generates HTML via DocBook (DocBook XSL Stylesheets) so if you use a passthrough block it must contain DocBook (not HTML). Fortunately DocBook XSL Stylesheets has a dbhtml-include processing instruction which will inlcude a file containing raw HTML into the generated HTML output. For example:

<?dbhtml-include href="snippet.html"?>

66. Why is there a period after the block title in the PDF output?

If your document has blocks that have block titles, you may notice in the PDF output (generated by a2x(1) using the --fop flag) that a period gets added to the end of the block title.

You will not see the period in the intermediary DocBook XML that’s generated when creating a PDF — it’s added by the DocBook XSL templates when the DocBook XML is converted to FO XML.

The DocBook XSL attribute that controls what character is added after a block title is runinhead.default.title.end.punct. You can override it and eliminate the default period value by adding the following line to the ./docbook-xsl/common.xsl file that ships with AsciiDoc:

<xsl:param name="runinhead.default.title.end.punct"/>