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Filename extension
Developed byIan Feldman
Initial release1992; 29 years ago (1992)
Type of formatMarkup language

Setext (Structure Enhanced Text)[1] is a lightweight markup language used to format plain text documents such as e-newsletters, Usenet postings, and e-mails. In contrast to some other markup languages (such as HTML), the markup is easily readable without any parsing or special software.

Setext was first introduced in 1991 by Ian Feldman for use in the TidBITS electronic newsletter.


Setext allows viewing of marked-up documents without special viewing software. To prevent errors, most large setext publications are created using a markup language such as HTML or SGML and then converted. The setext document can then be distributed without the need for the recipient to use a HTML email or web viewer.

Setext tags[edit]

The following are the most common setext tags.[2]

Name setext pattern Example Comments
This is a long title
A distinct title identified by the text, maximum one per setext.

Must start at the beginning of the line.

Subheading One 
A distinct subheading identified by the text, zero or more per text.

Must start at beginning of line. See note in title-tt about handling.

indent-tt 66-char lines indented by 2 spaces
  preFirst paragraph...
  ...more of paragraph.
  [blank line]
  Next paragraph...
Lines undented and unfolded (longer lines are generally tolerated by most parsers).

This is primary body text, generally plain undented in emails, etc. currently.

This is **very important**...
One or more bold words, generally *word* or **word** in emails
This is an ~italic~ word.
Single italicized word; unclear why multi-word form not available.

Multi-word form of ~first~second~third~ supported by setext2latex.

This is _underlined_text_.
Display in a (user) selected style, preferably with underlining--except in browsers where underlining corresponds to hot links.

One or more underlined words

This is a hot_word_.
> [space][text]
> This is quoted text... 
> ...more...
Displayed in a user selected style, preferably monospaced with the leading ">"
 * [space][text]
 * Item 1 that is... 
   ...really long 
 * Item 2
Displayed in bullet or list format.

Standalone Setext files[edit]

By default all properly setext-ized files will have an ".etx" or ".ETX" suffix. This stands for an "emailable/enhanced text",

See also[edit]

Other lightweight markup languages (inspired by Setext):


  1. ^ Engst, Adam C. "comp.sys.mac.announce / TidBITS file server available". UseNet. Retrieved 21 December 2015.
  2. ^ Setext command reference

External links[edit]