Outputs syntax-highlighted source code to a variety of formats.


Produce a complete HTML document from a source code file

$ highlight --out-format=[html] --style [theme_name] --syntax [language] [path/to/source_code]

Produce an HTML fragment, suitable for inclusion in a larger document
$ highlight --out-format=[html] --fragment --syntax [language] [source_file]

Inline the CSS styling in every tag
$ highlight --out-format=[html] --inline-css --syntax [language] [source_file]

List all supported languages, themes, or plugins
$ highlight --list-scripts [langs|themes|plugins]

Print a CSS stylesheet for a theme
$ highlight --out-format=[html] --print-style --style [theme_name] --syntax [language]] --stdout


highlight [OPTIONS]... [FILES]...


Highlight converts sourcecode to HTML, XHTML, RTF, ODT, LaTeX, TeX, BBCode, Pango markup, SVG, XTERM or ANSI escape sequences. There are several colour themes available. Highlight recognizes keywords, numbers, strings, comments, symbols and preprocessor directives. It supports about 180 programming languages, which are defined in Lua scripts.

It's easily possible to enhance highlight's database of programming languages and colour themes. See the README file for details.


-B, --batch-recursive=<wildcard>

convert all files matching the wildcard (uses recursive search)

-D, --data-dir=<path>

set path to highlight data directory


set path to a lang or theme file

-h, --help

print this help

-i, --input=<file>

name of input file

-o, --output=<file>

name of output file

-d, --outdir=<output directory>

name of output directory

-P, --progress

print progress bar in batch mode

-S, --syntax=<type>

set type of source code, necessary if input file suffix is missing

-v, --verbose

print debug info to stderr

-q, --quiet

supress progress info in batch mode


generate output if input syntax is unknown


list installed scripts <type> = [langs, themes, plugins]


execute Lua plug-in script; repeat option to apply multiple plug-ins


set plug-in input parameter. This might be an input file name (ie. 'tags').


print path configuration


print stylesheet only (see --style-outfile)


ignore listed unknown file types (Example: --skip='bak;c~;h~')


define nested language which starts input without opening delimiter


output to stdout (batch mode, --print-style)


test if input is a valid text file


print version and copyright info


-O, --out-format=<format>

output file in given format <format>=[html, xhtml, latex, tex, rtf, odt, ansi, xterm256, truecolor, bbcode, pango, svg]

-c, --style-outfile=<file>

name of style definition file

-T, --doc-title

document title

-e, --style-infile=<file>

name of file to be included in style-outfile

-f, --fragment

omit header and footer of the output document (see --keep-injections)

-F, --reformat=<style>

reformat output in given style. <style>=[allman, banner, gnu, java, kr, linux, stroustrup, whitesmith, google, pico, lisp, vtk]

-I, --include-style

include style definition in output

-J, --line-length=<num>

line length before wrapping (see -V, -W)

-j, --line-number-length=<num>

line number length incl. left padding. Default length: 5

-k, --font=<font>

set font (specific to output format)

-K, --font-size=<num?>

set font size (specific to output format)

-l, --line-numbers

print line numbers in output file

-m, --line-number-start=<cnt>

start line numbering with cnt (assumes -l)

-s, --style=<style name>

set highlighting style (theme)

-t --replace-tabs=<num>

replace tabs by num spaces

-u, --encoding=<enc>

set output encoding which matches input file encoding; omit encoding information if set to "NONE"

-V, --wrap-simple

wrap lines after 80 (default) characters without indenting function parameters and statements.

-W, --wrap

wrap lines after 80 (default) characters (use with caution).

-z, --zeroes

fill leading space of line numbers with zeroes


set CR as end-of-line delimiter (MacOS 9)


output plug-in header and footer injections in spite of -f


output all keywords in given case if language is not case sensitive


omit trailing newline


omit version info comment


omit line numbers of wrapped lines (assumes -l)


-a, --anchors

attach anchors to line numbers (HTML only)

-y, --anchor-prefix=<str>

set anchor name prefix

-N, --anchor-filename

use input file name as anchor name

-C, --print-index

print index file with links to all output files

-n, --ordered-list

print lines as ordered list items


set CSS class name prefix; omit class name if set to "NONE"


output CSS within each tag (verbose output)


enclose fragmented output with pre tag (assumes -f)


-b, --babel

disable Babel package shorthands

-r, --replace-quotes

replace double quotes by \dq


adapt output for the Beamer package


improve appearance of brackets and other symbols



include page color attributes

-x, --page-size=<size>

set page size, <size>=[a3, a4, a5, b4, b5, b6, letter]


include character stylesheets



set image height (units allowed)


set image size (see --height)



create stand alone document


cancel the --doc option


the external style sheet filename


source language

-t, --tab=INT

specify tab length

-n, --line-number[=0]

number all output lines, optional padding


number all output lines and generate an anchor, made of the specified prefix p + the line number (default='line')


output directory


if no language definition is found for the input, it is simply copied to the output


Highlight recognizes these variables:


sets the path to highlight's configuration scripts


may contain command line options, but no input file paths.


If no in- or output files are specified, stdin and stdout will be used for in- or output. HTML will be generated unless an other output format is given. Style definitions are stored in highlight.css (HTML, XHTML, SVG) or highlight.sty (LaTeX, TeX) if neither -c nor -I is given. Reformatting code (-F) will only work with C, C++, C# and Java input files.


The wrapping options might cause faulty highlighting of long single line comments.


The configuration files are stored in /usr/share/highlight/. Language definitions, themes and plugins are located in subdirectories.

Documentation files are stored in /usr/share/doc/highlight/ , configuration files in /etc/highlight/.

See README how to install own scripts in the home directory.


Single file conversion:

highlight -o hello.html -i hello.c

highlight -o hello.html hello.c

highlight -o hello.html -S c < hello.c

highlight -S c < hello.c > hello.html

Note that a file highlight.css is created in the current directory.

Batch file processing:

highlight --out-format=xhtml -B '*.cpp' -d /home/you/html_code/

converts all *.cpp files in the current directory and its subdirectories to xhtml files, and stores the output in /home/you/html_code.

highlight --out-format=latex * -d /home/you/latex_code/

converts all files to LaTeX, stored in /home/you/latex_code/.

Use --quiet to improve performance of batch file processing (recommended for usage in shell scripts).

Use highlight --out-format=xterm256 <yourfile> | less -R to display a source file in a terminal.

Run highlight --list-scripts=langs to see all supported syntax types.


Andre Simon <>


README file and highlight webpage at

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