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highlight(1) user documentation highlight(1)


Highlight - a universal sourcecode to formatted text converter


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.


convert all files matching the wildcard (uses recursive search)
set path to highlight data directory
set path to a lang or theme file
print this help or a topic description <topic> = [syntax, theme, plugin, config]
name of input file
name of output file
name of output directory
print progress bar in batch mode
set type of source code, necessary if input file suffix is missing. The syntax may also be defined as path of the language file.
specify type of source code by given name. Will not read a file of this name, useful for stdin and to determine the syntax of the file before piping its content to highlight. This option overrides --syntax.
test if the given syntax can be loaded and print the result (assumes -S or --syntax-by-name)
print debug info to stderr; repeat to show more information
suppress progress info in batch mode
generate output if input syntax is unknown. The fallback syntax may be set here, Plain Text is default.
list installed scripts <type> = [langs, themes, plugins]
filter the scripts by the given categories (example: --list-cat='source;script')
set maximum input file size (examples: 512M, 1G; default: 256M)
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~')
output to stdout (batch mode, --print-style)
test if input is a valid text file
run in service mode, not stopping until signaled
print version and copyright info


output file in given format <format>=[html, xhtml, latex, tex, rtf, odt, ansi, xterm256, truecolor, bbcode, pango, svg]
name of style definition file
document title
name of file to be included in style-outfile
omit header and footer of the output document (see --keep-injections)
reformat output in given style. <style>=[allman, gnu, google, horstmann, java, kr, linux, lisp, mozilla, otbs, pico, vtk, ratliff, stroustrup, webkit, whitesmith]
include style definition in output
line length before wrapping (see -V, -W)
line number length incl. left padding. Default length: 5
set font (specific to output format)
set font size (specific to output format)
print line numbers in output file
start line numbering with cnt (assumes -l)
output only lines from number <start> to <end>
set highlighting style (theme). Add 'base16/' prefix to use a Base16 theme. The theme may also be defined as path of the theme file.
replace tabs by num spaces
set output encoding which matches input file encoding; omit encoding information if set to "NONE"
wrap lines after 80 (default) characters without indenting function parameters and statements.
wrap lines after 80 (default) characters (use with caution).
fill leading space of line numbers with zeroes
output each syntax token in separate tags (verbose output)
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. If mode is "empty-file", omit only for empty input
omit version info comment
omit line numbers of wrapped lines (assumes -l)


attach anchors to line numbers (HTML only)
set anchor name prefix
use input file name as anchor name
print index file with links to all output files
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)


disable Babel package shorthands
replace double quotes by \dq
adapt output for the Beamer package
improve appearance of brackets and other symbols


include page color attributes
set page size, <size>=[a3, a4, a5, b4, b5, b6, letter]
include character stylesheets


set image height (units allowed)
set image size (see --height)


set background colour padding (default: 80)


load LSP configuration from lsp.conf
set server initialization delay in milliseconds
set server executable name
set server CLI option (can be repeated)
execute hover requests (HTML output only)
query server for semantic token types (requires LSP 3.16)
set syntax which is understood by the server
retrieve syntax error information (assumes --ls-hover or --ls-semantic)
set workspace directory to initialize the server
do not require a server capabilities response


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. Reading from stdin can also be triggered by the '-' option.

Default output format: xterm256 or truecolor if appropriate, HTML otherwise.

Style definitions are stored in highlight.css (HTML, XHTML, SVG) or highlight.sty (LaTeX, TeX) if neither -c nor -I is given. For CSS, definitions are stored in the output document header with -I, if -f is also given there will be no style definitions.

Reformatting code (-F) will only work with C, C++, C# and Java input files.

LSP features require absolute input paths and disable reformatting (-F).


Wrapping lines with -V or -W will cause faulty highlighting of long single line comments and directives. Using line-range might interfere with multi line syntax elements. Use with caution.


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 files and

2023-05-11 Andre Simon