GNU Source-highlight 1.5

July 16th, 2002

by Lorenzo Bettini

This program, given a source file, produces a document with syntax highlighting.

At the moment this package can handle

  • Java
  • C/C++
  • Prolog
  • Perl
  • Php3
  • Python  new
as source languages, and
  • HTML
  • XHTML   new
as output format.

NOTICE: now the name of the program is source-highlight: there are no two separate programs, namely java2html and cpp2html, anymore.  However there are two shell scripts with the same name in order to facilitate the migration (however their use is not advised).

GNU Source-highlight is free software. Please see the file COPYING for details. For documentation, please read this file.

GNU Source-highlight is a GNU program and its main home page is at GNU site:


You can download it from GNU's ftp site: or from one of its mirrors (see

I do not distribute Windows binaries anymore; since, they can be easily built by using Cygnus C/C++ compiler, available at However, if you don't feel like downloading such compiler, you can request such binaries directly to me, by e-mail ( and I can send them to you.
An MS-Windows port of Source-highlight is available from

You may also want to check the md5sum of the archives, which are also digitally signed by me (Lorenzo Bettini) with GNU gpg ( My GPG public key can be found at my home page (see at the end of this doc).

You can also get the patches, if they are available for a particular release (see below for patching from a previous version).

Changes in this release

  • see NEWS file for a summary of new features in this release and
  • see ChangeLog for the complete list of changes sources

Related Software and Links

Martin Gebert <> is also implementing a KDE interface to source-highlight programs, at the moment it is still in beta (but he did a wonderful job!), and it is called ksrc2html; if you want to test it:

CGI support was enabled thanks to Robert Wetzel <>; I haven't tested it personally yet, so you may ask him directly. Moreover he set up some examples at the page

Moreover there's also a Java version of java2html, made by, you can find it at


See the file INSTALL for detailed building and installation instructions; anyway if you're used to compiling Linux software that comes with sources you may simply follow the usual procedure:
cd <source code main directory>
make install
Note: unless you specify a different install directory by --prefix option of configure (e.g. ./configure --prefix=<your home>), you must be root to 'make install'.

It is also possible to specify as following option for configure: --enable-input-chroot to hardcode in the program the path to prefix for input files.

Before you run 'make install' you may want to check that the programs have compiled fine, so you can run 'make check'.

Files will be installed in the following directories:

  • Executables          -> /prefix/bin
  • docs and samples     -> /prefix/share/doc/source-highlight
  • conf files           -> /prefix/share/source-highlight
Default value for prefix is /usr/local but you may change it with --prefix option to configure (see above).

What you need to build source-highlight

Actually you need nothing more than a Unix C/C++ compiler

source-highlight has been developed under Linux, using gcc (C++), and bison (yacc) and flex (lex), and ported under Win32 with Cygnus C/C++ compiler, available at (a .DLL is also distributed together with the .exe: you may simply copy it in the same place of the .exe). I used the excellent GNU Autoconf and Automake. I also used Autotools ( which creates a starting source tree (according to GNU standards) with autoconf, automake starting files. Finally I used GNU gengetopt (, for command line parsing.

Actually, unless you want to develop source-highlight, you don't need all these tools to build source-highlight because I provide generated sources; you don't need neither bison (yacc) nor flex (lex), for the same reason. Actually programs that use lex generated files need to link with library libfl (or libl for lex); anyway configuration phase can discover if this library is missing and in that case it sets the program to link with a source file I provide. This hack works for flex: I don't know about lex generated scanners. But, again, this is a problem only if you develop source-highlight and you use lex.

Patching from a previous version

If you downloaded a patch, say source-highlight-1.3-1.3.1-patch.gz(i.e. the patch to go from version 1.3 to version 1.3.1), cd to the directory with sources from the previous version (source-highlight-1.3) and type:
gunzip -cd ../source-highlight-1.3-1.3.1.patch.gz | patch -p1
and restart the compilation process (if you had already run configure a simple make will do).

Usage and examples

source-highlight only does a lexical analysis of the source code, so the program source is assumed to be correct !

here's how to run source-highlight (for this example we will use C/C++ input files, but this is valid also for other source-highlight input languages):

source-highlight --src-lang cpp --out-format html --input <file (a C++ prog)> --output <file (an html)> [options]
For input files you can also use regular expression.

If you do not specify the name of the output file, the name will be the one of the source file with a .<ext> appended, where <ext> is the extension chosen according to the output format specified (in this example it would be .html).

Required command line options are:

  1. --src-lang (or -s) <lang>: where <lang> can be:
    • java (for Java)
    • cpp (for C/C++)
    • prolog (for Prolog)
    • perl (for Perl)
    • php3 (for Php3)
    • python (for Python)
    This specifies the language used to write the sources that have to be processed.
  2. --out-format (or -f) <format>: where <format> can only be:
    • html
    • xhtml
    This specifies the format for the output of the highlighter (for the moment only html output can be produced).
Other command line options:
If you want a real html document, specify --doc option at the end. Otherwise you just get some text to copy and paste in you own html pages. If you choose -doc option the page will have a white background and your source file name as title. --tab n option apply a substitution of tab characters with n spaces. You also may want to specify the title of the page with --title "my title" option (this implies -doc). Now you can also generate an html with CSS format, by using --css "url of .css" (try some .css files included in the package). The order of the options is not relevant. You may also want to customize the produced document: you can use --header and --footer options that allow you to specify files to be included, respectively, at the beginning and at the end of the document. --tags-file allows to specify the location of the file for format options (see below).  --output-dir specifies the output directory (if the output option is not specified the same directory of the source file is used).  --line-number option enables generation of line numbers.

Here are some links to some of the C and C++ sources of source-highlight colored with source-highlight itself:
generated with the following command
source-highlight -s cpp -f html --doc
Obviously it works with C files as well:
Created with the command (notice that this one uses both CSS file and headers and footers):
source-highlight -s cpp -f html -i cmdline.c -o cmdline.c.html 
            --header="./header.html" --footer="./footer.html"
And obviously it works with header file as well:
created with the command:
source-highlight -s cpp -f html *.h --css="mono.css"
Here are some examples of Java files processed with source-highlight: Use to make some test, if you want. Here's how Hello1.html, Hello2.html, Hello3.html, Hello4.html, Hello5.html, Hello_h_f.html, Hello_lines.html, Hello_xhtml.html, Hello_xhtml2.html were created:
source-highlight -s java -f html -i -o Hello1.html
source-highlight -s java -f html --input --output Hello2.html --doc
source-highlight -s java -f html -i -o Hello3.html --title "Happy Java with java2html :-)" --tab 3
source-highlight -s java -f html < > Hello4.html --title "and what about CSS :-)" --css "Hello.css"
source-highlight -s java -f html < > Hello5.html --title "Wooo... this is quite dark ;-D" --css "mono-alt.css"
source-highlight -s java -f html --doc *.java
Processed   (creates
source-highlight -s java -f html --doc -i -o Hello_h_f.html --tags-file="tags2.j2h" --header="header.html" --footer="footer.html"
source-highlight -s java -f html --line-number --doc -i -o Hello_lines.html
source-highlight -s java -f xhtml --doc -i -o Hello_xhtml.html --css xhtml.css
../src/source-highlight -s java -f xhtml --doc -i -o Hello_xhtml2.html --tags-file tags.j2h
Here's the output of source-highlight applied to a Prolog program (through the option `source-highlight -s prolog`:  This one is an highlighted Perl program (through the option `source-highlight -s prolog`):  Here's an highlighted PHP3 program: test.php3.html. And here's a Python program:

And here's the output of `source-highlight --help`

GNU source-highlight 1.5
  Highlight the syntax of a source file (e.g. Java)
  into a specific format (e.g. HTML)
Usage: source-highlight [OPTIONS]... [FILES]...
   -h         --help               Print help and exit
   -V         --version            Print version and exit
   -iSTRING   --input=STRING       input file. default std input
   -oSTRING   --output=STRING      output file. default std output
   -sSTRING   --src-lang=STRING    source language (e.g. java, cpp, prolog, perl, php3, python)
   -fSTRING   --out-format=STRING  output format (e.g. html, xhtml)
   -v         --verbose            verbose mode on
   -d         --doc                create html with title and header
   -cSTRING   --css=STRING         use a css for formatting. Implies --doc
   -TSTRING   --title=STRING       give a title to the html. Implies --doc
   -tINT      --tab=INT            specify tab length. default 8
   -HSTRING   --header=STRING      file to insert as header
   -FSTRING   --footer=STRING      file to insert as footer
              --tags-file=STRING   specify format options (def. tags.j2h)
   -n         --line-number        number all output lines
              --output-dir=STRING  output directory
Maintained by Lorenzo Bettini <>
Report bugs to <>
As it handles standard output and input you may also run it like
cat MyFile.cpp | source-highlight -s cpp -f html | lpr
You may want to specify your options for syntax highlighting in the file tags.j2h. If this file is not present in the current directory, some default colors will be used. Here's the tags.j2h file that comes with this distribution:
keyword blue b ;      for language keywords
type darkgreen ;      for basic types
string red ;          for strings and chars
comment brown i ;     for comments
number purple ;       for literal numbers
preproc darkblue b ;  for preproc directives (e.g. #include, import)
symbol darkred ;      for simbols (e.g. <, >, +)
function black b;     for function calls and declarations
cbracket red;         for block brackets (e.g. {, })
tags2.j2h also specify the color of normal text, indeed it adds this line
normal darkblue ;
as you might see the syntax of this file is quite straightforward:
  • b = bold
  • i = italics
  • u = underline
You may also specify more than on of these options separated by commas
keyword blue u, b ;
you may see all possible colors in the file colors.html but you can also use the standard #<number> html syntax for specifying a color.

if something goes wrong with your options try to run source-highlight with --verbose option enabled.


See CREDITS for detailed contributions and THANKS  for a complete list of people that helped me with Source-highlight :-)


Please tell me if you like this software :-)

Actually I want to extend it, so if you have some ideas...
The most import one will be to make source-highlight more customizable :-)

Please send all bug reports by electronic mail to:


Here's the list of TODO stuff, if you'd like to contribute :-)

Mailing Lists

The following mailing lists are available: if you want to subscribe to a mailing list just go to the URL and follow the instructions, or send me an e-mail and I'll subscribe you.

My home page is

source-highlight is free software. See the file COPYING for copying conditions. Anyway I won't get offended if you send me a postcard :-)

Return to GNU's home page.

Please send FSF & GNU inquiries & questions to There are also other ways to contact the FSF.

Please send comments on these web pages to, send other questions to

Copyright (C) 2001 Free Software Foundation, Inc., 59 Temple Place - Suite 330, Boston, MA 02111, USA

Verbatim copying and distribution of this entire article is permitted in any medium, provided this notice is preserved.

Updated:9 Jan 2001 mhw