Code Highlighting in HTML

alt text

I've been wanting to start blogging for quite some time now, and I figured there is no time like the present. I am familiar with both WordPress and Drupal, but I wanted to "roll my own" both for flexibility and as a learning experience. Since this blog is going to be code heavy, one thing that was really important to me was code highlighting in the display. I really like the code highlighting on the Symfony documentation pages, and I've used that in some of my own documentation pages, however, that is using Sphinx and .rst files, which requires a compilation step. I was looking for a way to have markdown files parsed by a real-time HTML converter to give me syntax highlighted code in HTML. That's how I discovered highlightjs.

highlightjs will take any code that inside of an element that has a class of {language-name}, lang-{language-name}, or language-{language-name} and wrap keywords, built-ins, and strings/numbers in spans that have highlighting classes assigned to them. There is a cdn version available that has support for 23 of the most popular languages that can be added to your project in 3 easy steps.

  • First add the stylesheet to the head section of the HTML page.
<link rel="stylesheet" href="//">
  • Next add the JavaScript to the end of your body element.
<script src="//"></script>
  • Finally, after the JavaScript is loaded, fire off the initHighlightingOnLoad() function to add the formatting.

Now that the css and JavaScript is loaded and the OnLoad function is taken care of, we can throw some code at it to be highlighted.

  • In a markdown file, any text that is encased in triple backticks will be treated as code upon parsing, the language can be added after the opening set of backticks. If the language is not present highlightjs will make a best guess to which language it is.
    var s = "JavaScript syntax highlighting";
    var num = 42;
  • The parsed HTML will appear as such. The class is derived from the language appended to the triple backticks in the above step (This will also work on raw HTML written as below, if it is not being parsed from a markdown file)
    <code class="language-javascript">
        var s = "JavaScript syntax highlighting";
        var num = 42;
  • The highlighted results of the parsed markdown will appear like this:
var s = "JavaScript syntax highlighting";
var num = 42;

It is really quite simple to implement this powerful code highlighting library, and if the 23 languages included in the hosted version don't cover a particular language that you need to highlight you can go to their download page to build a custom version which can include support for any of 176 different languages, which is what I'll be switching to as soon as I write my first post that requires highlighting for the twig templating language.

Date Published: 22 October, 2017

About Todd

Todd Eidson is a full stack application developer and life-long learner. He is a pragmatic programmer, believer in clean coding, and evangelist for extensible and reusable code. His hobbies include collecting old jazz records and going to live music performances.