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by John Gruber
Version 1.5.1 - Fri 12 Mar 2004
SmartyPants is a free web publishing plug-in for Movable Type, Blosxom,
and BBEdit that easily translates plain ASCII punctuation characters
into "smart" typographic punctuation HTML entities. SmartyPants can also
be invoked as a standalone Perl script.
SmartyPants can perform the following transformations:
* Straight quotes (`"` and `'`) into "curly" quote HTML entities
* Backtick-style quotes (` ``like this'' `) into "curly" quote HTML
* Dashes (`--` and `---`) into en- and em-dash entities
* Three consecutive dots (`...`) into an ellipsis entity
This means you can write, edit, and save your posts using plain old
ASCII straight quotes, plain dashes, and plain dots, but your published
posts (and final HTML output) will appear with smart quotes, em-dashes,
and proper ellipses.
SmartyPants is a combination plug-in -- the same file works with Movable
Type, Blosxom, and BBEdit. It can also be used from a Unix-style
command-line. Version requirements and installation instructions for
each of these tools can be found in the corresponding sub-section under
"Installation", below.
SmartyPants does not modify characters within `<pre>`, `<code>`,
`<kbd>`, or `<script>` tag blocks. Typically, these tags are used to
display text where smart quotes and other "smart punctuation" would not
be appropriate, such as source code or example markup.
### Backslash Escapes ###
If you need to use literal straight quotes (or plain hyphens and
periods), SmartyPants accepts the following backslash escape sequences
to force non-smart punctuation. It does so by transforming the escape
sequence into a decimal-encoded HTML entity:
Escape Value Character
------ ----- ---------
\\ &#92; \
\" &#34; "
\' &#39; '
\. &#46; .
\- &#45; -
\` &#96; `
This is useful, for example, when you want to use straight quotes as
foot and inch marks:
6\'2\" tall
translates into:
6&#39;2&#34; tall
in SmartyPants's HTML output. Which, when rendered by a web browser,
looks like:
6'2" tall
### Markdown and MT-Textile Integration ###
Movable Type users should also note that SmartyPants can be used in
conjunction with two text filtering plug-ins: [Markdown] [1] and Brad
Choate's [MT-Textile] [2].
Markdown is my text-to-HTML filter, and is intended to be an
easy-to-write and easy-to-read structured text format for writing for
the web. You write plain text; Markdown turns it into HTML. This readme
file is formatted in Markdown.
When Markdown and SmartyPants are both present in the same Movable Type
installation, the "Markdown With SmartyPants" filter will be available
from MT's Text Formatting pop-up menu. The "Markdown With SmartyPants"
filter automatically applies SmartyPants to the bodies of your entries;
the regular "Markdown" filter does not. See the Markdown web page for
more details.
MT-Textile is a port of Dean Allen's original [Textile] [3] project to
Perl and Movable Type. MT-Textile by itself only translates Textile
markup to HTML. However, if SmartyPants is also installed, MT-Textile
will call on SmartyPants to educate quotes, dashes, and ellipses,
automatically. Textile is Dean Allen's "humane web text generator",
another easy-to-write and easy-to-read shorthand for web writing. An
[online Textile web application] [3] is available at Mr. Allen's site.
Using SmartyPants in conjunction with MT-Textile or the "Markdown With
SmartyPants" filter requires no modifications to your Movable Type
templates. You simply choose the appropriate filter from the Text
Formatting menu, on a per-post basis. However, note that as of this
writing, Movable Type does not apply text filters to article titles or
excerpts; you'll need to edit your templates to get SmartyPants
processing for those fields.
You'll also need to invoke SmartyPants from your templates if you want
to use non-default settings, such as en-dash support. For explicit
control, I recommend using the regular "Markdown" text filter, and
invoking SmartyPants from your templates.
### Movable Type ###
SmartyPants works with Movable Type version 2.5 or later.
1. Copy the "" file into your Movable Type "plugins"
directory. The "plugins" directory should be in the same directory
as "mt.cgi"; if it doesn't already exist, use your FTP program to
create it. Your installation should look like this:
(mt home)/plugins/
2. If you're using SmartyPants with Markdown or MT-Textile, you're
If not, or if you want explicit control over SmartyPants's behavior,
you need to edit your MT templates. The easiest way is to add the
"smarty_pants" attribute to each MT template tag whose contents you
wish to apply SmartyPants's transformations. Obvious tags would
include `MTEntryTitle`, `MTEntryBody`, and `MTEntryMore`.
SmartyPants should work within any MT content tag.
For example, to apply SmartyPants to your entry titles:
<$MTEntryTitle smarty_pants="1"$>
The value passed to the `smarty_pants` attribute specifies the way
SmartyPants works. See "Options", below, for full details on all of
the supported options.
### Blosxom ###
SmartyPants works with Blosxom version 2.0 or later.
1. Rename the "" plug-in to "SmartyPants" (case is
important). Movable Type requires plug-ins to have a ".pl"
extension; Blosxom forbids it (at least as of this writing).
2. Copy the "SmartyPants" plug-in file to your Blosxom plug-ins folder.
If you're not sure where your Blosxom plug-ins folder is, see the
Blosxom documentation for information.
3. That's it. The entries in your weblog should now automatically have
SmartyPants's default transformations applied.
4. If you wish to configure SmartyPants's behavior, open the
"SmartyPants" plug-in, and edit the value of the `$smartypants_attr`
configuration variable, located near the top of the script. The
default value is 1; see "Options", below, for the full list of
supported values.
### BBEdit ###
SmartyPants works with BBEdit 6.1 or later on Mac OS X; and BBEdit 5.1
or later on Mac OS 9 or earlier (provided you have MacPerl installed).
1. Copy the "" file to appropriate filters folder in your
"BBEdit Support" folder. On Mac OS X, this should be:
BBEdit Support/Unix Support/Unix Filters/
On Mac OS 9 or earlier, this should be:
BBEdit Support:MacPerl Support:Perl Filters:
See the BBEdit documentation for more details on the location of
these folders.
You can rename "" to whatever you wish.
2. That's it. To use SmartyPants, select some text in a BBEdit
document, then choose SmartyPants from the Filters sub-menu or the
Filters floating palette. On Mac OS 9, the Filters sub-menu is in
the "Camel" menu; on Mac OS X, it is in the "#!" menu.
3. If you wish to configure SmartyPants's behavior, open the SmartyPants
file and edit the value of the `$smartypants_attr` configuration
variable, located near the top of the script. The default value is
1; see "Options", below, for the full list of supported values.
### Perl ###
SmartyPants works as a standalone Perl script. You can invoke it from a
Unix-style command line, passing input as a file argument or as piped
input via STDIN. See the POD documentation for information on the
command-line switches SmartyPants accepts.
Options and Configuration
For MT users, the `smarty_pants` template tag attribute is where you
specify configuration options. For Blosxom and BBEdit users, settings
are specified by editing the value of the `$smartypants_attr` variable in
the script itself.
Numeric values are the easiest way to configure SmartyPants's behavior:
Suppress all transformations. (Do nothing.)
Performs default SmartyPants transformations: quotes (including
backticks-style), em-dashes, and ellipses. `--` (dash dash) is
used to signify an em-dash; there is no support for en-dashes.
Same as smarty_pants="1", except that it uses the old-school
typewriter shorthand for dashes: `--` (dash dash) for en-dashes,
`---` (dash dash dash) for em-dashes.
Same as smarty_pants="2", but inverts the shorthand for dashes: `--`
(dash dash) for em-dashes, and `---` (dash dash dash) for en-dashes.
Stupefy mode. Reverses the SmartyPants transformation process,
turning the HTML entities produced by SmartyPants into their ASCII
equivalents. E.g. `&#8220;` is turned into a simple double-quote
(`"`), `&#8212;` is turned into two dashes, etc. This is useful if you
are using SmartyPants from Brad Choate's MT-Textile text filter, but
wish to suppress smart punctuation in specific MT templates, such as
RSS feeds. Text filters do their work before templates are
processed; but you can use smarty_pants="-1" to reverse the
transformations in specific templates.
The following single-character attribute values can be combined to
toggle individual transformations from within the smarty_pants
attribute. For example, to educate normal quotes and em-dashes, but not
ellipses or backticks-style quotes:
<$MTFoo smarty_pants="qd"$>
Educates normal quote characters: (`"`) and (`'`).
Educates ` ``backticks'' ` double quotes.
Educates backticks-style double quotes and ` `single' ` quotes.
Educates em-dashes.
Educates em-dashes and en-dashes, using old-school typewriter
shorthand: (dash dash) for en-dashes, (dash dash dash) for
Educates em-dashes and en-dashes, using inverted old-school
typewriter shorthand: (dash dash) for em-dashes, (dash dash dash)
for en-dashes.
Educates ellipses.
Translates any instance of `&quot;` into a normal double-quote
character. This should be of no interest to most people, but of
particular interest to anyone who writes their posts using
Dreamweaver, as Dreamweaver inexplicably uses this entity to
represent a literal double-quote character. SmartyPants only
educates normal quotes, not entities (because ordinarily, entities
are used for the explicit purpose of representing the specific
character they represent). The "w" option must be used in
conjunction with one (or both) of the other quote options ("q" or
"b"). Thus, if you wish to apply all SmartyPants transformations
(quotes, en- and em-dashes, and ellipses) and also translate
`&quot;` entities into regular quotes so SmartyPants can educate
them, you should pass the following to the smarty_pants attribute:
<$MTFoo smarty_pants="qDew"$>
For Blosxom and BBEdit users, set:
my $smartypants_attr = "qDew";
### Deprecated MT Attributes ###
Older versions of SmartyPants supplied optional `smart_quotes`,
`smart_dashes`, and `smart_ellipses` MT template attributes. These
attributes are now officially deprecated.
### Version Info Tag ###
If you include this tag in a Movable Type template:
it will be replaced with a string representing the version number of the
installed version of SmartyPants, e.g. "1.5".
### Why You Might Not Want to Use Smart Quotes in Your Weblog ###
For one thing, you might not care.
Most normal, mentally stable individuals do not take notice of proper
typographic punctuation. Many design and typography nerds, however,
break out in a nasty rash when they encounter, say, a restaurant sign
that uses a straight apostrophe to spell "Joe's".
If you're the sort of person who just doesn't care, you might well want
to continue not caring. Using straight quotes -- and sticking to the
7-bit ASCII character set in general -- is certainly a simpler way to
Even if you *do* care about accurate typography, you still might want to
think twice before educating the quote characters in your weblog. One
side effect of publishing curly quote HTML entities is that it makes
your weblog a bit harder for others to quote from using copy-and-paste.
What happens is that when someone copies text from your blog, the copied
text contains the 8-bit curly quote characters (as well as the 8-bit
characters for em-dashes and ellipses, if you use these options). These
characters are not standard across different text encoding methods,
which is why they need to be encoded as HTML entities.
People copying text from your weblog, however, may not notice that
you're using curly quotes, and they'll go ahead and paste the unencoded
8-bit characters copied from their browser into an email message or
their own weblog. When pasted as raw "smart quotes", these characters
are likely to get mangled beyond recognition.
That said, my own opinion is that any decent text editor or email client
makes it easy to stupefy smart quote characters into their 7-bit
equivalents, and I don't consider it my problem if you're using an
indecent text editor or email client.
### Algorithmic Shortcomings ###
One situation in which quotes will get curled the wrong way is when
apostrophes are used at the start of leading contractions. For example:
'Twas the night before Christmas.
In the case above, SmartyPants will turn the apostrophe into an opening
single-quote, when in fact it should be a closing one. I don't think
this problem can be solved in the general case -- every word processor
I've tried gets this wrong as well. In such cases, it's best to use the
proper HTML entity for closing single-quotes (`&#8217;` or `&rsquo;`) by
To file bug reports or feature requests (other than topics listed in the
Caveats section above) please send email to:
If the bug involves quotes being curled the wrong way, please send
example text to illustrate.
Version History
1.5.1: Fri 12 Mar 2004
* Fixed a goof where if you had SmartyPants 1.5.0 installed,
but didn't have Markdown installed, when SmartyPants checked
for Markdown's presence, it created a blank entry in MT's
global hash of installed text filters. This showed up in MT's
Text Formatting pop-up menu as a blank entry.
1.5: Mon 29 Dec 2003
* Integration with Markdown. If Markdown is already loaded
when SmartyPants loads, SmartyPants will add a new global
text filter, "Markdown With Smartypants".
* Preliminary command-line options parsing. -1 -2 -3
-v -V
* dot-space-dot-space-dot now counts as an ellipsis.
This is the style used by Project Gutenberg:
(Thanks to Fred Condo for the patch.)
* Added `<math>` to the list of tags to skip (pre, code, etc.).
1.4.1: Sat 8 Nov 2003
* The bug fix from 1.4 for dashes followed by quotes with no
intervening spaces now actually works.
* `&nbsp;` now counts as whitespace where necessary. (Thanks to
Greg Knauss for the patch.)
1.4: Mon 30 Jun 2003
* Improved the HTML tokenizer so that it will parse nested <> pairs
up to five levels deep. Previously, it only parsed up to two
levels. What we *should* do is allow for any arbitrary level of
nesting, but to do so, we would need to use Perl's `??` construct
(see Fried's "Mastering Regular Expressions", 2nd Ed., pp.
328-331), and sadly, this would only work in Perl 5.6 or later.
SmartyPants still supports Perl 5.00503. I suppose we could test
for the version and build a regex accordingly, but I don't think
I want to maintain two separate patterns.
* Thanks to Stepan Riha, the tokenizer now handles HTML comments:
<!-- comment -->
and PHP-style processor instructions:
<?php code ?>
* The quote educator now handles situations where dashes are used
without whitespace, e.g.:
"dashes"--without spaces--"are tricky"
* Special case for decade abbreviations like this: `the '80s`.
This only works for the sequence appostrophe-digit-digit-s.
1.3: Tue 13 May 2003
* Plugged the biggest hole in SmartyPants's smart quotes algorithm.
Previous versions were hopelessly confused by single-character
quote tokens, such as:
The problem was that the EducateQuotes() function works on each
token separately, with no means of getting surrounding context
from the previous or next tokens. The solution is to curl these
single-character quote tokens as a special case, *before* calling
* New single-quotes backtick mode for smarty_pants attribute.
The only way to turn it on is to include "B" in the configuration
string, e.g. to translate backtick quotes, dashes, and ellipses:
* Fixed a bug where an opening quote would get curled the wrong way
if the quote started with three dots, e.g.:
* Fixed a bug where opening quotes would get curled the wrong way
if there were double sets of quotes within each other, e.g.:
<p>"'Some' people."</p>
* Due to popular demand, four consecutive dots (....) will now be
turned into an ellipsis followed by a period. Previous versions
would turn this into a period followed by an ellipsis. If you
really want a period-then-ellipsis sequence, escape the first
period with a backslash: \....
* Removed `&` from our home-grown punctuation class, since it
denotes an entity, not a literal ampersand punctuation
character. This fixes a bug where SmartyPants would mis-curl
the opening quote in something like this:
* SmartyPants has always had a special case where it looks for
"'s" in situations like this:
<i>Custer</i>'s Last Stand
This special case is now case-insensitive.
1.2.2: Thu Mar 13, 2003
* 1.2.1 contained a boneheaded addition which prevented SmartyPants
from compiling under Perl 5.005. This has been remedied, and is
the only change from 1.2.1.
1.2.1: Mon Mar 10, 2003
* New "stupefy mode" for smarty_pants attribute. If you set
SmartyPants will perform reverse transformations, turning HTML
entities into plain ASCII equivalents. E.g. "“" is turned
into a simple double-quote ("), "—" is turned into two
dashes, etc. This is useful if you are using SmartyPants from Brad
Choate's MT-Textile text filter, but wish to suppress smart
punctuation in specific MT templates, such as RSS feeds. Text
filters do their work before templates are processed; but you can
use smarty_pants="-1" to reverse the transformations in specific
* Replaced the POSIX-style regex character class `[:punct:]` with an
ugly hard-coded normal character class of all punctuation; POSIX
classes require Perl 5.6 or later, but SmartyPants still supports
back to 5.005.
* Several small changes to allow SmartyPants to work when Blosxom
is running in static mode.
1.2: Thu Feb 27, 2003
* SmartyPants is now a combination plug-in, supporting both
Movable Type (2.5 or later) and Blosxom (2.0 or later).
It also works as a BBEdit text filter and standalone
command-line Perl program. Thanks to Rael Dornfest for the
initial Blosxom port (and for the excellent Blosxom plug-in
* SmartyPants now accepts the following backslash escapes,
to force non-smart punctuation. It does so by transforming
the escape sequence into a decimal-encoded HTML entity:
Escape Value Character
------ ----- ---------
\\ &#92; \
\" &#34; "
\' &#39; '
\. &#46; .
\- &#45; -
\` &#96; `
Note that this could produce different results than previous
versions of SmartyPants, if for some reason you have an article
containing one or more of these sequences. (Thanks to Charles
Wiltgen for the suggestion.)
* Added a new option to support inverted en- and em-dash notation:
`--` for em-dashes, `---` for en-dashes. This is compatible with
SmartyPants's original `--` syntax for em-dashes, but also allows
you to specify en-dashes. It can be invoked by using
smart_dashes="3", smarty_pants="3", or smarty_pants="i".
(Suggested by Aaron Swartz.)
* Added a new option to automatically convert `&quot;` entities into
regular double-quotes before sending text to EducateQuotes() for
processing. This is mainly for the benefit of people who write
posts using Dreamweaver, which substitutes this entity for any
literal quote char. The one and only way to invoke this option
is to use the letter shortcuts for the smarty_pants attribute;
the shortcut for this option is "w" (for Dream_w_eaver).
(Suggested by Jonathon Delacour.)
* Added `<script>` to the list of tags in which SmartyPants doesn't
touch the contents.
* Fixed a very subtle bug that would occur if a quote was the very
last character in a body of text, preceded immediately by a tag.
Lacking any context, previous versions of SmartyPants would turn
this into an opening quote mark. It's now correctly turned into
a closing one.
* Opening quotes were being curled the wrong way when the
subsequent character was punctuation. E.g.: "a '.foo' file".
* New MT global template tag: `<$MTSmartyPantsVersion$>`
Prints the version number of SmartyPants, e.g. "1.2".
1.1: Wed Feb 5, 2003
* The smart_dashes template attribute now offers an option to
use `--` for *en* dashes, and `---` for *em* dashes.
* The default smart_dashes behavior now simply translates `--`
(dash dash) into an em-dash. Previously, it would look for
` -- ` (space dash dash space), which was dumb, since many
people do not use spaces around their em dashes.
* Using the smarty_pants attribute with a value of "2" will
do the same thing as smarty_pants="1", with one difference:
it will use the new shortcuts for en- and em-dashes.
* Closing quotes (single and double) were incorrectly curled in
situations like this:
where the comma could be just about any punctuation character.
* Added `<kbd>` to the list of tags in which text shouldn't be
1.0: Wed Nov 13, 2002
* Initial release.
John Gruber
Additional Credits
Portions of this plug-in are based on Brad Choate's nifty MTRegex
plug-in. Brad Choate also contributed a few bits of source code to this
plug-in. Brad Choate is a fine hacker indeed. (
Jeremy Hedley ( and Charles Wiltgen
( deserve mention for exemplary beta testing.
Rael Dornfest ( ported SmartyPants to Blosxom.
Copyright and License
Copyright (c) 2004 John Gruber
All rights reserved.
Redistribution and use in source and binary forms, with or without
modification, are permitted provided that the following conditions are
* Redistributions of source code must retain the above copyright notice,
this list of conditions and the following disclaimer.
* Redistributions in binary form must reproduce the above copyright
notice, this list of conditions and the following disclaimer in the
documentation and/or other materials provided with the distribution.
* Neither the name "SmartyPants" nor the names of its contributors may
be used to endorse or promote products derived from this software
without specific prior written permission.
This software is provided by the copyright holders and contributors "as
is" and any express or implied warranties, including, but not limited
to, the implied warranties of merchantability and fitness for a
particular purpose are disclaimed. In no event shall the copyright owner
or contributors be liable for any direct, indirect, incidental, special,
exemplary, or consequential damages (including, but not limited to,
procurement of substitute goods or services; loss of use, data, or
profits; or business interruption) however caused and on any theory of
liability, whether in contract, strict liability, or tort (including
negligence or otherwise) arising in any way out of the use of this
software, even if advised of the possibility of such damage.
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