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A Haskell syntax highlighting library with tokenizers derived from KDE syntax highlighting descriptions
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harfangk and jgm Fix invalid syntax definitions (#68)
Signed-off-by: Bonghyun Kim <>
Latest commit d52f8ed Apr 14, 2019


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skylighting license skylighting build status
skylighting-core license skylighting-core build status

A Haskell syntax highlighting library with tokenizers derived from KDE XML syntax highlighting descriptions.

A command-line highlighter program, skylighting, is also provided.

This project is divided up into two packages:

  • skylighting-core: this provides KDE XML parsing, data types, and output formatters. This includes the core functionality of the skylighting project licensed under the BSD3 license, along with the KDE XML files, some of which are licensed under the LGPL or GPL. This package does not provide any built-in parsers corresponding to the XML descriptions, however. For that, use skylighting.
  • skylighting: this exposes the skylighting-core API but also provides bundled Haskell parser modules derived from the XML descriptions in the core package. This package is entirely licensed under the GPL.


This library is the successor to highlighting-kate, which had some problems that were difficult to resolve given its architecture.

In highlighting-kate, the XML syntax descriptions were converted into individual parsec parsers, which were then compiled. This made it difficult to handle IncludeRules properly without circular imports. There was also no way to load a syntax description dynamically.

Skylighting, by contrast, parses the XML syntax descriptions into Haskell data structures, which are then interpreted by a "tokenize" function. IncludeRules can now be handled properly, and users can add new syntax descriptions dynamically. It is also now possible to convert .theme files directly into styles.

Skylighting is also faster than highlighting-kate, by a factor of 3 in some cases.


To install the latest release from Hackage, do

stack install skylighting


cabal install skylighting

If you want the command-line tool, set the executable flag using --flag "skylighting:executable" in stack or -fexecutable in cabal.

The release tarball for the skylighting package includes generated files not present in this repository. Building from this repository is a two-step process. In the first step we build the skylighting-core package, which provides a program, skylighting-extract, which reads XML syntax highlighting definitions from the xml directory and writes Haskell source files. In the second we actually build the skylighting package.

Using cabal:

cd skylighting-core
cabal install -fexecutable
cd ../skylighting
skylighting-extract ../skylighting-core/xml/*.xml
cabal install -fexecutable

Using stack:

stack install --flag skylighting-core:executable skylighting-core
cd skylighting
skylighting-extract ../skylighting-core/xml/*.xml
cd ..
stack install --flag skylighting:executable

Command-line tool

A command-line executable, skylighting, is installed if the executable cabal flag is set in building.

For help, skylighting --help.

Adding new syntaxes

To compile with additional syntaxes, simply add the syntax definition (XML) file to the xml directory of the skylighting-core package and repeat the bootstrap build described above.

Note that both the library and the executable can dynamically load syntax definitions, so you may not need to compile them in. If you prefer this approach, you can use the skylighting-core package directly which provides the XML files without the generated code produced by the bootstrap process described above.


The skylighting package is licensed under the GPL because some of the XML syntax descriptions from which its tokenizers are generated are GPL-licensed. However, the skylighting-core package, which provides the core types and functions of this project is licensed under the BSD3 license and bundles the GPL-licensed XML files separately.


Kate syntax highlighting documentation:

Kate highlighting definitions:

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