How can I highlight XML from stdin (e.g. piped from xmllint --format) to stdout?

I know how to get highlighting working in nano and view, but is there something that just outputs to stdout and exits?

What I'd link to do is just type something like

xmllint --format xmlfile.xml | some-highlighter

or maybe, for big files

xmllint --format xmlfile.xml | some-highlighter | less

and get pretty output.

4 Answers 4


Supercat and grcat (grc) can do piped syntax highlighting. You'll probably have to make or find configuration files for XML. They are both available in the Ubuntu repositories as well as at the links provided.

Pygmentize has XML highlighting included. It's available as "python-pygments" in the Ubuntu repositories or by using easy_install Pygments.

xmllint --format xmlfile.xml | pygmentize -l xml | less
  • Pygmentize did the trick for me, although, at least on OS X, I had to give it the option -O encoding=UTF-8 to make it work on xmllint's output. Thanks!
    – Sietse
    Sep 29, 2010 at 12:38
  • 1
    If you're like me and annoyed by pygmentize complaining when you exit less without consuming all its output (Broken pipe), pipe through buffer (apt-get install buffer). E.g. xmllint --format foo.xml |pygmentize -g |buffer |less -r
    – Marlies
    Jan 14, 2014 at 16:29
  • 1
    In more modern Ubuntu, I used sudo apt install python-pygments to install it.
    – MarkHu
    Mar 31, 2019 at 7:44

This is how you do it using GNU source-highlight and less:

source-highlight -i /tmp/foo.xml -f esc | less -r
  • 1
    From stdin, it's just source-highlight -s xml -f esc
    – MikeFHay
    Apr 25, 2013 at 16:08
  • Although actually, I'm finding esc256 produces prettier output than esc
    – MikeFHay
    Apr 25, 2013 at 16:26
  • 1
    Note, this won't format the XML, and if your XML is all on one line, it will cause source-highlight to run very slowly. It is probably parsing the input line by line. This command gave me good, fast results: xmllint --format - < input.xml | source-highlight -f esc -s xml | less -F
    – Winny
    Jun 15, 2015 at 21:25
  • @Winny, that is awesome, thank you. One minor note: I got it working with less -r (as stated in the answer) instead of less -F. Feb 4, 2016 at 16:47

I found highlight in Homebrew for OSX, and I'm sure it's available in the Ubuntu repository. It does highlighting and output to a number of formats, including terminal output.

  • 2
    pbpaste|xmllint --format -|highlight --out-format=ansi --syntax=xml did the trick for me. (I could argue about highlight's color choices, though.)
    – tuomassalo
    Oct 3, 2012 at 9:19

I use bat:

xmllint --format - | bat -pP

-p removes all decoration (line numbers, etc.), -P disables the pager. Update: use -pp with newer versions of bat.

bat: https://github.com/sharkdp/bat

  • For bat 0.12.1 I cannot use -P, but I can use --paging=never instead. (The error message was: error: Found argument '-P' which wasn't expected, or isn't valid in this context)
    – knb
    Apr 3 at 8:50

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