Syntax Highlighting

Laika has its own built-in syntax highlighters (based on its parser combinators). Not relying on external tools for this task has several advantages:

This manual itself is a showcase for this functionality. All code samples shown are highlighted by Laika's own syntax support.


Laika's syntax highlighting is not enabled by default, so that you can still choose other existing solutions if you prefer.

When using the sbt plugin it can be added to the laikaExtensions setting:

laikaExtensions ++= Seq(GitHubFlavor, SyntaxHighlighting)  

Note that you also have to add the GitHubFlavor extension so that you get the support for fenced code blocks. When using reStructuredText input only the SyntaxHighlighting extension is needed.

When using the Library API highlighting can be activated like all other extension bundles:

val transformer = Transformer
  .using(GitHubFlavor, SyntaxHighlighting)

Supported Languages

Laika currently supports the following languages and formats:

The last highlighter can be used when writing documentation about Laika itself: it includes highlighters for Laika's directives, substitution references and configuration headers.

More languages will be added over time (contributions are also welcome of course).


The default Helium theme contains color sets for HTML, EPUB and PDF that can be overridden via the configuration API as shown in Theme Settings / Syntax Highlighting.

If you do not only want to specify the color scheme, but also how code categories are grouped into the color set, you can alternatively add custom CSS. The classes generated for code spans are:

Integrating External Tools

If you want to use the available highlighters, but also need to use languages not currently supported out of the box, you can integrate external highlighters just for those languages.

The only thing you need to ensure is that those 3rd-party tools do not try to mess with the code blocks that have already been processed by Laika.

For highlight.js Laika already provides this kind of blocker, in that it adds the nohighligting class to all code blocks it has already analyzed itself.

If you are using different tools you might need to customize the rendering of the CodeBlock AST element. For details see Overriding Renderers.

Adding Your Own Highlighters

Creating your own highlighter can potentially be quite easy, in cases where the syntax can be defined mostly by combining Laika's building blocks for parsing string and number literals, identifiers and keywords. For a fairly simple highlighter implementation as an example you can examine the ScalaSyntax source as a starting point.

Once you have implemented and tested your highlighter you can add it to the built-in ones like this:

laikaExtensions ++= Seq(

See Adding Syntax Highlighters for details.