Using emacs in batch mode to dump a file with syntax highlighting?


I’d like to use emacs in some kind of batch mode to just render a file with syntax highlighting and exit. Specifically, I want to dump the fontified buffer with ANSI escape codes so that it shows up reasonably syntax-highlighted on my terminal. Is there any way to do this?

The ansi-lpr.el library seems to be kind of along the lines of what I want, but the output isn’t colorified. I can’t figure out how to get over that final hurdle — there are a lot of modules to digest ANSI escape codes into Emacs text properties (e.g. ansi-color.el) but I haven’t found anything that does the reverse. If anyone can point me to something that does, I think I can piece together the rest.

Alternatively, I’ve seen some hacky approaches like this answer (using script and capturing the output) but in my experiments that approach has seemed unlikely to be fruitful — you get tons of undesirable control sequences mixed in with the highlighted text.

The overarching motivation here is to use emacs in a $LESSOPEN pipe to get syntax highlighting when I page files. In case you’re going to say it, I’ve tried and “just page files in Emacs” is not acceptable for me.


I’m glad to announce a new package, e2ansi, that (hopefully) does what you asked for.

The package provides a command-line tool e2ansi-cat that starts Emacs in batch mode, opens files, syntax highlight them (using font-lock), and creates ANSI-colored versions of the syntax highlighted files.

You can integrate this into less by setting the following variables to, for example:

export "LESSOPEN=|emacs --batch -Q -l ~/.emacs -l bin/e2ansi-cat %s"
export "LESS=-R"
export MORE=$LESS

The end result looks like the following:


You can vary the colors and attributes like bold, underline, and
italics by using a suitable Emacs theme.

The e2ansi package is located at

Personal note

I would like to thank you for posting this question, it directly inspired me to write e2ansi.

Answered By – Lindydancer

Answer Checked By – Marie Seifert (AngularFixing Admin)

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