Super-thin React wrapper for refractor (Syntax highlighting using VDOM)

Usage no npm install needed!

<script type="module">
  import reactRefractor from '';



Syntax highlighter for React, utilizing VDOM for efficient updates

npm versionBuild Status

  • Thin wrapper on top of refractor (Syntax highlighting using VDOM)
  • refractor uses Prism under the hood, thus supports all the same syntaxes
  • About 14kB minified + gziped when using a single language syntax. Languages tend to add a bit of weight, see unpkg for some pointers on how much.

Feel free to check out a super-simple demo.


npm install --save react-refractor refractor


import Refractor from 'react-refractor'

// Load any languages you want to use from `refractor`
import js from 'refractor/lang/javascript'
import php from 'refractor/lang/php'

// Then register them

  <Refractor language="js" value="/* Code to highlight */" />,

You'll need to register the languages you want to use - I've intentionally left all languages out of the default bundle in order to reduce th ebundle size out of the box. Load and register them from refractor using something like this: Refractor.registerLanguage(require('refractor/lang/docker')).

If you are only rendering on the server or really don't care about the bundle size, you can import Refractor from react-refractor/all to include all supported languages.


Stylesheets are not automatically handled for you - but there is a bunch of premade themes for Prism which you can simply drop in and they'll "just work". You can either grab these from the source, of pull them in using a CSS loader - whatever works best for you. You can also download a customized stylesheet from Prism's download customizer.

Note that when using the markers feature, there is an additional class name called hljs-marker which is not defined by highlight js as it's not a part of its feature set. You can either set it yourself, or you can explicitly set class names on markers.


Name Description
className Class name for the outermost pre tag. Default: refractor
language Language to use for syntax highlighting this value. Must be registered prior to usage
value The code snippet to syntax highlight
inline Whether code should be displayed inline (no <pre> tag, sets display: inline)
markers Array of lines to mark. See section on markers below

Differences to Prism

Prism.js operates directly on the DOM, while refractor generates an AST which react-refractor walks over and converts into virtual DOM nodes. The benefit of the AST approach is that we can easily reuse this across different platforms, highlight on both the server and the client using the same code base and benefit from Reacts virtual DOM diff algorithm to only update the nodes that change.

The drawback to this approach is that you cannot use Prism plugins, since they also work and depend directly on the DOM.


It's quite common to want to highlight lines when doing syntax highlighting, but Prism uses a very DOM-centric approach to achieve this. In order to make up for this, react-refractor provides a custom plugin that lets you define "markers". Since this is a non-standard feature, you will have to provide your own styling for the refractor-marker class name. To highlight lines, simply provide the line numbers in the markers property:

const source = `
const foo = 'bar'
const bar = 'foo'
const baz = foo + bar

// Highlight line 1 and 2, but not 3
  markers={[1, 2]}

You are also able to provide greater customization by specifying an object for each marker, which can include either a className or a component property. This allows you to render basically anything you want:

const source = `
const foo = 'bar'
const bar = 'foo'
const baz = "bar" + bar

// Highlight line 1 and 2, but not 3
    {line: 1, className: 'no-not-use-foo-in-examples'},
    {line: 3, component: props => (
      <TooltipedLine tooltipText="Prefer template for string concatenation">

Dynamic loading

You can use Refractor.hasLanguage(language) to check if a language has been registered. Combining this with Webpack's code splitting abilities (or something similar), you should be able to load definitions for languages on the fly.


MIT-licensed. See LICENSE.