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A 4-post collection

Using Prism Syntax Highlighting instead of Google Prettify

Written by Michael Earls
 blog  Code  programming

In a previous post, I discussed how to add code formatting (syntax highlighting) to your Ghost blog.

Since then, I've decided to switch to using Prism syntax highlighter. Prism uses more standards-compliant mechanisms for marking up code. Specifically, it uses a class on the code element to mark what language the code block is written in. It also allows you to pick which features you wish to use and download files specifically catered to your needs.

Unfortuantely, I already have a significant amount of code on my blog that is formatted for Google's Code Prettyfier. I decided to write some code to convert prettyfied code to Prism-formatted code. This is a temporary fix while I update my blog entries.

Here is the code I used to do the conversion:

function convertPrettyfierToPrism() {

    console.warn('there are ' + $('pre.prettyprint').length + ' prettyprint pre tags on this page');
    console.warn('there are ' + $('pre.linenums').length + ' linenums pre tags on this page');

    $('pre.prettyprint').each(function () {
        $(this).removeClass('prettyprint').children('code').each(function () {

    $('pre.linenums').each(function () {

I used the c-like language since that is what most of my code is (there is CSS, VB, and PHP in my blog, but most of it is either JavaScript or C#).

It's 2016, why aren't you using a Version Control system?

Written by Michael Earls
 Code  programming  version control  development

I was having lunch with some developers the other day and I asked them what version control system they were using. One of them said, "I don't use anything. I store my source code on my local drive and then copy it to the network when I make changes".

I was immediately reminded of 1996, when I used a similar system to manage the code for my websites and programs that I was working on. I have memories of the nightmare that was copying different versions to different folders named after their revision numbers. Sometimes, there would be code in one folder that wasn't in the "current" release that had to be copied over. I also remember many times where I accidentally overwrote new code with old code because I forgot to change where my editor was saving the file. I didn't have a way to restore the code, so it was lost forever.

It is 2016, there are many ways you can more safely and professionally store and maintain your code. The benefits of version control is that you can label each code check-in with a description of what the changes accomplished. You can also access earlier versions by simply checking them out. Comparing differences in the files between versions is usually built in to the version control system, so you can easily see what's changed.

I think the best benefit of a version control system is the fact that it's an instant and automatic backup of your source code should something catastrophic happen to your development environment.

I have used Microsoft Visual Source Safe (ugh, I hated how it handled file locking when someone else checked out a file), PVCS, StarTeam, Apache Subversion (SVN), Git, Visual Studio Online and Microsoft Team Foundation Server. So far, I like Git the best because of its simple nature. There are tools for Git that provide a GUI, but I believe many users of Git are terminal wonks who use the command line interface.

Here is a list of some source code control systems you can use today:

  • Git - Probably the simplest version control system to set up and use for just about any situation. It is especially suited for individual developers contributing to open source projects. It has a great mechanism for "pushing" code to a remote and creating "pull requests" that the original project maintainer can integrate into the mainline. There are also tools for Git that allow you to integrate with your IDE for a nice GUI you can use.
  • GitHub - Really just an online Git repository management system, but I feel that it is necessary to mention it. There are other online Git repository management systems, but GitHub is one of the most popular.
  • Microsoft Team Foundation Server - It provides a lot more features than just source code control. It also provides team and project management features to help you manage software project using various processes (MSF, Agile, etc.)
  • Apache Subversion (SVN) - I have used SVN before and I liked it. It lends itself to the "feature branch" approach to source code management. There is a popular Windows shell integration called Tortoise SVN that allows you to create SVN repositories by simply right-clicking a folder and using the built-in context menu that pops up. (Incidentally, there is also a Tortoise Git)
  • PVCS - UGH. That's all I have to say. I have had to use this before in a large corporate environment and I hated it.
  • Visual Studio Team Services - This is a great way to work with Microsoft tools (especially for small teams). The pricing is great. Up to 5 users is free for online storage and project management features of TFS. I have used it for personal projects with great success. It allows you to use Git or TFS for source control.

Here is a list on Wikipedia that is more inclusive.

Once you are using Source Control, a whole new world opens up. You can then set up automated builds. Once you do that, you can have your builds automatically check out code from the most recent main branch of your project. Then, you can set it up where an automatic build is launched every time someone merges code into the mainline. All of this is basically leading up to what's called Continuous Integration (CI). That also includes automated unit testing so that if a test fails, the project build does not succeed. Then, once a build is successful, you can have it automatically deploy to your different environments - test, stage, and even production (depending on how you have your approval process - and integration and user acceptance testing - set up).

This makes the overall process of software development a lot easier to manage with fewer manual processes involved. But you can't have any of it until you begin to manage your source code maturely.

Developing software without using a version control system is risky. Who is going to know what to do with your source code once you are gone? Be a good steward of your code and start using version control now.

Adding Syntax Highlighting (Code Formatting) to Ghost

Written by Michael Earls
 Code  ghost  syntax highlighting  prettify

Update: I have switched to using Prism for my syntax highlighting. I wrote a blog post about how to switch.

I have found a way to format my source code with Ghost. By default, you use four spaces to indicate to Ghost that you are writing code.

To get highlighting to work, I had to use Google's Code Prettify. Unfortunately, it requires that you use a <pre/> tag to contain your code. I say unfortunately because I was hoping to keep a "pure" markdown blog. I guess it's worth it for me to have code formatting. Since code prettify uses JavaScript, this will not work in most RSS readers, so having the <pre/> tag is the way to go.

To use it in Ghost, simply access your settings and click on <> Code Injection from the menu on the left. Then, in the footer, paste the following code:

<script src="//" type="text/javascript">

Once you've added that script to your footer, you simply need to use the following code to insert source code:

<pre class="prettyprint linenums"><code>function someCode(){  
    // this is code

A note about adding <script/> tags using this process: you will have to HTML encode the first < on the line, or Ghost will think you are trying to embed a script.

So, in the example above, this is what the first line looks like:

<pre class="prettyprint linenums lang-htm"><code>&lt;script src=...</script></code></pre>

It's a little kludgy, but it works. I'm guessing this is inherent in the behavior of the web browser, as this is the same type of issue I was running into using the browser-based WYSIWYG editor on WordPress.

Once again, I had to HTML Encode the < on the <pre/> tags so the system wouldn't get confused.

Update: I just learned that it is necessary to completely encode any HTML you use when putting it withinin a <pre/> tag. I have also learned that it is necessary to put the code in a <code/> tag within the <pre/> tag so that the Ghost engine doesn't incorrectly interpret == (that's reserved markdown for highlighting).

Here is what the above code looks like when "prettyfied":

function someCode(){  
    // this is code

Also, when using the ` character to show <pre/> tag, you will need to make sure that you use an empty tag by displaying it as I have (with the / character at the end). This will ensure that it does not get confused and actually render a <pre/> tag. I have had mixed results using the ` character for inline code when showing HTML, so your results may vary.

And, to display the ` character in your posts, you will need to use


post image credit: Stanly Ng