Dilettante Habits

Knowing nothing about everything

degrotesque — A tiny web type setter

Abstract: A small script to improve the appearance of HTML text.

Topics: tools, libraries, web, typography, downloads, open source, programming languages/Python

© Copyright Daniel Krajzewicz, 16.07.2022 13:40, cc by


I write most of my HTML pages using a plain text editor. Albeit I use quotes and different punctuation marks, they originally always come as plain ASCII-characters. For making the text a bit prettier, I wrote a small script which parses a HTML text and replaces those plain ASCII characters by some nicer, typographic representation. In the following, you may find some notes about this tool.

But maybe you'd like to have an example:

The script would convert "Well - that's not what I had expected." into: “Well — that's not what I had expected.” I think it looks nicer.

Uhm, uhm, for those who don't see it, the starting and ending quotes have been replaced by “ and ”, respectively, the ' by ' and the - by an —.

Download and Installation

The current version is degrotesque-1.6.

You may install degrotesque using

python -m pip install degrotesque

You may download a copy or fork the code at degrotesque's github page.

Besides, you may download the current release degrotesque-1.6 here:


The tool is licensed under the LGPL v3.



degrotesque is implemented in Python. It is started on the command line.

The option -i <PATH> / --input <PATH> tells the script which file(s) shall be read — you may name a file or a folder, here. If the option -r / --recursive is set, the given folder will be processed recursively.

The tool processes HTML files, XML files, and their derivatives. The extensions of file types that are processed are given in Appendix A. You may change the extensions of files to process using the -e <EXTENSION>[,<EXTENSION>]* / --extensions <EXTENSION>[,<EXTENSION>]* option.

The files are read one by one and the replacement of plain ASCII chars by some nicer ones is based upon a chosen set of “actions”. Known and default actions are given in Appendix B. You may select the actions to apply using the -a <ACTION>[,<ACTION>]* / --actions <ACTION>[,<ACTION>]* option. The default actions are masks, quotes.english, dashes, ellipsis, math, and apostrophe. If you rather wish to have unicode values, use the option -u / --unicode.

The files are assumed to be encoded using UTF-8 per default. You may change the encoding using the option -E <ENCODING> / --encoding <ENCODING>.

The script does not change the quotation marks of HTML elements, of course. As well, the contents of several elements, such as <code> or <pre>, are skipped. You may change the list of elements which contents shall not be processed using the option -s <ELEMENT_NAME>[,<ELEMENT_NAME>]* / --skip <ELEMENT_NAME>[,<ELEMENT_NAME>]*. The list of elements that are skipped per default is given in Appendix C.

After the actions have been applied to its contents, the file is saved. By default, a backup of the original file is saved under the same name, with the appendix “.orig”. You may omit the creation of these backup files using the option -B / --no-backup.

Please note that “masks” is a special action set that disallows the application of some other actions so that, e.g., the dividers in ISBN numbers are not replaced by &ndash;. The masks action set is given in Appendix D.



degrotesque -i my_page.html -a quotes.german

Replaces single and double quotes within the file "my_page.html" by their typographic German counterparts.

degrotesque -i my_folder -r --no-backup

Applies the default actions to all files that match the extension in the folder "my_folder" and all subfolders. No backup files are generated.

Application Programming Interface - API

You may as well embed degrotesque within your own applications. The usage is very straightforward:

import degrotesque
# build the degrotesque instance with default values
degrotesque = degrotesque.Degrotesque()
# apply degroteque
prettyString = degrotesque.prettify(uglyString)

The default values can be replaced using some of the class' interfaces (methods):

# change the actions to apply (by naming them)
# here: apply french quotes and math symbols
# change the elements which contents shall be skipped
# here: skip the contents of "code", 
#  "script", and "style" elements

You may as well consult the degrotesque pydoc code documentation.

Further Documentation

Implementation Notes

Examples / Users

Change Log

Version 1.6

Older Versions

See ChangeLog on github.


Well, have fun. If you have any comments / ideas / issues, please submit them to degrotesque's issue tracker on github.


Appendix A: Default Extensions

Files with the following extensions are parsed per default:

Appendix B: Named Actions

The following action sets are currently implemented.

Please note that the actions are realized using regular expressions. I decided not to show them in the following for a better readability and show the visible changes only.

From Opening StringFrom Closing StringTo Opening StringTo Closing String

Appendix C: Skipped Elements

The contents of the following elements are not processed by default:

Appendix D: Masking Action Set

The “masks” action set is masking some patterns to avoid replacements. When matching, the matching string is kept. The actions are given in the following. Please note that the numbers in { } brackets give the number of subsequent elements.

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International
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