Readme file for html2text

Manual pages:

html2text is a command line utility, written in C++, that converts HTML documents into plain text. It was written up to version 1.2.2 for and is copyrighted by GMRS Software GmbH, Unterschleißheim.

html2text reads HTML documents from standard input or a (local or remote) URI, and formats them into a stream of plain text characters that is written to standard output or into an output-file, preserving the original positions of table fields.

ISO 8859-1 is used for output by default, plain-ASCII output can be chosen by setting the -ascii command line option. Type html2text -help for an overview of all command line options.


html2text <file> | less
html2text -o outfile.txt -ascii -nobs <file>

The rendering is largely customisable through the html2textrc file and the -style command line option, that may be used to change quickly some formatting defaults. See the html2textrc(5) manual page for details.

Although html2text was written for the conversion of HTML 3.2 documents, most constructs of HTML 4 are renderred as well, including most SGML entities, provided that they are written as "named entities" and not as a numeric value. The program tries to parse even XHTML documents and the HTML produced by word processors, but this not always as successful as other HTML parsers, because html2text is, as already said, for all that an HTML 3.2 converter.

The program accepts also syntactically incorrect input, attempting to interpret it "reasonably". If the output is however not satisfactory, of if rendering fails completely, and you have the possibility to correct the HTML source code, you may want to use the -unparse or -check options to find out what exactly html2text's problem is.

This program was written because GMRS was looking for a good, free HTML-to-text converter for UNIX, and they couldn't find one on the net. The best they could find was lynx, i.e. lynx -dump, but lynx could not cope with tables.

For information on compiling and installing the package on your system, please refer to the file INSTALL.

html2text was developed and is tested under Linux. However, it uses no O/S-specific features and should be easily portable to other platforms (at least to other UNIX-ish platforms). It is reported to compile and work on the following platforms:

You will find some hints for porting it to other platforms at the end of the file "INSTALL".

Note for version 1.3.2(a): Version 1.3.2 is distributed in two "flavours": 1.3.2a contains changes needed for g++ 3.3 and later, which are not backwards-compatible. Thus, if you use an older (or other) compiler, please use version 1.3.2 (without 'a'), if you have g++ 3.3 (and up) installed, please use version 1.3.2a. Cross-patches (from 1.3.2 to 1.3.2a and viceversa) are included into the source code packages of either flavours.

Published under the terms of the GNU General Public License.

This program is free software; you can redistribute it and/or modify it under the terms of the GNU General Public License as published by the Free Software Foundation; either version 2 of the License, or (at your option) any later version.

This program is distributed in the hope that it will be useful, but WITHOUT ANY WARRANTY; without even the implied warranty of MERCHANTABILITY or FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE. See the GNU General Public License for more details.

You should have received a copy of the GNU General Public License along with this program; if not, write to the Free Software Foundation, Inc., 59 Temple Place - Suite 330, Boston, MA 02111-1307, USA.

GMRS agreed to change the program's license terms to GPL.

Message-ID: <01c401c10f72$d11c3660$12c8a8c0@jag>
Reply-To: "David Geffen" <geffen[at]one4net[dot]com>
From: "David Geffen" <david[at]one4net[com]com>
To: <mbayer[at]zedat[dot]fu-berlin[dot]de>
Date: Wed, 18 Jul 2001 12:17:14 +0200
Organization: GMRS Software GmbH

Hallo Herr Bayer,

html2text darf unter die GPL veroeffentlicht werden, solange one4net keinerlei
Nachteile oder Verpflichtungen dadurch entstehen.

Mit freundlichen Gruessen
David Geffen

This program is not provided nor supported by GMRS any longer.

Since GMRS decided not to develop nor to support this program any longer, they also did not provide its source code any more. With this, I realised, the source code of this program was hardly to obtain, as most archives included at best a precompiled version. Because I liked the features, I offered a webspace where this program now is living at,

I'm afraid in this way I've become the maintainer of this package, even if I actually don't have time free to spend on working on the program by myself. Please keep this in mind if you are going to write me. :-)

The source code can also be obtained from the Ibiblio network at [ftp|http]://

If you are going to retrieve the source code from within automated scripts, e.g. by a software packaging manager, please prefer downloading it from the Ibiblio server or one of its mirrors.

We accept patches.

Please include in all your messages information on

If you think you found a possible security impact, please let me know first.

If you think you found a bug, please try first to find out its possible reason by yourself, using the -unparse, -check, -debug-scanner, and -debug-parser command line options, in order to save other people's time. I will not consider any "bug report" that just claims "your program is buggy!!!!!1", nor will I answer to any mail asking me O/S-specific questions.

I will include into the TODO list any sensible feature request.

And, last but not least, patches are always very welcome. :-)