Easy HML Upgrade: 100 Pardot Email Templates from %% to {{ in < 1 hour

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When Pardot announced their latest updates to the HML (handlebars) template language, we were excited to see new development. At the same time, we were also worried about what sort of bulk changes we would need to perform to keep things current in our platform.

In this post, I will show you our free Pardot token converter tool, a single webpage application to bulk replace tokens from the old %% style to the new handlebars {{ format. Let’s first take a deeper look at our challenges.

What is Pardot HML?

You can read more about what HML is in this post.

On the plus side, the HML update allows Pardot-ers to conditionally show and hide content based on lead field parameters. This is a capability that is asked for routinely but was not possible with the previous Pardot functions.

As a side note, Pardot currently supports both the legacy %% merge tokens and the new HML {{ format, but to access the new capabilities of Pardot the full conversion was necessary.

Our Challenges when Upgrading to HML

On the downside, we maintain hundreds of Pardot email newsletter templates that need to be routinely tested and updated to work with Pardot – converting 100+ HTML templates files was a task we weren’t excited to perform.

We first took our template to Pardot to see if Pardot’s built-in mechanisms would help us migrate our emails. We created a new Email Template and pasted it in our old code. I have simplified it here to make the notable merge tokens stand out:

As you can see, Pardot gives a warning that our old template was deprecated but did nothing to help us correct the problem. We were now faced with the task of replacing hundreds of tokens on hundreds of email templates. With no interns on staff, we were facing some seriously wasted time.

Enter the Token Replacer Tool

As a software company, we love solving our problems with the software – it’s one of my core startup philosophies, also known as “eating one’s own dog food” in the tech space.

Luckily, we have a number of skilled developers, one of which threw together a single web-page application to help us speed up the process of replacing the old %% style variables to the new handlebars {{ format. It looks like this:

Simple Usage

Having a large number of templates to convert we kept usage as simple as possible.

  1. In Pardot, edit the email you wish update and copy the full HTML source code to your clipboard. (HTML tab in Pardot email Builder)
  2. Paste the full HTML of your Pardot email template into the “paste box” in the token updater tool.
  3. Click the CONVERT button and review the output messages.
  4. Click the “Copy to Clipboard” link to grab the new HTML and paste it back into your Pardot HTML tab.
  5. Click the Save button.
  6. Repeat for all templates.

By repeating this process we were able to convert more than 100 email templates to the new token format in about an hour.  We can also quickly convert new customer templates as they are sent to us without worrying about hourly costs.

We Made It Look Good and Made it Public

Since raw HTML is no longer in style, we decided to “pretty up” the webpage and publish the tool for the Pardot community to use. We predict there are other consultants and companies that have a library of Pardot templates that will need converting at some point.

Upgrading to HML: Some Things We Learned

In the process of creating our “token map,” we found there is not a direct replacement for all %% tokens. This could be an error in the current documentation, but we found the following %% merge tokens did not have a matching {{ token, and thought we should let you know:

  • %%address_two%%
  • %%crm_id%%
  • %%prospect_account.billing_address_two%%
  • %%prospect_account.description%%
  • %%prospect_account.shipping_address_two%%
  • %%prospect_account.shipping_zip%%

ps. we solved one!  %%user_html_signature%% transforms to {{Sender.Signature}} in PML!

If your templates contain these tokens, the replacer tool will remove them and notify you.

Future Use Cases

We’ve thought of some additional features that could be added down the road such as:

  • Cross-platform: Translating merge tokens between the major MAPs (Marketing Automation Platforms) Pardot, Marketing Cloud, Marketo etc…
  • Cleaning: stripping out merge tokens
  • Replacing: batch process multiple HTML files for replacement
  • Validation: validating the email’s HTML structure and token usage

Would these additional features save you time?  Let me know in the comments below.


As the founder of FeedOtter; a Pardot add-on that automates RSS/Blog emails we see hundreds of HTML email templates every month.  It is my hope that sharing our process and this free tool will save other Pardot marketers time while embracing the new features the HML update brings!  I’m excited to see how this feature develops and keep pushing my Pardot contacts for more.

Try the Pardot Token Updater

Useful Resources We Used

3 thoughts on “Easy HML Upgrade: 100 Pardot Email Templates from %% to {{ in < 1 hour

  1. Thanks so much for this great tool! For those merge tags that don’t have a matching HML token, what can we do? We are heavy users of %%user_html_signature%% and if that’s not available, I’ll have to create static templates for each sender. 🙁

    1. Luckily, I actually figured out the answer to my question myself. The %%user_html_signature%% tag actually DOES have a replacement. It’s simply {{Sender.Signature}}. In PML, there was a variable tag for the html signature and another one for the text signature. HML has just a single merge tag for both.

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