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SignWriting Server

swserver, v1.4.0 October 14th, 2016


SignWriting is the international script for writing the sign languages of the world. The SignWriting Server provides online resources for SignWriting applications and users. The server accepts HTTP requests and responds with SVG or JSON data. The SignWriting Server is built with the PHP SLIM Framework v2.6.

The primary site is available on the Center for Sutton Movement Writing server.

A mirror site is available on Wikimedia Labs.


SVG images

The SignWriting server creates SVG images for individual symbols using symbol keys and completed 2-dimensional signs using Formal SignWriting. Styling strings are supported, offering coloring and sizing customizations.

Query string transformation to regular expressions

Query strings are a concise representation of a much larger and detailed set of regular expressions. Each query string is transformed into one or more regular expressions that can be used to search a text of Formal SignWriting. Additionally, Formal SignWriting strings can be converted into several types of query strings, each of which can be transformed into regular expressions.

Countries of the world

The countries of the world are described with SVG shapes and flag images. Listings of languages and puddle collections are available for each country.

Puddle collections and sign entries

All of the SignPuddle Online data is available as SQLite 3 databases. These databases can be downloaded individually. The various puddle collections can be listed, limited by sign language or individual code. For each sign language, a default public dictionary has been selected so that ISO 639-3 codes can be used rather than a puddle code. With a puddle query, individual entries can be access with sign language directly. With a puddle search, individual entries can be access with spoken language. Additional search options are available for listings of individual signs and terms. Additionally, entries can be retrieved by the dates created or updated.


Copy the SignWriting Server files to the root web server directory or to a sub-directory.


Any server that supports PHP and SQLite 3 will be able to run the SignWriting Server.


The main database is available from the SignWriting Server Data project with only the symbol information.

  • install as data/swserver.db

The SignPuddle Online databases are available on SignBank.

The main database is available as swserver.db.

  • install as data/swserver.db

The individual databases are available in the puddle subdirectory.

  • install in data/puddle/

A shell script is available to download the main database.

  • execute data/

A shell script is available to mirror all of the available puddles on SignBank with a single command.

  • execute data/

Shell Script to Start Server

If a web server is not already running, the start server shell script can be used to start the built-in PHP web server.

  • ./

Automation Tools

The SignWriting Server project documents are created with command-line tools.

API Blueprint

The SignWriting Server API is documented using API Blueprint. This specification offers powerful tooling such as automatic HTML document generation and mock servers.

The API Blueprint for the Guide is embedded in the main index.php file. The API Blueprint for the Example document is created using 'curl' with 'curl-trace-parser'.

JSON Data Examples

The SignWriting Server includes example API calls encoded as JSON data. These examples are used to create the API Blueprint for the Example document and the JavaScript function calls for the Run HTML page.


  • Shell scripts with more, grep, cat, and cut
  • jq - like '''sed''' for JSON data
  • curl - communicate with a server from the command line
  • curl-trace-parser - reformat curl output
  • hiro - create HTML documents from API Blueprints
  • iglo - create large HTML documents when hiro fails


  • ./ - Creates the Index and Guide documents. Creates shell script and JavaScript function calls from JSON example data.
  • ./ - Executes the Example shell script and collates the results into the Example document.
  • ./ - Calls the script and then the script.
  • ./ - Creates the example html document when hiro fails for large files.



  • / - root directory with HTML documentation and PHP server
  • /Slim - directory for the Slim Framework v2.6 code
  • /include - directory for other PHP files and function libraries
  • /data - directory for the SignWriting Server databases
  • /tools - directory for automation and document creation
  • /tools/input - directory of tool inputs, such as template.html
  • /tools/output - directory of processed output
  • /tools/log - directory of example request/response API calls

Source Files

  • - read me file in markdown
  • index.php - main file for handling requests, with embedded API Blueprint
  • Example.json - example api calls in JSON data format
  • Run.html - html page uses example api calls to access a server

Derived Files

  • index.html - Created from
  • tools/output/ - Created from index.php
  • Guide.html - Created from tools/output/
  • tools/output/ - Created from Example.json
  • tools/output/ - Created from output of tools/output/
  • Example.html - Created from tools/output/
  • Run.js - Created from Example.json and used in Run.html


Stephen E Slevinski Jr


The Formal SignWriting character encoding used in the SignWriting Server is defined in an Internet Draft submitted to the IETF: draft-slevinski-formal-signwriting. The document is improved and resubmitted every 6 months. The character design has been stable since January 12, 2012. The current version of the Internet Draft is 00. The next version is planned for April 2017.


This is a work in progress. Feedback, bug reports, and patches are welcomed.



To Do

  • expand API for users
  • expand API for create, update, and delete

Version History

  • 1.4.0 - Oct 14th, 2016: improved styling string and new Sutton SignWriting fonts
  • 1.3.0 - May 2nd, 2016: new world group, added listings for puddle signs and terms
  • 1.2.0 - Dec 17th, 2015: list puddles, download databases, custom limits, sorting, and date retrieval
  • 1.1.0 - Nov 25th, 2015: added query and search for puddle data
  • 1.0.0 - Nov 5th, 2015: initial public release


online resources for SignWriting applications and users






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