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Graphviz-server is a lightweight Java based HTTP server that invokes the Graphviz dot binary installed locally. You simply submit a HTTP POST with the dot graph as the request body and the server returns back a graph in SVG, PDF or PNG format. Graphviz-server uses the Graphviz Java API, a Java wrapper that invokes the dot binary using Runtime.exec.

A typical usage is demonstrated in this sequence diagram:


Author: Omer Dawelbeit


Graphviz is a powerful open source graph visualization and layout tool, unfortunately no runtime exists for Java, so the only option is to invoke the dot binary from a running Java application. This option might not be possible or practical for many reasons, for example:

  • If you are running your app in a Platform as a Service (PaaS) environment like Google App Engine where you can't install extra software.
  • You can't install the dot binaries in the server running your code, or you need to access Graphviz from more than one server.
  • You don't want your application to have a dependency on the dot binary.

In the cases mentioned above, it does make sense to setup one graphviz-server in a separate environment, and then access it from all your applications that require graphs to be generated.

Live Demo

Here is a demo running on Google App Engine

The source code for the demo is here. The graphviz-server is installed on a Google Compute Engine VM (see documentation section below).

Jump start

  • Clone the git repository - git clone
  • An executable jar with dependencies is included in the dist folder. The port on which the server listens can be configured as a command line parameter to the jar. To change the default port (8080) edit the in the dist directory:
java -jar DotGraphics.jar 8080 > /dev/null 2>&1 &
exit 0
  • If you want to make changes to the code and build your own jar, you need to have Maven installed. Simply run mvn package this will create a jar with dependencies inside the target directory.


Run the graphviz-server:


The graphviz-server uses Log4j for logging. All incoming requests are logged to DotGraphics.log, a sample output is provided here.

To use the Graphviz server simply submit a HTTP POST with the dot graph script set as the request body. Optionally an output type can be specified on the URL for example:

Note: The server will validate that the dot graph starts with digraph G {, if this is not your desired behaviour, you can remove the second check on the


If you are using Docker and would like to run graphviz-server in a Docker container, I've created a Ubuntu Docker image. There is a Dockerfile in the source if you want to build your own image.


For more details on the implementation of graphviz-server and a detailed guide on how to set it up on Google Compute Engine VM, see this blog post:


Open Source (Apache License 2.0)


Java based GraphViz HTTP Server




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