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Emacs package for working with Graphviz DOT-format files.

The features of this package help you to create .dot or .gv files containing syntax compatible with Graphviz and use Graphviz to convert these files to diagrams. Graphviz is a set of open source graph visualization tools created by AT&T Labs Research. A graph is a way of representing information as a network of connected nodes (shapes) and edges (lines).



This of course depends on Emacs and Graphviz. Installation from the command prompt should be something like

$ sudo dnf install emacs graphviz

Setting up MELPA

Add the MELPA archive to the list of archives used by the Emacs package manager by adding the following lines to your .emacs or other Emacs start-up file.

(require 'package)
(add-to-list 'package-archives
             '("melpa" . ""))

Evaluate above code or restart Emacs.

Setting up use-package

Add the use-package package to your Emacs by adding the following lines to your start-up file.

(unless (package-installed-p 'use-package)
  (package-install 'use-package))

Evaluate above code or restart Emacs.

Setting up graphviz-dot-mode

Now you can finally add Graphviz support to your Emacs by adding the following lines to your startup file.

(use-package graphviz-dot-mode
  :ensure t
  (setq graphviz-dot-indent-width 4))

Evaluate above code or restart Emacs.

Using graphviz-dot-mode

Once installation and setup is completed, usage is as simple as creating or opening a .dot file with C-x C-f (find-file). The file will open in dot mode. Syntax should be highlighted, completion should work and viewing your work is only one keystroke away with C-c C-p. Some useful commands are described below.


  • C-M-q (graphviz-dot-indent-graph)

    This command will indent the graph, digraph, or subgraph at point and any subgraph within it.

  • TAB

    This key will automatically indent the line.


Is available and makes use of the facilities provided by Emacs. Your preferred completion framework should plug into this.

For instance, if you use company, it can be configured by adding the following line to your startup file.

(add-hook 'graphviz-dot-mode-hook 'company-mode)


  • M-; (comment-dwim)

    This command will perform the comment command you want (Do What I Mean). If the region is active and transient-mark-mode is on, it will comment the region, unless it only consists of comments, in which case it will un-comment the region. Else, if the current line is empty, it will insert a blank comment line, otherwise it will append a comment to the line and indent it.

    Use C-u M-; to kill the comment on the current line.

  • C-x C-; (comment-line)

    This command will comment or un-comment the current line.

  • M-j (comment-indent-newline)

    This command will break line the at point and indent, continuing a comment if within one. This indents the body of the continued comment under the previous comment line.

Choosing layout

  • M-x graphviz-dot-set-layout

    This command lets you choose the layout program for your graphs. The default is dot. The list of layout programs is in C-h v graphviz-dot-layout-programs and can be customized.


  • C-c C-c (compile)

    This command compiles the current dot file visited by the Emacs buffer. The output file is in the same directory and has the extension determined by the variable graphviz-dot-preview-extension.

  • C-x ` (next-error)

    This command will jump to the location in the source file of the next error from the most recent compile. Use C-c C-c to compile first.


  • C-c C-p (graphviz-dot-preview)

    This command compiles and then (if it compiled successfully) shows the output of the current dot file visited by the Emacs buffer, provided that Emacs is running on a graphical display capable of displaying the graphic file output by dot.

    See image-file-name-extensions to customize the graphic files that can be displayed.

  • C-c C-v (graphviz-dot-view)

    This command invokes an external viewer specified by the variable graphviz-dot-view-command. If graphviz-dot-view-edit-command is t, you will be prompted to enter a new graphviz-dot-view-command. If graphviz-dot-save-before-view is t, the buffer is saved before the external viewer command is invoked.

    See for a list of Graphviz viewers.


You may customize variables by typing

M-x graphviz-dot-customize RET

or by setting them to different values in your startup file.

  • graphviz-dot-dot-program string, default: “dot”

    This variable determines the command name (and path, if necessary) used to invoke the Graphviz dot program. The C-c C-c (compile) function invokes this command.

  • graphviz-dot-preview-extension string, default “png”

    This variable determines the file extension used for the C-c C-c (compile) and C-c C-p (graphviz-dot-preview) functions. The format for the compile command is

    dot -T<extension> <filename>.dot > <filename>.<extension>

  • graphviz-dot-save-before-view boolean, default t

    This variable controls whether the buffer will be saved to the visited file before the C-c C-v (graphviz-dot-view) function invokes the external dot-file viewer command. Set this boolean variable to t (true) or nil (false).

  • graphviz-dot-view-command string, default: “dotty %s”

    This variable determines the command name (and path, if necessary) used to invoke an external dot-file viewer program. The C-c C-v (graphviz-dot-view) function invokes this command. The name of the file visited by the buffer will be substituted for %s in this string.

    See for a list of Graphviz viewers.

  • graphviz-dot-view-edit-command boolean, default: nil

    This variable controls whether you will be prompted for the external dot-file viewer command name when you use C-c C-v graphviz-dot-view. Set this to t (true) to be prompted to edit the viewer command variable graphviz-dot-view-command every time you use C-c C-v or nil to avoid the prompt.

  • graphviz-dot-indent-width integer, default: standard-indent

    This variable determines the indentation used in graphviz-dot-mode buffers.

  • graphviz-dot-mode-hook list of functions, default: nil

    This variable determines which functions are called when graphviz-dot-mode starts. To use it, add a line like below to your .emacs or other startup file.

(add-hook 'graphviz-dot-mode-hook 'my-hook)



graphviz-dot-mode was written by:

Other contributors are noted in the version history in the graphviz-dot-mode.el file and the commit history on GitHub.

The source code is maintained on GitHub at by Pieter Pareit (