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ditaa is a small command-line utility that can convert diagrams drawn using ascii art ('drawings' that contain characters that resemble lines like | / - ), into proper bitmap graphics.



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Never filling dashed paths is consistent with PNG output.

Also, this fixes erroneous filling of unclosed dashed paths. Without
this fix, such fillings can overlap other parts of the graphics, which
are then partially invisible. Sometimes only shadows are affected. For

    :       :
    :+----+ :
    :|cABC| :
     +----+ :

In this example, the top left corner of the box is cut-off by the
(white) filling of the top left dashed path. Additionally, the lower
right corner of the shadow of the box is cut-off by the (white) filling
of the lower right dashed path.

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DIagrams Through Ascii Art

ditaa is a small command-line utility written in Java, that can convert diagrams drawn using ascii art ('drawings' that contain characters that resemble lines like | / - ), into proper bitmap graphics. This is best illustrated by the following example -- which also illustrates the benefits of using ditaa in comparison to other methods :)

    +--------+   +-------+    +-------+
    |        | --+ ditaa +--> |       |
    |  Text  |   +-------+    |diagram|
    |Document|   |!magic!|    |       |
    |     {d}|   |       |    |       |
    +---+----+   +-------+    +-------+
        :                         ^
        |       Lots of work      |

After conversion using ditaa, the above file becomes:

ditaa interprets ASCII art as a series of open and closed shapes, but it also uses special markup syntax to increase the possibilities of shapes and symbols that can be rendered.

ditaa is open source and free software (free as in free speech), since it is released under the GPL license.

BUT WHY? Does this thing have any real use?

There are several reasons why I did this:

  1. Simply for hack value. I wanted to know if/how it could be done and how easily.
  2. Aesthetic reasons and legacy formats: there are several old FAQs with ASCII diagrams lying out there. At this time and age ascii diagrams make my eyes hurt due to their ugliness. ditaa can be used to convert them to something nicer. Although ditaa would not be able to convert all of them (due to differences in drawing 'style' in each case), it could prove useful in the effort of modernising some of those documents without too much effort. I also know a lot of people that can make an ascii diagram easily, but when it gets to using a diagram program, they don't do very well. Maybe this utility could help them make good-looking diagrams easily/quickly.
  3. Embedding diagrams to text-only formats: There is a number of formats that are text-based (HTML, DocBook, LaTeX, programming language comments), but when rendered by other software (browsers, interpreters, the javadoc tool etc), they can contain images as part of their content. If ditaa was integrated with those tools, then you would have readable/editable diagrams within the text format itself, something that would make things much easier. ditaa syntax can currently be embedded to HTML.
  4. Reusability of "code": Suppose you make a diagram in ascii art and you render it with version 0.6b of ditaa. You keep the ascii diagram, and then version 0.8 comes out, which features some new cool effects. You re-render your old diagram with the new version of ditaa, and it looks better, with zero effort! In that sense ditaa is a diagram markup language, with very loose syntax.

Getting it

For Ubuntu, there is a package.

For MacOSX, you can install via brew.

Usage and syntax

Command line

You need the latest Java runtime (JRE) to use ditaa. The best anti-aliasing can be achieved using Java 1.5 or higher.

To start from the command line, type (where XXX is the version number):

java -jar ditaaXXX.jar

You will be presented with the command-line options help:

 -A,--no-antialias              Turns anti-aliasing off.
 -b,--background <BACKGROUND>   The background colour of the image. The
                                format should be a six-digit hexadecimal
                                number (as in HTML, FF0000 for red). Pass
                                an eight-digit hex to define transparency.
                                This is overridden by --transparent.
 -d,--debug                     Renders the debug grid over the resulting
 -E,--no-separation             Prevents the separation of common edges of

Before processing:

| cBLU    |
|         |
|    +----+
|    |cPNK|
|    |    |

Common edge separation (default)

No separation (with the -E option)

 -e,--encoding <ENCODING>       The encoding of the input file.
 -h,--html                      In this case the input is an HTML file.
                                The contents of the <pre
                                class="textdiagram"> tags are rendered as
                                diagrams and saved in the images directory
                                and a new HTML file is produced with the
                                appropriate <img> tags.
    --help                      Prints usage help.
 -o,--overwrite                 If the filename of the destination image
                                already exists, an alternative name is
                                chosen. If the overwrite option is
                                selected, the image file is instead
 -r,--round-corners             Causes all corners to be rendered as round
 -S,--no-shadows                Turns off the drop-shadow effect.
 -s,--scale <SCALE>             A natural number that determines the size
                                of the rendered image. The units are
                                fractions of the default size (2.5 renders
                                1.5 times bigger than the default).
    --svg                       Write a SVG image as destination file.
    --svg-font-url <FONT>       SVG font URL.
 -T,--transparent               Causes the diagram to be rendered on a
                                transparent background. Overrides
 -t,--tabs <TABS>               Tabs are normally interpreted as 8 spaces
                                but it is possible to change that using
                                this option. It is not advisable to use
                                tabs in your diagrams.
 -v,--verbose                   Makes ditaa more verbose.
 -W,--fixed-slope               Makes sides of parallelograms and
                                trapezoids fixed slope instead of fixed


Round corners

If you use / and \ to connect corners, they are rendered as round corners:

|  |


Color codes can be used to add color to the diagrams. The syntax of color codes is


where XXX is a hex number. The first digit of the number represents the red component of the color, the second digit represents green and the third blue (good ol' RGB). See below for an example of use of color codes:

/----\ /----\
|c33F| |cC02|
|    | |    |
\----/ \----/

/----\ /----\
|c1FF| |c1AB|
|    | |    |
\----/ \----/

This can become a bit tedious after a while, so there are (only some for now) human readable color codes provided:

Color codes
|cRED RED     |cBLU BLU     |
|cGRE GRE     |cPNK PNK     |
|cBLK BLK     |cYEL YEL     |

As you can see above, if a colored shape contains any text, the color of the text is adjusted according to the underlying color. If the underlying color is dark, the text color is changed to white (from the default black).

Note that color codes only apply if they are within closed shapes, and they have no effect anywhere outside.


ditaa recognises some tags that change the way a rectangular shape is rendered. All tags are between { and }. See the reference below:

Document - Symbol representing a document.

|{d}  |
|     |
|     |

Storage - Symbol representing a form of storage, like a database or a hard disk.

|{s}  |
|     |
|     |

Input/Output - Symbol representing input/output.

|{io} |
|     |
|     |


|{o}  |
|     |
|     |

Manual operation

|{mo} |
|     |
|     |

Decision ("Choice")

|{c}  |
|     |
|     |


|{tr} |
|     |
|     |

Dashed lines

Any lines that contain either at least one = (for horizontal lines) or at least one : (for vertical lines) are rendered as dashed lines. Only one of those characters can make a whole line dashed, so this feature "spreads". The rationale behind that is that you only have to change one character to switch from normal to dashed (and vice versa), rather than redrawing the whole line/shape. Special symbols (like document or storage symbols) can also be dashed. See below:

----+  /----\  +----+
    :  |    |  :    |
    |  |    |  |{s} |
    v  \-=--+  +----+

Point markers

If * is encountered on a line (but not at the end of the line), it is rendered as a special marker, called the point marker (this feature is still experimental). See below:

|    |      /--*
*    *      |
|    |  -*--+

Text handling

If the pattern ' o XXXXX' is encountered, where XXXXX is any text, the 'o' is interpreted and rendered as a bullet point. Note that there must be a space before the 'o' as well as after it. See below:

| Things to do    |
| cGRE            |
| o Cut the grass |
| o Buy jam       |
| o Fix car       |
| o Make website  |

HTML mode

When ditaa is run using the --html option, the input is an HTML file. The contents of the <pre class="textdiagram"> tags are rendered as diagrams and saved in the images directory and a new HTML file is produced with the appropriate <img> tags.

If the id parameter is present in the <pre> tag, its value is used as the filename of the rendered png. Otherwise a filename of the form ditaa_diagram_X.png is used, where X is a number. Similarly, if there is no output filename specified, the converted html file is named in the form of xxxx_processed.html, where xxxx is the filename of the original file.

In this mode, files that exist are not generated again, they are just skipped. You can force overwrite of the files using the --overwrite option.


Ditaa is going to be gradually rewritten in Clojure (starting with the tests), so it now uses Leiningen for building. In order to get a new stand-alone jar file, just switch into ditaa's top-level dir and type:

lein uberjar

This produces a stand-alone jar in the target folder with a filename of ditaa-x.xx.x-standalone.jar.

Friends and relatives

Here is a list of projects that are related to ditaa and add to its functionality:

  • Mikael Brännström's ditaa-addons offers two very interesting pieces of functionality: The Textdiagram Javadoc taglet allows you to embed ASCII diagrams to Java comments and have them rendered as ditaa diagrams in the HTML output. The ditaa Eps program allows you to render to EPS instead of PNG.
  • Mathieu Lecarme's ditaa-web allows you to install ditaa on your web server and use it as a webservice through a HTTP POST request.
  • org-mode, a major mode for emacs comes with support for ditaa. Here's how to use it.
  • There is a plugin for DocuWiki that allows you to render ditaa diagrams in the wiki pages. Written by Dennis Ploeger.
  • asciidoctor-diagram a Asciidoctor diagram extension, with support for ditaa and other. asciidoctor/asciidoctor-diagram#76 includes ditaamini-0.10.jar.
  • Markdeep has great support for generating diagrams from ASCII art among other things.
  • muextensions allows embedding ditaa art in documents rendered by Docutils (reStructuredText documents). This includes Pelican statically generated web sites, Hovercraft! presentations, and more.

Here's a list of projects that are somehow related to ditaa, and could prove useful/relevant while using it:

  • Nadim Khemir's asciio could be used for producing the ascii diagrams more easily. It would require some modifications to its default settings for the diagrams to render properly (specifically the characters used for corners should all be set to +).
  • Markus Gebhard's JavE could be used for the same purpose, although I've never tried it.
  • If you make sure to keep the lines straight, artist-mode for emacs can be used to produce ditaa-compatible diagrams.
  • Within Eclipse asciidoctor editor there is support for ditaa rendeing and special editor for .ditaa files with preview.


  • Stathis Sideris - original author
  • Bill Baker - co-maintainer
  • Jean Lazarou - SVG rendering
  • John Tsiombikas - beta testing
  • Leonidas Tsampros - beta testing

Thanks to Steve Purcell for writing JArgs.

Thanks to Mr. Jericho for writing Jericho HTML Parser.


ditaa is a small command-line utility that can convert diagrams drawn using ascii art ('drawings' that contain characters that resemble lines like | / - ), into proper bitmap graphics.







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