Beginning with SQLite version 3.34.0, the graphical syntax diagrams in the SQLite documentation are SVGs generated using Pikchr. In prior versions of SQLite, the diagrams were GIF images generated using a fiddly processing chain based on Tcl/Tk, Ghostscript, and ImageMagick.
Advantages to the New Approach
The SVG syntax diagrams are embedded in the text of the HTML documentation pages rather than separately-loaded GIF images. That speeds page loads due to fewer HTTP round-trips to the server to fetch resources, and it makes saved copies of the resulting HTML documentation pages self-contained, simplifying later off-line viewing.
SVG is resolution independent, so that diagrams look better on high-DPI devices such as smartphones and tablets.
The Pikchr source text promises to be easier to maintain than the prior Tcl/Tk+Ghostscript+ImageMagick toolchain.
The scripts used to convert the documentation source text into display-ready HTML can now be cross-platform. The prior approach only seemed to work on Linux, and then only if the right utilities were installed.
Pikchr provides additional flexibility in the formatting of syntax digrams, so that the diagrams can be made easier to read and understand.
How It Works
The SQLite documentation is generated using a Tcl script from
source documents. The script evaluates Tcl code embedded into the
source files between
</tcl> tags, extends HTML with
enhanced hyperlinks and formatting features, and outputs the result
as standard HTML.
Each syntax diagram is a file in the art/syntax/ subdirectory of the documentation source repository. You can click on any of the Pikchr source files to see the corresponding diagram. Click on the "Text" submenu option to see the original Pikchr source text rather than the rendered SVG.
Pikchr as a Tcl Extension
pikchr.c source file can be compiled into a Tcl extension by
-DPIKCHR_TCL compile-time option. As a Tcl extension,
Pikchr provides a single new Tcl command named "
pikchr" which takes
a single argument: the Pikchr source text. The
pikchr command returns
a Tcl list of three elements which are:
- The SVG output text
- The width of the output in pixels
- The height of the output in pixels
As with ordinary Pikchr, a negative width is returned if the input text contains an error, and the output text is the error message.
Automatic Insertion of Diagrams into Documentation
Within the SQLite documentation source text, markup of the following form causes the named Pikchr syntax diagram to be loaded, converted into SVG, and the output SVG added to the documentation under construction:
<tcl> RecursiveBubbleDiagram expr </tcl>
The RecursiveBubbleDiagram Tcl procedure uses the "
pikchr" Tcl command
to convert the Pikchr source text into SVG and inserts that SVG. The
command also looks for other diagrams that are referenced by that diagram
sub-diagrams to be initially hidden, but to expand when the reader clicks on
the appropriate links.