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Developer notes

This page contains useful notes for developers and contributors.

Manage script

For Linux and macOS, a bash script at the root folder provides useful commands for developers and contributors.

For example, ./ build builds the library with CMake.

Windows users

A similar manage.bat Windows script is in progress. Another option would be to add Windows-specific commands to and to require Windows users to use MSYS for running bash scripts. Help needed!

Each section on this page provides the details of the supported management commands.


Command Description
./ build compile the library
./ rebuild recompile the library from scratch
./ cython build the Cython bindings
./ parseheaders force reparsing the C headers (used by the Cython and documentation generators)

We use CMake to build the library.

Library dependencies

  • Vulkan: mandatory. The Vulkan SDK is required when compiling the library (not when using it).
  • cglm: mandatory. It is included as a git submodule in external/.
  • glfw: mandatory. On Linux, it needs to be installed via the package manager. On other systems, it is automatically downloaded by CMake (FetchContent_Declare).
  • Dear ImGui: mandatory. It is included as a git submodule in external/.
  • glslc: optional. If enabled, it is automatically downloaded by CMake.
  • libpng: optional. If enabled, it needs to be installed via the package manager. Support for other operating systems is lacking at the moment.
  • ffmpeg: optional. If enabled, it needs to be installed via the package manager. Support for other operating systems is lacking at the moment.

Dear ImGui submodule

  • We use a fork of Dear ImGui in the Datoviz GitHub organization that we regularly keep in sync with the upstream repository.
  • We use a datoviz branch that derives from the docking branch from the upstream repository.
  • The only addition in the datoviz branch compared to the docking branch is that we use a patch in order to support ImGui panels (coming soon).

Command-line tool

Datoviz includes an executable called datoviz that provides a testing suite and some examples. It is implemented in the cli/ subfolder.

C headers parsing

The script utils/ implements a simple parser (based on the pyparsing library) of the Datoviz headers. It exports the enums, structs, and functions to a JSON file in utils/headers.json. This JSON file is used by the Cython bindings generator, and by the documentation generator (mostly for the API doc generation).

Cython bindings

Cython bindings are implemented in bindings/cython. The Cython module is built with dynamic linking to the C library libdatoviz.

The bindings are done semi-automatically. Specifically, a large part of the cydatoviz.pxd Cython file is generated automatically by the utils/ script. This script is called automatically by the command ./ cython.

Binary resource embedding

Binary resources such as SPIR-V-compiled shaders of all included graphics, the colormap texture, fonts, etc, are bundled into the shared C library as part of the CMake build.

The binary files are translated into standalone C files (generated in build/_colortex.c, build/_shaders.c, etc.) which are compiled with libdatoviz.


The shaders of the builtin graphics pipelines are found in src/glsl/. They are automatically compiled to SPIR-V as part of the CMake build process.

They include snippets of GLSL code found in include/datoviz/glsl/. This include path must be passed to the glslc command with the -I flag (this is done automatically by CMake).

SPIR-V compiled shaders are bundled into the library as part of the binary resource embedding process described above.

Linting and static analysis

Command Description
./ format format all files with clang-format
./ valgrind build/datoviz test test_scene_empty run Valgrind to debug segmentation faults and chase down memory leaks
./ cppcheck static analysis of the codebase
./ prof inspect the profiling information saved in gmon.out


Formatting rules are defined in .clang-format. We follow loosely this coding guide.


Valgrind output is saved to .valgrind.out.txt.


By default, Datoviz is built with profiling information automatically exported to gmon.out. Use ./ prof to inspect the profiling information.


Command Description
./ test [test_array_] run all tests, or optionally only those containing a given string
./ pytest run all Python tests
./ demo [mandelbrot] run all demos, or optionally only those containing a given string

C tests

Datoviz comes with an extensive suite of unit tests, for most modules in the library.

They are implemented in tests/. Datoviz uses a custom testing suite runner.

Some tests rely on automatic screenshot generation and comparison with a reference image. At the moment, the reference images are only saved locally, so they are only useful to check non-regression compared to previous runs on the same machine.

Python tests

The Datoviz Python bindings come with a minimal testing suite, implemented in bindings/cython/tests/ with pytest. Python tests also use automatic comparison with reference images saved locally.


Command Description
./ doc rebuild the doc website in site/
./ docs serve the website on localhost:8000
./ publish upload the generated website to GitHub

We use mkdocs, with material theme, and several markdown, theme, and mkdocs plugins. See mkdocs.yml. The site is generated in the site/ subfolder. We use GitHub Pages to serve the website.

Several parts of the documentation are auto-generated, via mkdocs hooks implemented in utils/ Building the documentation requires Python dependencies found in utils/requirements-build.txt. In particular, we use the mkdocs-simple-hooks package to make it possible to use custom Python functions as mkdocs plugin hooks.

  • API documentation: the list of functions to document is found in the docs/api/*.md files. At documentation build time, the API doc generation script (utils/ relies on the generated utils/headers.json (created by utils/ to extract the C docstrings and insert them at the right place in the API documentation pages.
  • Enumerations: the documentation file api/ contains a list of headers of enumerations. A script parses the enums in the library header files and inserts them in this file, at documentation build time.
  • Colormaps: colormaps definitions are saved in a CSV file in data/textures/color_texture.csv. This file is parsed by utils/ and the table of all colormaps is automatically generated, using NumPy and Pillow to generate base64-encoded individual colormap images. The table is inserted at the end of docs/user/
  • Visual documentation: visuals are documented manually, screenshots are automatically generated by the testing suite.
  • Graphics documentation: the item, vertex, params structure fields are automatically generated. The screenshots are automatically generated by the testing suite.
  • Code snippets and screenshots: the documentation build script parses <!-- CODE_PYTHON path/to/ --> and <!-- IMAGE path/to/image.png --> in documentation sources and inserts the code file contents, or the image.


Command Description
./ wheel build a wheel package
./ testwheel test the wheel package in a fresh virtual environment


The package creation pipeline is still a work in progress. The created wheels may not work on all systems.

We aim at providing an easy-to-install wheel package of both the C library and the Cython bindings, for the most common operating systems and environments. Installing the library should be as easy as doing pip install datoviz.


The wheels are created with no ffmpeg support for now. This will be fixed soon.


We only build wheels for Python 3.8 at the moment, we will support more Python versions soon.


We don't use conda for now, only Python wheels. They should be fully compatible with anaconda/miniconda distributions, however.

The main complication when building a wheel for Datoviz is that the Cython module has a dynamic dependency to libdatoviz, and possibly other libraries (especially when the library is compiled with ffmpeg support). We need to make sure these libraries are found by the Cython module, either by bundling them into the wheel, or by ensuring they are found on the user's environment. Some dependencies (such as libvulkan) require GPU access and therefore cannot be bundled with the wheel.

To test the wheel, the ./ testwheel script automatically creates a fresh virtual environment, installs the .whl wheel package with pip, and executes the following code:

from datoviz import canvas, run

Make sure you have the latest versions of pip and virtualenv.

On Linux, we need to bundle dynamic libraries to the wheel, but not libvulkan as well as other graphics-related libraries.

While delocate is provided for macOS, the Python developers provide the auditwheel tool to bundle dependencies into Python wheels. We need a patched version of auditwheel so that we can exclude some libraries.

Another complication is that, in order to build a manylinux wheel, it is basically required to use Docker. The wheel needs to be compiled on an old Linux distribution so as to be compatible with as many Linux distributions as possible.

On Linux, the ./ wheel script involves the following step:

  1. Build a Docker image based on (provided by the Python developers). This image is based on Debian. Other Docker images are available, but they are based on CentOS, and Vulkan doesn't work well on old CentOS distributions.
  2. We add a few extra packages to that Docker image that are required for building Datoviz (see the /Dockerfile_wheel file), including:
    • the Vulkan SDK,
    • a few Python libraries,
    • our patched version of auditwheel.
  3. We create a Docker container based on this custom image, and we mount the git repository in the container.
  4. We run a script in the container: / This script does the following:
    • Build the Datoviz C library in the /build_wheel subfolder.
    • Copy the C headers, the build directory, and the Cython source files in a temporary directory in the container so as to avoid polluting the main Datoviz directory.
    • Build the Cython module.
    • Create a Python wheel.
    • Run the patched version of auditwheel to bundle libdatoviz in it.
    • Copy the repaired wheel to /bindings/cython/dist.

The resulting manylinux wheel may be uploadable to PyPI, but we have to make sure it works on different Linux-based systems first. We're likely to run into issues and we may have to include more dependencies via auditwheel. Until then, we only upload the wheel on GitHub.

On macOS, in addition to running the standard wheel creation command python bdist_wheel, we also need to bundle libdatoviz.dylib into the wheel.

The delocate script does just that. However, it will also bundle other dependencies such as libvulkan, which wouldn't work as Datoviz needs to use the system's libvulkan.

For this reason, we provide a patch to delocate which allows us to exclude libvulkan from the wheel. The patched version of delocate needs to be installed before running ./ wheel.

Creating a Python wheel for Windows should be as easy as running the following commands:

manage.bat build
manage.bat wheel
manage.bat testwheel

On Windows, the script automatically bundles the file libdatoviz.dll (created by the build script) into the wheel.

The wheel creating script uses the following command to create the wheel: python bdist_wheel.

Environment variables

Environment variable Description
DVZ_DEBUG=1 Run demos and examples interactively
DVZ_LOG_LEVEL=0 Logging level
  • Logging levels: 0=trace, 1=debug, 2=info (default), 3=warning, 4=error