Paul Evans


Tickit::RenderContext - efficiently render text and linedrawing on Tickit windows


 package Tickit::Widget::Something;

 sub render
    my $self = shift;
    my %args = @_;
    my $win = $self->window or return;

    my $rc = Tickit::RenderContext->new(
       lines => $win->lines,
       cols  => $win->cols,
    $rc->clip( $args{rect} );

    $rc->text_at( 2, 2, "Hello, world!", $self->pen );

    $rc->flush_to_window( $win );


Provides a buffer of pending rendering operations to apply to a Window. The buffer is modified by rendering operations performed by the widget, and flushed to the widget's window when complete.

This provides the following advantages:

  • Changes can be made in any order, and will be flushed in top-to-bottom, left-to-right order, minimising cursor movements.

  • Buffered content can be overwritten or partly erased once stored, simplifying some styles of drawing operation. Large areas can be erased, and then redrawn with text or lines, without causing a double-drawing flicker on the output terminal.

  • The buffer supports line-drawing, complete with merging of line segments that meet in a character cell. Boxes, grids, and other shapes can be easily formed by drawing separate line segments, and the render context will handle the corners and other junctions formed.

Drawing methods come in two forms; absolute, and cursor-relative:

  • Absolute methods, identified by their name having a suffixed _at, operate on a position within the buffer specified by their argument.

  • Cursor-relative methods, identified by their lack of _at suffix, operate at and update the position of the "virtual cursor". This is a position within the buffer that can be set using the goto method. The position of the virtual cursor is not affected by the absolute-position methods.

This code is still in the experiment stage. At some future point it may be merged into the main Tickit distribution, and reimplemented in efficient XS or C code. As such, recommendations and best-practices are still subject to change and evolution as the code progresses.

State Stack

The render context stores a stack of saved state. The state of the context can be stored using the save method, so that changes can be made, before finally restoring back to that state using restore. The following items of state are saved:

  • The virtual cursor position

  • The clipping rectangle

  • The render pen

  • The translation offset

When the state is saved to the stack, the render pen is remembered and merged with any pen set using the setpen method.

The queued content to render is not part of the state stack. It is intended that the state stack be used to implement recursive delegation of drawing operations down a tree of code, allowing child contexts to be created by saving state and modifying it, to later restore it again afterwards.


$rc = Tickit::RenderContext->new( %args )

Returns a new instance of a Tickit::RenderContext.

Takes the following named arguments:

lines => INT
cols => INT

The size of the buffer area.


$lines = $rc->lines

$cols = $rc->cols

Returns the size of the buffer area


Pushes a new state-saving context to the stack, which can later be returned to by the restore method.


Pushes a new state-saving context to the stack that only stores the pen. This can later be returned to by the restore method, but will only restore the pen. Other attributes such as the virtual cursor position will be unaffected.

This may be more efficient for rendering runs of text in a different pen, than multiple calls to text or erase using the same pen. For a single call it is better just to pass a different pen directly.


Pops and restores a saved state previously created with save.

$rc->clip( $rect )

Restricts the clipping rectangle of drawing operations to be no further than the limits of the given rectangle. This will apply to subsequent rendering operations but does not affect existing content, nor the actual rendering to the window.

Clipping rectangles cumulative; each call further restricts the drawing region. To revert back to a larger drawing area, use the save and restore stack.

$rc->translate( $downward, $rightward )

Applies a translation to the coordinate system used by goto and the absolute-position methods *_at. After this call, all positions used will be offset by the given amount.


Removes any pending changes and reverts the render context to its default empty state. Undefines the virtual cursor position, resets the clipping rectangle, and clears the stack of saved state.

$rc->clear( $pen )

Resets every cell in the buffer to an erased state. A shortcut to calling erase_at for every line.

$rc->goto( $line, $col )

Sets the position of the virtual cursor.

$rc->setpen( $pen )

Sets the rendering pen to use for drawing operations. If a pen is set then a $pen argument is optional to any of the drawing methods. If a pen argument is supplied as well as having a stored pen, then the attributes are merged, with the directly-applied pen taking precedence.

Successive calls to this method will replace the active pen used, but if there is a saved state on the stack it will be merged with the rendering pen of the most recent saved state.

This method may be preferrable to passing pens into multiple text or erase calls as it may be more efficient than merging the same pen on every call. If the original pen is still required afterwards, the savepen / restore pair may be useful.

$rc->skip_at( $line, $col, $len )

Sets the range of cells given to a skipped state. No content will be drawn here, nor will any content existing on the window be erased.

Initially, or after calling reset, all cells are set to this state.

$rc->skip( $len )

Sets the range of cells at the virtual cursor position to a skipped state, and updates the position.

$rc->skip_to( $col )

Sets the range of cells from the virtual cursor position until before the given column to a skipped state, and updates the position to the column.

If the position is already past this column then the cursor is moved backwards and no buffer changes are made.

$rc->text_at( $line, $col, $text, $pen )

Sets the range of cells starting at the given position, to render the given text in the given pen.

$rc->text( $text, $pen )

Sets the range of cells at the virtual cursor position to render the given text in the given pen, and updates the position.

$rc->erase_at( $line, $col, $len, $pen )

Sets the range of cells given to erase with the given pen.

$rc->erase( $len, $pen )

Sets the range of cells at the virtual cursor position to erase with the given pen, and updates the position.

$rc->erase_to( $col, $pen )

Sets the range of cells from the virtual cursor position until before the given column to erase with the given pen, and updates the position to the column.

If the position is already past this column then the cursor is moved backwards and no buffer changes are made.


The render context buffer supports storing line-drawing characters in cells, and can merge line segments where they meet, attempting to draw the correct character for the segments that meet in each cell.

There are three exported constants giving supported styles of line drawing:


    A single, thin line


    A pair of double, thin lines


    A single, thick line

Note that linedrawing is performed by Unicode characters, and not every possible combination of line segments of differing styles meeting in a cell is supported by Unicode. The following sets of styles may be relied upon:

  • Any possible combination of only SINGLE segments, THICK segments, or both.

  • Any combination of only DOUBLE segments, except cells that only have one of the four borders occupied.

  • Any combination of SINGLE and DOUBLE segments except where the style changes between SINGLE to DOUBLE on a vertical or horizontal run.

Other combinations are not directly supported (i.e. any combination of DOUBLE and THICK in the same cell, or any attempt to change from SINGLE to DOUBLE in either the vertical or horizontal direction). To handle these cases, a cell may be rendered with a substitution character which replaces a DOUBLE or THICK segment with a SINGLE one within that cell. The effect will be the overall shape of the line is retained, but close to the edge or corner it will have the wrong segment type.

Conceptually, every cell involved in line drawing has a potential line segment type at each of its four borders to its neighbours. Horizontal lines are drawn though the vertical centre of each cell, and vertical lines are drawn through the horizontal centre.

There is a choice of how to handle the ends of line segments, as to whether the segment should go to the centre of each cell, or should continue through the entire body of the cell and stop at the boundary. By default line segments will start and end at the centre of the cells, so that horizontal and vertical lines meeting in a cell will form a neat corner. When drawing isolated lines such as horizontal or vertical rules, it is preferrable that the line go right through the cells at the start and end. To control this behaviour, the $caps bitmask is used. CAP_START and CAP_END state that the line should consume the whole of the start or end cell, respectively; CAP_BOTH is a convenient shortcut specifying both behaviours.

A rectangle may be formed by combining two hline_at and two vline_at calls, without end caps:

 $rc->hline_at( $top,    $left, $right, $style, $pen );
 $rc->hline_at( $bottom, $left, $right, $style, $pen );
 $rc->vline_at( $top, $bottom, $left,  $style, $pen );
 $rc->vline_at( $top, $bottom, $right, $style, $pen );

$rc->hline_at( $line, $startcol, $endcol, $style, $pen, $caps )

Draws a horizontal line between the given columns (both are inclusive), in the given line style, with the given pen.

$rc->vline_at( $startline, $endline, $col, $style, $pen, $caps )

Draws a vertical line between the centres of the given lines (both are inclusive), in the given line style, with the given pen.

$rc->char_at( $line, $col, $codepoint, $pen )

Sets the given cell to render the given Unicode character (as given by codepoint number, not character string) in the given pen.

While this is also achieveable by the text_at method, this method is implemented without storing a text segment, so can be more efficient than many single-column wide text_at calls. It will also be more efficient in the C library rewrite.

$rc->flush_to_window( $win )

Renders the stored content to the given Tickit::Window. After this, the context will be cleared and reset back to initial state.


As this code is still experimental, there are many planned features it currently lacks:

  • Hole regions, to directly support shadows made by floating windows.

  • Direct rendering to a Tickit::Term instead of a Window.


Paul Evans <>