Because the best graphics is text

Fossil Draw - ASCII Text Chart and Block Diagram Software

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Free online web-based ASCII text drawing program. Draw diagrams, flowcharts, boxes.

Advantages of ASCII Text Diagrams

  • Simple and reliable integration of diagrams into documents.
    - No fooling around with OLE, or learning the quirks of each program's built-in drawing feature, or copying and pasting screen grab bitmaps from Visio.
  • Good long-term maintainability.
    - Text diagrams are guaranteed editable, years in the future. Even if the original drawing software is no longer available, you can still edit your diagrams with any text editor, albeit with more effort.
  • The only choice for pure text files.
    - Embed diagrams into program source code, configuration files.
  • Searchable.
    - Words in the diagram can be searched (and if on the web, indexed by search engines), just like other text.
  • No resolution worries.
    - Resolution will automatically scale with the resolution of output device, including 600 dpi printers. No blurred interpolated bit maps, especially of the text within.
  • Retro-chic.
  • Just the basics.
    - The simplicity of text diagrams focuses attention on the information presented, without distracting extraneous frills.

I'm convinced! I want to Draw!

     |                                      
 Internet                                   
     |                                      
     |                                      
     |                                      
+---------+            In=25,     In=80,    
|         | DMZ                             
|Firewall |----------------+----------+     
|         |            Out=25     443 |     
+---------+                |          |     
     |                +---------++---------+
 Intranet             |Email    ||Web      |
     |                |server   ||server   |
     |                |         ||         |
     |                +---------++---------+
     |     +---------+                      
     |     |Web proxy|                      
     +-----|server   |                      
     |     |         |                      
     |     +---------+                      

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Features of Fossil Draw

  • Web-based: no software installation required.
    - Wide browser compatibility: CGI (PHP) based, with minimal JavaScript.
    - Nothing to be blocked by packet-inspection firewalls (e.g. applets) or web browser security settings (e.g. advanced JavaScript functions).
    - Accessible from Mac, Windows, Unix, Linux clients.

  • Simple high-level cell-based interface.
    - Regular grid layout of all elements results in quick and easy creation of diagrams.  
    - Text is auto-wrapped to fit within cells.
    - Cells can be resized to fit longer text. All cells are resized together, keeping the diagram layout unchanged.
    - Connecting lines are forced into a systematic orthogonal layout, resulting in clear easy-to-understand diagrams.
    - Boxes can be joined to form larger boxes, allowing some flexibility within the cell-based layout.

  • All diagram parameters saved in URL string.
    - Save diagrams for later editing simply by saving the URL. You can even save the URL in your final document, beneath the diagram, to allow easy updating of the diagram.
    - Email editable diagrams to friends by emailing the URL. They don't need to install any software, or even use the same operating system.

  • Comprehensive list of editing features.
    - Insert/delete, copy/paste, zoom, scroll, grid on/off, undo/redo.
    - Available symbols: box, line, corner, tee, arrow, diamond (Flowchart decision), subroutine, triangle, man.

  • Command-line option for mouse-free operation.

I'm convinced! I want to Draw!



                      +---------+ 
                    \ |Compare  | 
     +--------------->|current  | 
     |              / |word     | 
     |                +---------+ 
     |                     | 
     |                     | 
     |                     | 
     |                    \|/ 
     |                     V 
     |                 /       \  Yes 
     |                /Match?   \ 
     |                           -----+ 
     |                \         /     | 
     |                 \       /      | 
     |                     |          | 
     |                 No  |          | 
     |                     |          | 
     |                    \|/        \|/ 
     |                     V          V 
     |                +---------++---------+ 
     |                |Get next ||         | 
     +----------------|word     ||Return   | 
                      |         ||         | 
                      +---------++---------+ 

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Limitations

  • Designed for small to medium diagrams.
    - Maximum diagram size is roughly one or two pages.
    - Diagram complexity is limited by URL length (HTTP GET storage) of 2048 bytes. Cells are stored as a sparse array, empty cells take up no storage.
    - Current diagram dimension limit is 26 rows by 26 columns of cells. Cell width (in characters) is set to 1 + (cell height x 2). Maximum cell height is 15 characters, minimum is 3.
  • Web based.
    - Need to wait for server response
    - Must be Internet-connected to use.
    - No special high availability hardware is used for the web server. Annual average uptime is estimated to be two nines (99 percent).
  • Cell based.
    - Diagrams are not optimally compact as all elements take up one cell space each.

I don't care! I still want to Draw!

Applications

Fossil Draw can be used for

  • Network diagrams
  • Flowcharts
  • System block diagrams
  • Event sequence diagrams
  • Organization charts, decision trees or other hierarchical/tree-structured diagrams
  • Electrical circuit diagrams
  • Ladder logic diagrams (PLC)

Long Term Availability

Due to the low cost of domain name registration, and of hosting such light-weight web applications, we should be able to keep Fossil Draw available for years. Fossil Draw has been available since 2007.

If we ever do go out of business, full source code will be made available, somehow, somewhere on the Internet.

To support this website, tell your friends about it.

             +-----------+                          
             |           |                          
             |Team lead  |                          
             |           |                          
             |           |                          
             +-----------+                          
                   |                                
                   |                                
      +------------+------------+                   
      |                         |                   
      |                         |                   
      |                         |                   
+-----------+             +-----------+             
|           |             |           |             
|Development|             |Test       |             
|           |             |           |             
|           |             |           |             
+-----------+             +-----------+             
      |      +-----------+      |      +-----------+
      |      |           |      |      |           |
      +------|User guide |      +------|Test       |
      |      |           |      |      |procedures |
      |      |           |      |      |           |
      |      +-----------+      |      +-----------+
      |      +-----------+      |      +-----------+
      |      |           |      |      |           |
      +------|Coding     |      +------|Unit and   |
      |      |           |      |      |functional |
      |      |           |      |      |           |
      |      +-----------+      |      +-----------+
      |      +-----------+      |      +-----------+
      |      |           |      |      |           |
      +------|Customer   |      +------|System and |
             |Liason     |             |stress     |
             |           |             |           |
             +-----------+             +-----------+

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Terms and Conditions

Use at your own risk.

Do not use for safety-critical applications.

As communication with the server is not encrypted, do not place confidential information in the diagrams.

Links

Fossil Draw URLs too long? Go to http://www.tinyurl.com to shrink the length.

For other web-based tools, see http://www.fossiltoys.com

Contact

Suggestions, complaints, compliments? Email

Prefix email subject line with "Fossil Draw".

If you need help, email the URL of your diagram together with a screen grab of any error messages (Press PrtScr on your keyboard, then paste into your email. For some notebooks you mgiht need to press Fn-PrtScr.).


        PC                  
   +-------------+          
   |             |          
   |   +-----+   |    LAN   
   |   |RAM  |   +----------
   |   +-----+   |          
   |   +-----+   |          
   |   |CPU  |   |          
   |   +-----+   |          
   |             |          
   +-------------+     

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