Diagrams in Orgmode

Recently, I had to create a technical document for a project, and I started with org-mode since that was easiest.

Basic markup is easy in org, and was enough for me to get started.

In order to share with external parties, I exported to HTML. In past I had tried docx but that did not work well, I wanted to export to PDF, but it requires pdflatex which seemed a lot of hassle. I might do that later, but for now HTML was acceptable.

While I started playing with headers, especially related to export, I came across ditaa. It allows “text mode” diagrams into nice “gui mode” diagrams (for the lack of better word**

Demo pages looked awesome, but as with all things, it did not work for the first time.

evaluation of this code block is disabled

Removing org-plus-contrib and reinstalling helps resolve this issue.

I also had to specifically enable ditaa for org-babel (I’m not sure, whether this is mandatory)

     (ditaa . t)
     (python . t)

Could not find ditaa.jar at ~/.emacs.d/elpa/contrib/scripts

Once the original error went away, I ran into the above error. It is said that it is shipped with org-mode, but I guess not (Or at least not with spacemacs which I am using)

I downloaded latest ditaa (which comes in the form of a zip file) from here

Then manually copied ditaa.jar to ~/.emacs.d/elpa/contrib/scripts (The last two components did not exist, but I manually created them)

There is also another option. Add the following to your emacs config

(setq org-ditaa-jar-path "/path/to/ditaa.jar")

If and when I will need ditaa as a standalone program, I might switch to the second option. Till then only emacs/org needs this, so I am OK copying it under .emacs.d

Now, when I export to HTML, ditta block is evaluated ( I am asked for a confirmation) and beautiful PNG file is shown in the HTML.



Edit: As asked in the comments, here is a “show case” of what ditaa can do

The following block of code in the .org file produces the output shown below.

#+begin_src ditaa :file diag.png

/---------\    +-----------------+    /--------\
|  cBLU   |    |                 |    |  {s}   |
|   GUI   |<-->| REST API Server |<-->| RDBMS  |
|         |    |                 |    |        |
\---------/    +-----------------+    \--------/
                    | {d}   |
                    | Files |

In the sample above, I’ve tried to show case

  • Normal rectangle
  • Rectangle with rounded corners
  • Colored box
  • Dotted connector
  • Storage
  • Document

You can find more “samples” here


  • Read about ditaa here
  • Draw Class diagrams and/or sequence diagrams using PlantUML
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