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Widelands Marathon Begins

# My personal Widelands Marathon

So, I finally handed in my PhD thesis. That does not mean that everything is said and done, there is still an oral examination, a 30 minutes talk and some demonstration stuff to be done. But it means that I am now officially out of my previous job.

That means, before I will start at Google in September, I have around three months to use for whatever I see fit (okay, okay, I also need to find a flat, move, prepare for the oral examination, prepare the demo, and organize a huge celebration. And I have some other obligations remaining). I want to use a lot of time for Widelands in these three months. To keep me on track and motivated, I decided to keep a development diary on this blog.

## First Project: Make the Widelands Help awesome

Venatrix, Astuur and others have begun the immense project to write a help for Widelands. I have provided a minimal framework to give buildings a help window via a Lua script in the building's directory. This is already immensely useful and significantly better than no help at all, but it feels rather limited: Widelands text handling and layouting capabilities are rather limited and there is currently no way to document other stuff than buildings. My first project for now is to improve this situation.

## Text layouting

Text layouting is a difficult problem, especially when we also consider internationalization (just think chinese for example). I started out by learning the various libraries that are around for this problem. There are two contenders, the fist is Pango, the second harfbuzz.

### Pango

Pango is the text layouting engine from the Gnome desktop environment. And it is well suited for this task. Using Cairo for rendering and its own (limited) markup language it is next to trivial to render a UTF-8 string with various languages to a rectangular grid. This is not enough for what I want though: Just think about an image inside a paragraph. Text should flow around it, therefore it needs to be broken into a non rectangular shape. This is not easy with Pango: It does provide a low level API to reflow text independently, but it is awkward and one looses at lot of what Pango is good at (like transparent handling of right-to-left text blocks).

Also, Pango does not allow to choose the TTF font file to use for rendering directly, instead relying on fontconfig to find a suitable system font. In Widelands, we would prefer to feed in our font files ourselves - so we can be sure that it looks the same, no matter what OS is used.

Pango is stable and used in a lot of products like Gnome. It is also what Wesnoth uses for most of its rendering needs. But for the (cool) Wesnoth help, it is in fact not used, likely because of the reflow problem I mentioned earlier.

Documentation for Pango is available in the form of a Doxygen output. This is a nice reference, but hardly more useful than the source code itself. There is also no easy tutorial that goes beyond the PangoLayout example that can only render in rectangles. Especially, there is no example how to add custom markup tags or how to do low(er) level layouting. The best I found is an old mailing list post that explains the steps needed to layout text oneself. I was able to stitch those hints together to a binary that does just that. But it is really awkward and it does not offer a lot of the functionality that the PangoLayout wrapper offers. I kinda feel this is a dead-end for now.

### Harfbuzz

Harfbuzz is a slightly lower level API that is in fact used by Pango. It allows to load TTF directly and offers more control over layouting. For rendering it also uses Cairo. Problem here is that there is no stable version - according to the homepage, the API might change till 1.0, the current version is 0.6. And there is no docu. Nada!

Luckily, there is a github user that provided an example that is very close to what I want to achieve and that shows off a lot of the features of harfbuzz. The API changes were already felt in this one year old example: some of the functions take other arguments now than they did back then, but it was really easy to figure out with the harfbuzz source code nearby. When run, the program shows the following window:

I am yet unaware if harfbuzz is also able to break text according to grammatic rules, but this looks promising.

Alright, so far for my two hours of Widelands for today.

Text Layouting Status Report

# Text Layouting Status Report

So, it took me two weeks to finally get around to a status report, and Peter even had to request it forcefully. But I have not been idle in this time. Let's see.

## Pango? Harfbuzz? SDL_TTF!

I spent quite some time investigating Pango and Harfbuzz, I blogged about it in my previous post. I knew back then already that Pango was not ideal and that even Wesnoth was not using Pango for their fancy help rendering (they use if for some other types of text though). I then investigated Harfbuzz further and though it seems like it will one day become what we need, it is not there. In fact, it does not even have a stable version currently released. It can handle international text pretty well, but it does not help in the left-to-right, top-to-bottom rendering of text, nor with the breaking of text into paragraphs.

So we are back to square one: The old-and-trusted SDL_TTF. I designed my code around SDL as graphics engine, the text rendering is kinda plugged in and uses SDL_TTF, but it should be easy to replace this with any other text engine when one establishes itself as the one - be it Pango or Harfbuzz or anything else in the future.

## What works?

I just finished my initial implementation of the engine - It has all the feature that Venatrix and myself have marked as desirable. Some of the feature (like tables) are rather rudimentary, but I think it should be enough for us. The whole engine is currently a stand alone library - in the next step, I will plug it into the Widelands code.

But let's move on to pretty pictures. Here are some examples.

<rt>
<sub padding=5 background=000000>
<sub width=350 background=win_bg.png padding=2>
<p align=center>
<font size=30 color=F2DF91 underline=true>This is a heading</font>
</p>
<vspace gap=2>
<sub margin=5 padding=5 background="ffffff" float=left>
<p><img src="wl-ico-128.png"></p>
<p align=center>
<font size=10>This is the subtext for the image. Kinda like a
caption.</font>
</p>
</sub>
<p indent=5>
<font color=FEFE00 size=14>
Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consetetur sadipscing elitr, <font
italic=true ref="hyperlink">sed diam nonumy</font> eirmod tempor <font
underline=1 ref="somereference">invidunt ut labore et</font> dolore
magna aliquyam erat, sed diam voluptua. At vero eos et accusam et justo
<font bold=true>duo dolores et ea rebum</font>. Stet clita kasd
gubergren, no sea takimata sanctus est Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet.
</font>
</p>
</sub>
</sub>
</rt>


This code renders to the following picture:

This already shows off some of the features: changing fonts inside a paragraph, sub layouts that can float inside the text. Margins and paddings for some elements (though this is not as fully featured as in HTML) and of course images. It also contains a ref attribute for a font tag which makes this part of the text clickable. This will make hyperlinks in the help possible.

Tables are kinda possible as well:

<rt>
<sub width=10></sub><sub width=240>
<p>
<sub width=80 background=638c57><p>Hello</p></sub><space><sub
width=80 background=42deb7><p>Nice</p></sub><space><sub
width=80 background=43f447><p>World</p></sub>
<br>

<sub width=80 background=404542 valign=center><p
align=center>Upsy</p></sub><space><sub
width=80 background=e21038><p>And more</p></sub><space><sub
width=80 background=0c7e8f valign=center><p>Thats all</p></sub>
<br>

</p>
</sub>
</rt>


Each row is a set of three fixed width cells separated by a <space> tag which expands as needed (in this case not at all). The lines are separated by a linebreak tag <br>. This kinda results in a table with fixed column count and width. Good enough for Widelands I hope:

Bullet point lists are possible as well:

<rt>
<p><font size=20 underline=1>A bullet list</font></p>
<sub padding=10 width=490>
<p>
<sub valign=top><p><space fill=" "><img
src=bullet.png></p></sub><sub width=450>
<p>
Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consetetur sadipscing elitr, sed diam nonumy
eirmod tempor.
</p>
</sub>

<sub valign=top><p><space fill=" "><img
src=bullet.png></p></sub><sub width=450>
<p>
Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consetetur sadipscing elitr, sed diam nonumy
eirmod tempor invidunt ut labore et dolore magna aliquyam erat, sed diam
voluptua. At vero eos et accusam et justo duo dolores et ea rebum. Stet
clita kasd gubergren, no sea takimata sanctus est Lorem ipsum dolor sit
amet.
</p>
</sub>

<sub valign=top><p><space fill=" "><img
src=bullet.png></p></sub><sub width=450>
<p>
Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consetetur sadipscing elitr, sed diam nonumy
eirmod tempor.
</p>
</sub>
</p>

</sub>
</rt>


This uses a lot of sub layouts to achieve the desired result. It does not read very nice, but which markup does? I plan to hide this all in some Lua functions, just as we are already doing for scenarios to make it all nice to use as well. This wall of text renders as

## What's next?

The next step is to integrate this layout engine into Widelands. Caching will be really important here, because rendering with SDL_TTF is very slow. I feel that the technical challenges of getting this engine on board will be surmountable, the one thing I am really not looking forward to is changing all rich texts that we already have to work with the new engine. Especially the hard coded texts inside the source, the files in txts/ and the early campaigns (barbarians and empire) will be a lot of tedious work. I hope some people hop on board to help me out with that.

Soo, expect a branch with this engine soonish on launchpad.