Data Format and Document Model

Zefyr document model exists as a separate platform-agnostic library called Notus. Notus implements all building blocks of a rich text document and can be used separately from Zefyr on any platform supported by Dart SDK, e.g. web, desktop or server (macos, windows, linux) and, of course, mobile (ios, android).

Notus documents are based on Quill.js Delta format. Deltas are simple and expressive format of describing rich text data, and is also suitable for Operational transformations. The format is essentially JSON, and is human readable.

Official implementation of Delta format is written in JavaScript but it was ported to Dart and is available on Pub. Examples in this document use Dart syntax.

Deltas quick start

All Deltas consist of three operations: insert, delete and retain. The example below describes the string "Karl the Fog" where "Karl" is bolded and "Fog" is italic:

var delta = new Delta();
delta
..insert('Karl', {'bold': true})
..insert(' the ')
..insert('Fog', {'italic': true});
print(json.encode(delta));
// Prints:
// [
// {"insert":"Karl","attributes":{"bold":true}},
// {"insert":" the "},
// {"insert":"Fog","attributes":{"italic":true}}
// ]

Above delta is usually also called "document delta" because it consists of only insert operations.

Below example describes a change where "Fog" gets also styled as bold:

var delta = new Delta();
delta..retain(9)..retain(3, {'bold': true});
print(json.encode(delta));
// Prints:
// [{"retain":9},{"retain":3,"attributes":{"bold":true}}]

A simple way to visualize a change is as if it moves an imaginary cursor and applies modifications on the way. So with the above example, the first retain operation moves the cursor forward 9 characters. Then, second operation moves cursor additional 3 characters forward but also applies bold style to each character it passes.

The Delta library provides a way of composing such changes into documents or transforming against each other. E.g.:

var doc = new Delta();
doc
..insert('Karl', {'bold': true})
..insert(' the ')
..insert('Fog', {'italic': true});
var change = new Delta();
change..retain(9)..retain(3, {'bold': true});
var updatedDoc = doc.compose(change);
print(json.encode(updatedDoc));
// Prints:
// [
// {"insert":"Karl","attributes":{"bold":true}},
// {"insert":" the "},
// {"insert":"Fog","attributes":{"italic":true,"bold":true}}
// ]

These are the basics of Deltas. Read official documentation for more details.

Document model

Notus documents are represented as a tree of nodes. There are 3 main types of nodes:

  • LeafNode - a leaf node which represents a segment of styled text within a document. There are two kinds of leaf nodes - text and embeds.

  • LineNode - represents an individual line of text within a document. Line nodes are containers for leaf nodes.

  • Block - represents a group of adjacent lines which share the same style. Examples of blocks include lists, quotes or code blocks.

Given above description, here is ASCII-style visualization of a Notus document tree:

root
╠═ block
║ ╠═ line
║ ║ ╠═ text
║ ║ ╚═ text
║ ╚═ line
║ ╚═ text
╠═ line
║ ╚═ text
╚═ block
╚═ line
╠═ text
╚═ text

It is currently not allowed to nest blocks inside other blocks but this may change in the future.

All manipulations of Notus documents are designed strictly to match semantics of underlying Delta format. As a result the model itself is fairly simple and predictable.

Learn more about other building blocks of Notus documents in documentation for attributes and heuristics.