AsciiDots - Documentation

AsciiDots is an esoteric programming language based on ascii art. In this language, dots, represented by periods (.), travel down ascii art paths and undergo operations.

Program Syntax


Starting a program

. (a period), or (a bullet symbol), signifies the starting location of a dot, the name for this language’s information-carrying unit. Each dot is initialized with both an id and value of 0.

Ending a program

Interpretation of a dots program ends when a dot passes over an &. It also ends when all dots die (i.e. they all pass over the end of a path into nothingness)


Everything after ` `` ` (two back ticks) is a comment and is ignored by the interpreter


| (vertical pipe symbol) is a vertical path that dots travel along
- is a horizontal path that dots travel along

Note: For the sake of clarity, only one path should be adjacent to a starting dot location, so that there is no question where it should go. The interpreter doesn’t make a fuss if you disregard this

Here’s an example program that just starts then ends (note that programs aren’t always written and run top-to-bottom):

. `` This is where the program starts
| `` The dot travels downwards
| `` Keep on going!
& `` The program ends

Think as these two paths as mirrors:

So… here’s a more complex program demonstrating the use of paths (it still just starts then ends):

/-&         `` This is where the program ends!
\-\ /-\
  | | |
/-/ | \-\
\---/   |
        \-. `` Here's where the program starts

Special Paths

+ is the crossing of paths (they do not interact)

> acts like a regular, 2-way, horizontal, path, except dots can be inserted into the path from the bottom or the top. Those dots will go to the right
< does likewise except new dots go to the left
^ (caret) does this but upwards
v (the lowercase letter ‘v’) does likewise but downwards

Here’s a way to bounce a dot backwards along its original path using these symbols:

/->-- `` Input/output comes through here
| |

But there is an easier way to do that:

( reflects a dot backwards along its original path. It accepts dot coming from the left, and lets them pass through to the right
) does likewise but for the opposite direction

* duplicates a dot and distributes copies including the original dot to all attached paths except the origin of dot

Here’s a fun example of using these special paths. Don’t worry—we’ll soon be able to do more than just start then end a program.

  /-\ /-& `` End
  | | |
    | | /-\
(-<-/ | | |
  |   \-<-/
    .    `` Start

IDs and Values

# sets the value of the dot to the value after it
@ does the same except it sets the id of the dot

The rationale behind having an id is so that dots can be differentiated without needing to reserve specific values as having special meaning (ex. saying -1 that means null).
The id can be set to a special value to differentiate dots.
The common use case of this is having the last dot in a stream of dots have a different id than the rest, that way the program knows when the stream has ended.

This sets the value of the dot to 7:

.-#7-& `` We'll actually do things soon, don't worry

This sets the id to 8:


By the end of this program, the dot’s value is 3:


By the end of this program, the dot’s value is 13 and its id is 99:


Interactive Console

$ is the output console. If there are single/double quotation marks (' or "), it outputs the text after it until there are closing quotation marks. # and @ are substituted with the dot’s value and id, respectively
    When _ follows a $, the program does not end printing with a newline.
    When not in quotes, if a a comes before a # or @ symbol, the value is converted to ascii before it is printed

Note: Double quotes (") are buffered. Single quotes (') are not buffered. The advantage of buffering is that it prevents race conditions from interleaving text.

Here’s how to set and then print a dot’s value:

  . `` This dot is the data carrier
  | `` Travel along these vertical paths
  # `` Set the value...
  3 ``   ... to 3
  | `` Continue down the path
  $ `` Output to the console...
  # ``   ... the dot's value

Here’s our hello world again:

.-$"Hello, World!"

Here’s how to print that character ‘h’ without a newline:


And this prints ‘%’ using the ascii code 37:


? is input from the console. It prompts the user for a value, and pauses until a value is entered in. It only runs after a # or @ symbol

  . `` Start
  # `` Get ready to set the value
  ? `` Prompt the user
  # `` Print that value to the console
    `` Since the only dot goes off the end of the path, it dies. Since no dots are left, the program ends

Control Flow

~ (tilde) redirects dots going through it horizontally to the upward path if a dot waiting at the bottom has a value not equal to 0. Otherwise, the dot continues horizontally. If an exclamation point (!) is under it, then it redirects the dot upwards only if the value of the dot waiting is equal to zero.
    ! acts like a pipe. Special function described above

This example prompts for a value then prints to the console whether the user provided value is equal to zero:

  /-$"The value is not equal to zero"
.-~-$"The value is equal to zero"


[*] multiplies the value that passes through vertically by the value that runs into it horizontally. When a dot arrive here, it waits for another dot to arrive from a perpendicular direction. When that dot arrives, the dot that arrived from the top or bottom has its value updated and it continues through the opposite side. The dot that passed through horizontally is deleted.
{*} does likewise except it multiplies the value that enters horizontally by the value that enters vertically. The resulting dot exits horizontally

Other operations work similarly but with a different symbol in the middle. This is the key to these symbols:
*: multiplication
/: division
+: addition
-: subtraction
%: modulus
^: exponent
&: boolean AND
o: boolean OR
x: boolean XOR
>: greater than
G: greater than or equal to
<: less than
L: less than or equal to
=: equal to
!: not equal to

Boolean operations return a dot with a value of 1 if the expression evaluates to true and 0 if false.

These characters are only considered operators when located within brackets. When outside of brackets, symbols like * perform their regular functions as described earlier.


`` Simple subtraction:
``   (3 - 2 = 1)


Add two user inputted values together then output the sum:


Some other useful characters include:
: - deletes dots traveling over it with a value of 0
; - deletes dots traveling over it with a value of 1


A warp is a character that teleports, or ‘warps’, a dot to the other occurrence of the same letter in the program.

Define warps at the beginning of the file by listing them after a %$. The %$ must be at the beginning of the line.



.-#9-A `` Create a dot, set its value to 9, then warp it

A-$#   `` Print the dot's value (9)

Here’s a fun example of using warps (although it is not very useful in this case)


#  /-)
$  |



Dots supports libraries! A library is a program that defines a character (usually a letter).

Using Libraries

A library can be imported by starting a line with %!, followed with the file name, followed with a single space and then the character that the library defines.

By default, all copies of the character to lead to the same (singleton) library code. This can cause some unexpected behavior if the library returns an old dot, since that old dot will come out of the char that it came from.

Here’s an example of importing the standard for_in_range library (located in the libs folder) as the character f:

%!for_in_range.dots f

The way to use a library varies. Inputs and outputs of the library are through the alias character.

For the for_in_range library, the inputs are defined as follows:

And the outputs are as follows:

Here is an example of outputting all the numbers between 1 and 100 to the console, then stopping the program:

%!for_in_range.dots f


Creating Libraries

Each library defined a character that will act as a warp to & from the library.

That can be done like so:

%$X `` X could be replaced with a different character, if so desired

It is recommended that you create warps for different sids of the char. Just look at the example code for the val_to_addr.dots library:



  |      |

Old Notation (Do not use!): The inputs/outputs for a library with the inputs/outputs like this (A is from the left, B from the top, etc):

 A + C

… Would be defined in the library’s code like this:


Note that letters other than those shown here may be used.

Unused inputs are replaced with an underscore (_). So, if the upper input/output is unused, the definition would look like this (note the underscore):


The letters defined then work like warps in the rest of the code. Remember that direction is preserved!

Here’s the code for a library that accepts a dot coming from the left, sets its value to its id, and then outputs it to the right:


`` Set id to zero, then add the value to the id (which is 0)

  |      |


Each tick, the dots will travel along the lines until they hit a charter that acts as a function of multiple dots (i.e. an operation character or a ~ character). The dot will stop if it goes on a path that it has already traversed in the same tick

Due to the fact that dots may be moving backwards down a line, if a number or system value (e.g. ?) is seen without a preceding @ or #, it will be ignored, along with any @ or # immediately thereafter

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.