ANSI CSI SGR Sequences in Rmarkdown

Brodie Gaslam

Browsers Do Not Interpret ANSI CSI SGR Sequences

Over the past few years color has been gaining traction in the R terminal, particularly since Gábor Csárdi’s crayon made it easy to format text with ANSI CSI SGR sequences. At the same time the advent of JJ Alaire and Yihui Xie rmarkdown and knitr packages, along with John MacFarlane pandoc, made it easy to automatically incorporate R code and output in HTML documents.

Unfortunately ANSI CSI SGR sequences are not recognized by web browsers and end up rendering weirdly1:

sgr.string <- c(
  "\033[43;34mday > night\033[0m",
  "\033[44;33mdawn < dusk\033[0m"
)
writeLines(sgr.string)
## �[43;34mday > night�[0m
## �[44;33mdawn < dusk�[0m

Automatically Convert ANSI CSI SGR to HTML

fansi provides the sgr_to_html function which converts the ANSI CSI SGR sequences into HTML markup. When we combine it with knitr::knit_hooks we can modify the rendering of the rmarkdown document such that ANSI CSI SGR encoding is shown in the equivalent HTML.

fansi::set_knit_hooks is a convenience function that does just this. You should call it in an rmarkdown document with the:

The corresponding rmarkdown hunk should look as follows:

```{r, comment="", results="asis"}
old.hooks <- fansi::set_knit_hooks(knitr::knit_hooks)
```

We run this function for its side effects, which cause the output to be displayed as intended:

writeLines(sgr.string)
## day > night
## dawn < dusk

We can also set hooks for the other types of outputs, and add some additional CSS styles.

```{r, comment="", results="asis"}
styles <- c(
  getOption("fansi.style"),  # default style
  "PRE.fansi CODE {background-color: transparent;}",
  "PRE.fansi-error {background-color: #DDAAAA;}",
  "PRE.fansi-warning {background-color: #DDDDAA;}",
  "PRE.fansi-message {background-color: #AAAADD;}"
)
old.hooks <- c(
  old.hooks,
  fansi::set_knit_hooks(
    knitr::knit_hooks,
    which=c("warning", "error", "message"),
    style=styles
) )
```
message(paste0(sgr.string, collapse="\n"))
## day > night
## dawn < dusk
warning(paste0(c("", sgr.string), collapse="\n"))
## Warning: 
## day > night
## dawn < dusk
stop(paste0(c("", sgr.string), collapse="\n"))
## Error in eval(expr, envir, enclos): 
## day > night
## dawn < dusk

You can restore the old hooks at any time in your document with:

do.call(knitr::knit_hooks$set, old.hooks)
writeLines(sgr.string)
## �[43;34mday > night�[0m
## �[44;33mdawn < dusk�[0m

See ?fansi::set_knit_hooks for details.

Crayon

If you use crayon to generate your ANSI CSI SGR style strings you may need to set options(crayon.enabled=TRUE), as in some cases crayon suppresses the SGR markup if it thinks it is not outputting to a terminal.


1For illustrative purposes we output raw ANSI CSI SGR sequences in this document. However, because the ESC control character causes problems with some HTML rendering services we replace it with the � symbol. Depending on the browser and process it would normally not be visible at all, or substituted with some other symbol.