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stack visualization tools


Stackvis is a command line tool and JavaScript library for visualizing call stacks. For an example, see This approach (and the code for the SVG-based flamegraph) is based heavily on Brendan Gregg's FlameGraph tools.


Profile a program for 30 seconds:

# dtrace -n 'profile-97/pid == $YOURPID/{ @[jstack(80, 8192)] = count(); }' -c "sleep 30" > dtrace.out

then translate the DTrace output into a flame graph:

# stackvis < dtrace.out > flamegraph.htm

Or, create the flame graph and share it on Joyent's Manta service:

# stackvis < dtrace.out | stackvis share


The default mode assumes input from a DTrace invocation like the above, and produces a D3-based visualization in a self-contained HTML file. You can explicitly specify input formats:

  • "dtrace" (the default)
  • "collapsed" (more easily grep'd through)
  • "perf" (from the Linux "perf" tool)
  • "stap" (from SystemTap)

as well as output formats:

  • "collapsed" (see above)
  • "flamegraph-svg" (traditional SVG-based flame graph)
  • "flamegraph-d3" (the default)

For example, to read "collapsed" output and produce a SVG flamegraph, use:

# stackvis collapsed flamegraph-svg < collapsed.out > flamegraph.svg

This module also provides the "stackcollapse" and "flamegraph" tools, which are essentially direct ports of the original FlameGraph tools. You can use them by first collecting data as above, then collapse common stacks:

# stackcollapse < dtrace.out > collapsed.out

then create a flame graph:

# flamegraph < collapsed.out > graph.svg

This approach is a little more verbose, but lets you filter out particular function names by grepping through the collapsed file.


The command-line tools are thin wrappers around the API, which is built upon a simple internal representation of stack traces and a bunch of Readers (lib/input-*.json) and Writers (lib/output-*.json) for various intermediate formats:

  • input-dtrace.js: reads stacks from the output of a DTrace profiling script
  • input-collapsed.js: reads data in the form used by the "stackcollapse" tool, where function offsets are stripped out, common stacks are collapsed, and there's one stack per line.
  • output-collapsed.js: writes stacks in above "collapsed" form
  • output-flamegraph-svg.js: writes stacks as a flame graph SVG
  • output-flamegraph-d3.js: writes stacks as a flame graph HTML file using D3

Client code shouldn't load these directly. Instead, require 'stackvis' and use lookupReader and lookupWriter:

var mod_stackvis = require('stackvis');
var dtrace_reader = mod_stackvis.readerLookup('dtrace');
var collapsed_writer = mod_stackvis.writerLookup('collapsed');

The main operation is translating from one representation to another (e.g., DTrace output to a flame graph) using pipeStacks() (which requires a Bunyan logger):

var mod_bunyan = require('bunyan');
var log = new mod_bunyan({ 'name': 'mytool', 'stream': process.stderr });
mod_stackvis.pipeStacks(log, process.stdin, dtrace_reader, collapsed_writer,
    process.stdout, function () { console.error('translation finished'); });

This example instantiates a new dtrace_reader to read DTrace output from process.stdin and then emits the result in collapsed form to process.stdout through the collapsed_writer.

Adding new readers and writers

It's easy to add new readers (for new input sources) and writers (for new types of visualizations). See lib/stackvis.js for an overview of how these interfaces work.


  • See about dealing with multiple "silos" of a single flame graph that are essentially the same, but differ in exactly one frame.
  • Experiment with flame graph coloring. Current options include random, gradient, and time-based. Another possibility is to use hue to denote the module and saturation to denote the size of a frame relative to others at the same level of depth.