This is a tool for generating sequence diagrams from
TLC state traces. It produces
SVGs that look like:

Sequence diagram

or like this PDF.

This tool is licensed under the MIT license.

Copyright: Erkki Seppälä [email protected] 2022

You can contact me also via

What is TLA+?

TLA+ (Temporal Logic of Actions+) is a way to describe the behavior of
an algorithm or a system at a high, yet in a very mathematically
precise manner. This allows one to reason about the system behavior in
a more accurate way than with a textual description of system
behavior. Combined with the tool TLC (Temporal Logic Checker) to do
checks with those models it increases the confidence of getting the
design right from the beginning—or later on finding corner cases in
the design that had not been detected by rigorous testing or code

You can learn more about TLA+ at the TLA+ home
. There’s even a

So what is this tool then?

When using TLC and an invariant you have set up for it fails, you end
up with a state dump. Sometimes this state dump can become unwieldy
or at least very slow to to analyze. This tool aims to help analyzing
certain kind of systems: the ones that are composed of individual
nodes exchanging messages with each other.

It achieves this by converting translated state traces into something
that’s very close to standard sequence diagrams. The only difference I
see compared to standard sequence diagrams is that the message sending
and reception are decoupled in the diagram: messages will be received
later—sometimes much later—compared to when they’ve been sent, and
other behavior can be interleaved during that time. I’m not sure if
the standard diagrams would also be able to express this, though, but
if this is the case then perhaps a lot of this SVG rendering code
would be needles :).

Any node can exchange messages with any other node, though the example
doesn’t yet demonstrate this.

The tool doesn’t try to avoid overlapping labels or lines with other
objects yet, but this is also something I’m planning to implement at
some point.

Trying out the example

  1. clone the repository, cd to it
  2. pip install . You may wish to sudo apt install python3-pillow first in Debian-based systems.
  3. cd examples
  4. run tlc pingpong | python -m tlsd to get sequence.svg

pingpong.cfg refers to ALIAS AliasMessages
where the ALIAS is defined in pingpong.tla
to produce output in the form the tool currently expects it at.

Theory of operation

At each state (in the dump) there is JSON value with the key
messages_json, which contains all the pending messages between
server and the clients. Currently the tool assumes there is a central
server all want to exchange messages with, as there is no way to
indicate which server a client is interacting with. There are two
kinds of channels in the example: ones from the server to the clients
and ones from the clients to the server.

Once a message appears in a channel (e.g. the channel is busy), it
is considered to be sent by the tool. Once a message disappears (no
longer busy) from the channel, it is considered to have been
received by the peer.


View Github