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graph command#


The graph command generates a graphical representations of a topology.

The following graphing options are available:

  1. an HTML page served by containerlab web-server based on a user-provided HTML template and static files.
  2. Drawio ( diagram
  3. Mermaid.js graph description file that can be rendered in Markdown
  4. a graph description file in dot format that can be rendered using Graphviz or viewed online.1


The HTML-based graph representation is the default graphing option. The topology will be graphed and served online using the embedded web server.

The default graph template is based on the NeXt UI framework2.


To render a topology using this default graph engine:

containerlab graph -t <path/to/topo.clab.yml>

Layout and sorting#

Topology graph created with NeXt UI has some control elements that allow you to choose the color theme of the web view, scaling and panning. Besides these generic controls it is possible to enable auto-layout of the components using buttons at the top of the screen.

The graph engine can automatically pan and sort elements in your topology based on their role. We encode the role via group property of a node.

Today we have the following sort orders available to users:

sortOrder: ['10', '9', 'superspine', '8', 'dc-gw', '7', '6', 'spine', '5', '4', 'leaf', 'border-leaf', '3', 'server', '2', '1'],

The values are sorted so that 10 is placed higher in the hierarchy than 9 and so on.

Consider the following snippet:

    ### SPINES ###
      group: spine

    ### LEAFS ###
      group: leaf

    ### CLIENTS ###
      kind: linux
      group: server

The group property set to the predefined value will automatically auto-align the elements based on their role.


When graph command is called with the --drawio flag, containerlab will leverage the clab-io-draw project to generate the drawio file that represents the topology in a graphical form and can be imported into


When graph is called with the --mermaid flag containerlab generates a graph description file in Mermaid graph format. Several Markdown renders such as Github, Gitlab, and Notion support rendering embeded mermaid graphs in code blocks. If the results of the render are not satisfying the result can be imported into and further edited.


When graph command is called with the --dot flag, containerlab will generate a graph description file in dot format.

The dot file can be used to view the graphical representation of the topology either by rendering the dot file into a PNG file or using online dot viewer.

Online vs offline graphing#

If the lab is running containerlab will try to build the graph by inspecting the running containers which are part of the lab. This method provides additional details (like IP addresses). It is possible to opt out of this behavior by using the --offline flag.

If --offline flag was not provided and no containers were found matching the lab name, containerlab will use the topo file only (as if offline mode was set).


containerlab [global-flags] graph [local-flags]



With the global --topo | -t flag a user sets the path to the topology definition file that will be used to spin up a lab.

When the topology path refers to a directory, containerlab will look for a file with .clab.yml extension in that directory and use it as a topology definition file.

When the topology file flag is omitted, containerlab will try to find the matching file name by looking at the current working directory.

If more than one file is found for directory-based path or when the flag is omitted entirely, containerlab will fail with an error.


The --srv flag allows a user to customize the HTTP address and port for the web server. Default value is :50080.

A single path / is served, where the graph is generated based on either a default template or on the template supplied using --template.


The --template flag allows to customize the HTML based graph by supplying a user defined template that will be rendered and exposed on the address specified by --srv.


The --static-dir flag enables the embedded HTML web-server to serve static files from the specified directory. Must be used together with the --template flag.

With this flag, it is possible to link to local files (JS, CSS, fonts, etc.) from the custom HTML template.


With --drawio flag set, containerlab will generate the drawio file for the topology file found in the current working directory.


To change the version of the clab-io-draw container used to generate the drawio file, use the --drawio-version flag. The default value is latest.


With --dot flag provided containerlab will generate the dot file instead of serving the topology with embedded HTTP server.


With --mermaid flag provided containerlab will generate the mermaid file instead of serving the topology with embedded HTTP server.


With --mermaid-direction flag provided with --mermaid flag, containerlab adjusts direction of the generated graph. Accepted values are TB, TD, BT, RL, and LR.


The local --node-filter flag allows users to specify a subset of topology nodes targeted by graph command. The value of this flag is a comma-separated list of node names as they appear in the topology.

When a subset of nodes is specified, containerlab will only graph selected nodes and their links.


Render graph of topology on HTML server#

This will render the running lab if the lab is running and the topology file if it isn't. Default options will be used (HTML server running on port 50080).

containerlab graph -t /path/to/topo1.clab.yml

Render graph on specified http server port#

containerlab graph --topo /path/to/topo1.clab.yml --srv ":3002"

Render graph using a custom html template#

containerlab graph --topo /path/to/topo1.clab.yml --template my_template.html

The HTML server will use a custom template that links to local files located at /path/to/static_files directory

containerlab graph --topo /path/to/topo1.clab.yml --template my_template.html --static-dir /path/to/static_files

Generate a drawio file#

Execute the following command in the directory where a *.clab.yml file is located:

containerlab graph --drawio

  1. This method is prone to errors when node names contain dashes and special symbols. Use with caution, and prefer the HTML server alternative. 

  2. NeXt UI css/js files can be found at /etc/containerlab/templates/graph/nextui directory