Displaying rich content

The Jupyter rich display system allows displaying rich content in the Jupyter notebook and other frontend.

This is achieved by sending mime bundles to the front-end containing various representations of the data that the frontend may use.

A mime bundle may contain multiple alternative representations of the same object for example

  • a text/html representation for the notebook and other web frontends.

  • a text/plain representation for the console.

Besides plain text and html, other mime type can be used such as image/png or even custom mime type for which a renderer is available in the front-end.

Default plain text representation

By default, xeus-cling provides a plain text representation for any object.

In the case of a basic type such as double or int, the value will be displayed.

For sequences (exposing an iterator pair begin / end), the content of the sequence is also displayed.

Finally, for more conplex types, the address of the object is displayed.

Providing custom mime representations for user-defined types

For a user-defined class myns::foo, you can easily provide a mime representation taylored to your needs such as a styled html table including the values of various attributes.

This can be achieved by simply overloading the function

nlohmann_json mime_bundle_repr(const foo&);

in the same namespace myns as foo.

The rich display mechanism of xeus-cling will pick up this function through argument-dependent-lookup (ADL) and make use of it upon display.

Example: image/png representation of an image class

In this example, the im::image class holds a buffer read from a file. The mime_bundle_repr overload defined in the same namespace simply forwards the buffer to the frontend.

#include <string>
#include <fstream>

#include "xtl/xbase64.hpp"
#include "nlohmann/json.hpp"

namespace im
    struct image
        inline image(const std::string& filename)
            std::ifstream fin(filename, std::ios::binary);
            m_buffer << fin.rdbuf();

        std::stringstream m_buffer;

    nlohmann::json mime_bundle_repr(const image& i)
        auto bundle = nlohmann::json::object();
        bundle["image/png"] = xtl::base64encode(i.m_buffer.str());
        return bundle;

Displaying content in the frontend

The first way to display an object in the front-end is to omit the last semicolon of a code cell. When doing so, the last expression will be displayed.

Another way of achieving this, is to include the xcpp::display function and passing the object to display. xcpp::display is defined in the <xcpp/xdisplay.hpp> header.



A subtle distinction between using xcpp::display and omitting the last semicolon is that the latter results in a cell output including a prompt number, while the former will only show the rich front-end representation.

This behavior is consistent to the Python kernel implementation where 1 results in an output while print(1) result in a display message.