Crate cheddar[][src]

The Cheddar shading language.


Cheddar is a superset of GLSL that adds several features to augment GLSL:

  • Some non-valid GLSL constructions made valid in Cheddar to ease the writing of certain shader stages.
  • A more functional approach to programming shaders on the GPU.
  • Structures, types and GLSL-specific constructs sharing.
  • Imports and modules.

The language is presented as a DSL.

A functional shading language

Cheddar uses – for most constructs – the same syntax as GLSL. If you’ve been writing GLSL for a while, you’ll need something like twenty minutes to get your feet wet with Cheddar and start being productive with it.

The biggest change from GLSL is that Cheddar tries to be more functional. It’s still an imperative language; you can still create variables and mutably change their content. However, you don’t write to globals anymore (i.e. vertex attributes) or you don’t emit vertices and primitives anymore.

The core: the semantics functions

Semantics functions are functions you can declare that have a name that makes them special. Every programmer knows at least one semantics function: main. If a unit of code exports a function named main taking no argument and returning nothing, this function will be treated as the entry point of your binary for example. Cheddar uses this concept by recognizing several semantics functions.

Note: it’s possible to change the name of the function that a linker / compiler recognizes as the start routine. This is not currently possible with Cheddar, though.

Most of the semantics functions directly map to shader stages. With vanilla GLSL, if you want to write a vertex shader, you must provide a unit of code that exports a main function. That code will typically read vertex attributes via in declarations and will pass code to the next stage (typically a fragment shader, but it might be a geometry shader too, for instance).

This is a typical, boring vertex shader:

This example is not tested
layout (location = 0) in vec3 i_pos;
layout (location = 1) in vec4 i_col;

in vec4 o_col;

void main() {
  gl_Position = vec4(i_pos, 1.);
  o_col = i_col;

This simple vertex shader simply passes its color to the next stage.

Now let’s try to convert this snippet to Cheddar. First thing first, Cheddar doesn’t have the concept of a shader stage. Everything is a function. This enables better composition. The semantics function that maps to a vertex shader is the map_vertex function in Cheddar. Some rules and laws must be respected:

  • The signature of map_vertex is free, but:
    • It must return a user-defined type, which name is free.
    • It can have as many arguments as you want (even zero), that represent the inputs of the vertex shader. However, the types of those arguments must be compatible with GLSL vertex attributes.
    • If you want to ignore an argument, you can just omit its name but keep its type (like you would do in C for instance).
  • The type in return position must have at least one field which type is vec4 – its name is currently restricted and you must call it chdr_Position. This field represents the actual position of the computed output vertex and you won’t be able to read from it; you can only write to it. If you need it after map_vertex, you need to add another field to your struct. This limitation might be removed in a future release.

Cheddar doesn’t care about the order in which the functions and types appear, it will re-organize them when compiling.

The Cheddar for the snippet above could be:

This example is not tested
struct V {
  vec4 pos;
  vec4 col;

V map_vertex(vec3 pos, vec4 col) {
  return V(vec4(pos, 1.), col);

When compiled to GLSL, this Cheddar code will look like the former GLSL snippet above. You can see several interesting properties:

  • Globals (i.e. in) don’t exist anymore and are now function arguments.
  • You can ignore function arguments – e.g. V map_vertex(vec3 pos, vec4).
  • You don’t write to globals (i.e. out) anymore but return values.

In that sense, Cheddar is more functional than vanilla GLSL.

You will want to write a fragment shader to consume that color value. The principle is exactly the same: you need to write a semantics function that will accept this V type as single argument and return a user-defined type. This function must be named map_frag_data.

Let’s write a fragment shader that will display our vertices by using vertices’ colors:

This example is not tested
struct F {
  vec4 col;

F map_frag_data(V v) {
  return F(v.col);

That’s all! Finally, imagine that we want to insert a geometry shader between the vertex shader and the fragment shader. This is done by defining the concat_map_prim. This function is tricky because it returns nothing and acts as a generator. It takes two arguments:

  • The input patch type, in the form in YourType[dimension] binding_name.
    • YourType is your defined vertex type (in our case, it’d be V).
    • dimension is the number of vertices in the patch:
      • 1 will make you map over points.
      • 2 will make you map over lines.
      • 3 will make you map over triangles.
    • binding_name is whatever you want the argument to be called.
  • The output primitive type, in the form layout (output_prim, max_vertices = nb) out YourOutputType.
    • output_prim is the output primitive to use.
      • points will output simple points.
      • line_strip will output strip lines.
      • triangle_strip will output strip triangles.
    • nb is the maximum number of vertices you’ll output.

Here’s an example for our current example:

This example is not tested
struct GV {
  vec4 pos;
  vec4 col;
  vec3 normal;

void concat_map_prim(in V[3] verts, layout (triangle_strip, max_vertices = 3) out GV) {
  // …

Then the next thing you want to know is how you’re supposed to “generate” vertices and primitives. This is done by a set of semantics functions:

  • yield_vertex, which takes as single argument a vertex correctly typed (V in our case).
  • yield_primitive, which doesn’t take any argument.

Both the function return nothing. The former will yield the vertex you pass as argument and will send it to the current primitive. Strip primitives will then connect every vertex you yield until you call the yield_primitive function, that will yield the primitive with the previous points and eventually start another primitive if you issue other yield_vertex calls afterwards.

Finally, those functions are to be put in the same code unit. Cheddar doesn’t require you to pass different strings for different shader stages since the semantics functions have different signatures and names.

Constructs sharing

One major advantage of Cheddar is to enable constructs sharing. That is, most global symbols you use are shared between all the shader stages. This is not very surprising since we’ve been only defining functions so far, so why would we need to duplicate every types we used? Even though GLSL require you to duplicate struct, uniform and in / out declarations, Cheddar doesn’t and will perform everything under the hoods.

If you declare a type, such as:

This example is not tested
struct MySuperCoolType {
  float a;
  vec3 b;
  mat4 c;

And use it in several semantics functions (let’s say map_vertex and map_frag_data), Cheddar will automatically generate the vertex shader and the fragment shader with the same type definition for MySuperCoolType.

This sharing is active for:

  • struct definition.
  • Global const declarations. You’ll love defining PI once and for all!
  • uniform (both regular and blocks).
  • You don’t have to worry about in and out matching since everything is done at the function level and through your defined types.
  • Any function other than the semantics functions.

Modules and imports


Cheddar also comes with a mandatory features for refactoring and organizing one’s code: modules. Any piece of code you write belong to a module. For now, modules export all of the symbols defined in them.

A module has a name and it must be unique. The name has the form: and has a direct filesystem representation. Here, the module lives in the file at foo/bar/zoo.chdr.

Importing a module

A module can be imported with the use keyword – easy, same as Rust! – and items can be picked by enclosing them in ( ):

This example is not tested
use (PI)

Here, we import PI from

Disclaimer: currently, the import list is just a hint to the programmer and is not used by the Cheddar runtime. Every symbols are imported. This will be fixed in a future release.

Cheddar supports transitive dependencies and knows how to resolve the diamond problem for imports. It will also correctly catch dependency cycles, if you come accross any.

Note on warmy

Cheddar uses the warmy crate to provide you with modules and a simple dependency solver. The current situation is that Cheddar will not lookup the dependency of your module if you don’t ask it to do so. See the Module::substitute_imports function for further information on how to do so.

Because of using warmy, Cheddar also supports automatic live reloading the shading modules.

Note on validation

Currently, Cheddar does a very, very minimal job at validating your code. It checks, mostly:

  • The GLSL syntax via the glsl crate.
  • Some Cheddar constructs, like the types you provide or the fields in the vertex type, for instance.
  • Dependency module cycles.

The semantics of your code is not analyzed. That means that if you do something like float x = true;, Cheddar won’t complain.

Development to fix this is on the go but contributions are highly welcomed!

Note on tessellation control and evaluation shaders

Those two stages are yet to be integrated into Cheddar.



A non-empty import list.


A module.


Module fold (pipeline).


A module path is a non-empty list of module(s), representing a hierarchy.


A parse error. It contains an ErrorKind along with a String giving information on the reason why the parser failed.



Errors that can happen in dependencies.


GLSL conversion error.


Error that might happen while loading a Module.


Parse result. It can either be parsed, incomplete or errored.



Parse a Cheddar source from a bytes stream.


Parse a Cheddar source from a string.

Type Definitions


Expected number of arguments type helper.


Found number of arguments type helper.




Name of a module.


A symbol, living in a module.