ANSI Art is a variant on ASCII Art which uses ANSI escape sequences in addition to ASCII characters in order to do things like changing colors. It also uses characters from the IBM PC code page which aren't part of ASCII, allowing a wider range of characters including various graphical symbols and box-drawing characters. This sort of art was popular on bulletin board systems in the late 1980s and early 1990s, and in other communities through the early 2000s. It is still being made in small quantities today.
The term "ANSI Art" sometimes refers to the file format (text with ANSI control sequences), and sometimes to the artwork itself. In the latter sense, "ANSI Art" graphics might be stored in a file format other than ANSI Art format, such as BIN or iCEDraw.
As far as we know, there is no formal specification of ANSI Art format. It has many variants and extensions, and there is usually no easy way to tell what variant you are dealing with.
In general, it consists of plain text interspersed with ANSI escape sequences. There may be SAUCE data at the end of the file. The text is usually (at least for English language artwork) encoded in CP437. The CP437 graphics characters at code points 1 through 31 are allowed, with some exceptions that are treated as C0 controls instead: 9 (tab), 10 (LF), 13 (CR), 26 (end of data), 27 (ESC). (There is talk of a "doorway" mode that makes it possible to use these forbidden CP437 graphics characters, but it's not clear how widely supported it is.)
Older ANSI Art files sometimes begin with a "preamble" consisting of Email/Usenet headers, or other plain text metadata or comments. The preamble will be immediately erased by the ANSI codes, so it is invisible when the file is viewed in a normal way.
Specifications and references
For information about the escape codes used in ANSI Art files, see ANSI escape code#Specifications. Only documents with information specific to ANSI Art are listed here.
- Ansilove: Open-source PHP-based tools to convert ANSI and similar formats to PNG images
- ACiD View: ANSI art (and other format) viewer for Windows
- TheDraw (Wikipedia)
- Sixteen Colors
- TEXTFILES: The ANSI Art Collection
- BBS Ninja
- ANSI escape code
- ArtWorx Data Format
- BIN (Binary Text)
- TheDraw font