The parsergen package

[ Tags: bsd3, data, library ] [ Propose Tags ]

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Dependencies base (>=3 && <5), bytestring (>=0.9 && <0.11), directory (>=1.1 && <2), filepath (>=1.2 && <2), parsec (==3.*), template-haskell (>=2.5 && <3) [details]
License BSD3
Author Michael Baikov
Category Data
Source repository head: git clone git://
Uploaded Wed Sep 19 06:52:14 UTC 2012 by JasperVanDerJeugt
Distributions NixOS:
Downloads 1518 total (9 in the last 30 days)
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parsergen is a library aimed at generating fast Haskell parsers for fixed width packets. It uses a DSL in which these packets can be specified, augmented with Haskell parsers.

In order to create a packet and a parser for it, usually two files are used, Foo.hs and Foo.ths.


Datatypes and parsers


Let's start by defining a datatype in the .ths file. The syntax here is:

  ConstructorName [fields prefix]
    [Nx] [_]FieldName [!] FieldType [+]FieldWidth [FieldParser]


  • TypeName: Name of the type itself, e.g. Maybe

  • ConstructorName: Name of constructor with given set of fields. If no prefix is provided, downcased capital letters from the constructor name will be used instead.

  • Nx: Number of times to repeat this matcher

  • FieldName: Name of the field which will be used (with constructor prefix prepended)

  • _: This field will be ignored (skipped if possible or parsed)

  • !: This field will be strict

  • FieldType: type name when using existing datatype, e.g. Int or ByteString, or a custom type Foo

  • FieldWidth: Number for size based parsing, e.g. 12. This field is needed to perform some optimisations as well, so you have to specify field width even if you going to specify FieldParser.

  • +: Only for numerical fields: the first character will be treated as the sign

  • FieldParser: A parser which will be used to parse it. This can be omitted for types such as Int or ByteString. Otherwise, you can either specify a fixed string or a parser of the type Parser.

In the .hs file, one can now use:

$(genDataTypeFromFile "Foo.ths")
$(genParserFromFile   "Foo.ths")

to generate a parser and a datatype for it.


Let's look at an example .ths file:

    _PacketType       ByteString     4  "WARN"
    DangerType        DangerType     2  dangerType
    ChanceOfSurvival  Int            3

    _PacketType       ByteString     4  "LOTT"
    Amount            Money         10
    6x WinningEntry   LotteryEntry   2

And the .hs file:

{-# LANGUAGE OverloadedStrings, TemplateHaskell #-}
import Data.ByteString (ByteString)
import ParserGen.Gen
import ParserGen.Repack  -- Needed later on
import qualified ParserGen.Parser as P

data DangerType
    = Earthquake
    | ZombieApocalypse
    | RobotUprising
    | AngryGirlfriend
    deriving (Eq, Show)

dangerType :: P.Parser DangerType
dangerType = do
    bs <- P.take 2
    case bs of
        "EQ" -> return Earthquake
        "ZA" -> return ZombieApocalypse
        "RI" -> return RobotUprising
        "AG" -> return AngryGirlfriend
        _    -> fail $ "Unknown danger type: " ++ show bs

newtype Money = Money Int
    deriving (Eq, Show)

type LotteryEntry = Int

$(genDataTypeFromFile "Packet.ths")
$(genParserFromFile   "Packet.ths")

sampleWarning :: ByteString
sampleWarning = "WARNRI002"

sampleLotteryWin :: ByteString
sampleLotteryWin = "LOTT9999999999040815162342"

main :: IO ()
main = do
    print $ P.parse parserForWarning sampleWarning
    print $ P.parse parserForLotteryWin sampleLotteryWin

The parsergen generates:

  • The Packet datatype
  • The parser functions parserForWarning, parserForLotteryWin :: Parser Packet

Note how we have used three kinds of parsers:

  • "WARN" is an example of a hardcoded string which the packet must match
  • dangerType is a custom parser, specified in the Haskell file
  • We don't specify parsers for numeral types, these are automatically derived (even for newtypes and type synonyms)


A powerful feature from the library, repackers allow us to change the contents of multiple fields without actually parsing a packet.


The syntax looks like this:

repackerForName ConstructorName
  FieldName [FieldUnParser]


Let's add the following the bottom of our .ths file:

repackerForLotteryNumbers LotteryWin

And the following to our Haskell file:

$(genRepackFromFile "Packet.ths")

which generates the function

repackerForLotteryNumbers :: [LotteryEntry] -> ByteString -> ByteString

Use it like:

print $ repackerForLotteryNumbers [1 .. 6] sampleLotteryWin

Things to note:

  • For numerical types, you don't need to specify an unparser, this is only needed for custom types. These should have the type SomeType -> ByteString.
  • The repacker will take a list when the field is repeated (e.g. 6x in this case) and a single value otherwise