Parsing DSL inspired by Haskell library Parsec
0.2.0 Latest release released

crystal-parsec Build Status

This is a parsing library for the Crystal language inspired by the Haskell library Parsec. It allows you to build parsers by combining smaller parsers.

It is based on the functional programming library crz which adds ADTs and monadic do notation to the language.


require "parsec"
include Parsec


A Parser(T) is a parser that parses a value of type T.

p : Parser(T)

You can call .parse method on a parser with an input string to parse. It returns either a value of type T on successful parsing or a Parsec::ParseError with an error message (return type T | ParseError.

p.parse "some input string"

ParseError has a .message field that gives a human readable error message.

Basic parsers

The simplest parser is a char parser that parses and returns a single character. It's type is Parser(Char)

p = char 'c'
p.parse("c") # => 'c'
p.parse("d").message # => "Expected character 'c', found 'd'"

string parser parses a fixed string.

string("asdf").parse("asdf") # => "asdf"
string("asdf").parse("x") # => ParseError("Expected character 'a', found 'x'")

one_of takes a string and returns a parser that matches one of the characters in the given string.

one_of("abcd").parse("a") # => 'a'
one_of("abcd").parse("c") # => 'c'
one_of("abcd").parse("2") # => ParseError

none_of takes a string and returns a parser that matches all characters except the ones in the given string.

none_of(" \n\t").parse("a") # => 'a'

Parser.of takes a value and returns a parser that consumes no input, and returns the given value unconditionally. What's the use of this parser? It's useful for sequencing as you'll see later.

Parser.of(2).parse("asdf") # => 2
Parser.of("asdf").parse("") # => "asdf"

fail takes an error message and returns a parser that unconditionally fails using the given message. This is useful for error handling.

Combining parsers

Or combinator

The | operator on parsers returns a parser that matches both the parser on it's LHS and RHS. It first tries the LHS, if it fails, then tries RHS.

digit = one_of "1234567890"
alphabet = one_of "qwertyuiopasdfghjklzxcvbnm"
alphanum = digit | alphabet
alphanum.parse("a") # => 'a'
alphanum.parse("1") # => '1'

Both sides of the | operator should be of the same type. You cannot, for example combine a Parser(Char) and a Parser(String).


It takes a parser and returns a parser that parses 0 or more instances of that parser. It's type is Parser(A) -> Parser(Array(A))

many(digit).parse("") # => []
many(digit).parse("1") # => ['1']
many(digit).parse("1234") # => ['1', '2', '3', '4']


It is like many, but it needs atleast one instance. It won't return an empty array.

one_or_more(digit).parse("") # => ParseError
one_or_more(digit).parse("2") # => ['2']


It takes two parsers. It parses an array of first parser, seperated by the second parser.

sep_by(digit, char(','))
  .parse("1,2,3,4") # => ['1', '2', '3', '4']

Transforming the result of parsers

The .map method on parsers is used to transform the result of a given parser using a given block. It takes a block and returns a parser that parses using self and passes the result through the block.

# take a char array and concatenate it's elements
# into a string
def concatenate(arr)
  result = ""
    arr.each do |char|
      result += char.to_s

puts many_1(digit)
  .map {|arr| concatenate(arr) } # concatenate
  .map {|x| x.to_i } # convert to int
  .parse("233") # => 233

Sequencing parsers

You can sequence multiple parsers using the bind method. The type signature of bind is (A -> Parser(B)) : Parser(B) where Parser(A) is the type of the parser it is called on. It takes the result of the parser it is called on, passes the result to the supplied block and returns the result of the block. It is like map but instead of taking a block that returns a value, it takes a block that returns another parser. This is used when you want to parse using multiple parsers in sequence possibly using the result of each step for the next.

alphabets = many_1(alphabet).map {|arr| concatenate(arr) }
digits    = many_1(digit).map {|arr| concatenate(arr) }
  .map {|x| x.to_i }
parser = alphabets.bind do |name|
  digits.bind do |number|
    Parser.of({name, number})
parser.parse("asdf23") # => {"asdf", 23}

When you want to sequence a lot of parsers, nested binds can become tedious and unreadable. To solve this problem, you can flatten out bind sequences using the crz macro mdo. Using the macro, the previous parser would look like this

  name <= alphabets,
  number <= digits,
  Parser.of({name, number})

This is much more readable in sequences of multiple parsers. You can use regular assignments in mdo blocks too.

  name <= alphabets,
  num_arr <= many_1(digit),
  concatenated = concatenate(num_arr),
  number = concatenated.to_i,
  Parser.of({name, number})
}).parse("asdf123") # => {"asdf", 123}

Use <= when the RHS is a parser and = when it is a normal value.

Always make sure that the last line in an mdo block is wrapped in a parser using Parser.of.

Mutual recursion

If you have multiple parsers that depend on each other, you can wrap them in a block so that they can be referred to before definition.

def value_p
  number_p | string_p | array_p

def array_p
    _ <= char('['),
    arr <= sep_by(value_p, char(',')),
    _ <= char(']')

For recursive and mutually recursive parsers, you may need to cast parsers to their type because type inference may not be able to infer their types.

For example, this is directly from the JSON example in the examples directory.

def json_p : Parser(JSON)
  array_p | bool_p | null_p | jstring_p | number_p | object_p

def array_p
    _   <= char('['),
    arr <= sep_by( Parser(JSON), comma),
    _   <= char(']'),
  }).map {|a| JSON }

Notice that even though return type of json_p is annotated, it still needs to be cast to Parser(JSON) when being used in array_p using .as method.

Other combinators

The >> operator is used to sequence two parsers and discard the result of the left parser, returning the result of the right parser.

p = string("asdf") >> string("abcd")
p.parse("asdfabcd") # => "abcd"

The << operator sequences parsers but returns the result of the first parser, ignoring the result of second parser.

p = string("asdf") << string("abcd")
p.parse("asdfabcd") # => "asdf"

Custom parsers

You can create custom parsers by calling with block argument of type ParseState -> ParseResult(A) where A is the result type of your parser. ParseState has two members, .input and .offset. input is the input string and offset is the current index into the input string. ParseResult is an abstract base class with two constructors, ParseState::Error(A).new "Error message", indicating parse error, and, new_state) indicating success. To create a new ParseState from an existing state, you can call the .advance method with an integer argument indicating the number of characters you want to advance by. If argument is not given, it advances by one character. advance

For example, here's the implementation of the char function.

def char(c : Char) : Parser(Char) do |state|
    if state.offset >= state.input.size
      ParseResult::Error(Char).new "Expected '#{c}' found end of string"
    elsif state.input[state.offset] == c c, state.advance
      ParseResult::Error(Char).new "Expected '#{c}' found '#{state.input[state.offset]}'"

Check out the json example for a partial JSON parser example.

  github: dhruvrajvanshi/crystal-parsec
  version: ~> 0.2.0
License MIT
Crystal none

Dependencies 1

  • crz ~> 0.2.0
    {'git' => '', 'version' => '~> 0.2.0'}

Development Dependencies 0

Dependents 0

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