Compiled parser combinators and regular expressions in pure julia
Author gkappler
47 Stars
Updated Last
1 Year Ago
Started In
April 2020

CombinedParsers in pure Julia

Dev Build Status Codecov A package for combining parsers and transforming strings into julia types.

Compose parsers parsimoneously within a functional parser combinator paradigm, utilize Julia's type inference for transformations, log conveniently for debugging, and let Julia compile your parser for performance.

Package Features

  • Speed
    • write parsers faster than Base.PCRE, optimized by the Julia compiler for parametric parser and state types.
    • @generated functions, trie-based scanning (example), compile with your custom parsing algorithm (example)
    • (planned: memoization, lazy transformations)
  • Simplicity
    • Clear @syntax integrates map transformations with Julia result_type inference.
    • Define without redundancy: parser, memory representation, and instance construction. When solely the parser is defined, Julia infers result_type(parser) and defines memory layout, and constructors are compiled for the parsing state from Transformations.
    • AbstractTrees.jl interface provides clearly layed out printing in the REPL. with_log provides colored logging of the parsing with_names.
  • Interoperability
    • TextParse.jl: existing TextParse.AbstractToken implementations can be used with CombinedParsers. CombinedParser provide TextParse.tryparsenext and can be used e.g. in CSV.jl.
    • Pure Julia regular expression parsers are provided with the @re_str macro, a plug-in replacement for Base.@r_str. Tested on the PCRE pattern test set.
  • Generality
    • All valid parsings can be Base.iterated lazily.
    • Higher-order parsers depending on the parsing state allow for not context-free parsers (after).
    • can process UTF8 strings or any sequence type supporting getindex, nextind, prevind methods.

Getting started

The Overview provides a tutorial explaining how to get started using CombinedParsers. The User guide provides a summary of CombinedParsers types and constructors. Some examples of packages using CombinedParsers can be found on the Examples page. See the [Index](@ref main-index) for the complete list of documented functions and types.

CombinedParsers.jl is a registered package (currently release-candiate).
Install with

] add CombinedParsers

You can get an 8-min idea of the package in comparison to Regex in my JuliaCon2020 talkJuliaCon2020 talk.

Example: rational numbers arithmetics

Parsing is reading and transforming a sequence of characters. CombinedParsers provides constructors to combine parsers and transform (sub-)parsings arbitrarily with julia syntax. Combinator constructors are discussed in the user guide.

using CombinedParsers
using TextParse

This example reads and evaluates arithmetical terms for rational numbers. The following defines an evaluating parser for rational number terms as sequences of subterms interleaved with operators. Sub-terms are Either fast TextParse.Numeric(Int) integer numbers, converted to Rational{Int}, or a subterm is written as parentheses around a nested term:

@syntax subterm = Either{Rational{Int}}(Any[TextParse.Numeric(Int)]);
@syntax for parenthesis in subterm
    mult         = evaluate |> join(subterm, CharIn("*/"), infix=:prefix )
    @syntax term = evaluate |> join(mult,    CharIn("+-"), infix=:prefix )

For parsing, @syntax registers a @term_string macro for parsing and transforming.

julia> term"(1+2)/5"

# The defined `CombinedParser` `term` can be used as a function for colorful logging of the parsing process.
julia> term("1/((1+2)*4+3*(5*2))",log = [:parenthesis])
   match parenthesis: 1/((1+2)*4+3*(
   match parenthesis: *4+3*(5*2))
   match parenthesis: 1/((1+2)*4+3*(5*2))

Is every rational answer ultimately the inverse of a universal question in life?

This CombinedParser definition in 5,5 lines is sufficient for doing arithmetics: Base.join(x,infix; infix=:prefix) is shorthand for x ``*`` ``Repeat``( infix * x ), and f |> parser is shorthand for map``(f,parser).

Note: The evaluate function definition is detailed in the full example.

julia> evaluate( (0, [ ('+',1), ('-',2) ]) )

julia> evaluate( (1, [ ('*',4), ('/',3) ]) )

Optimization Strategy

CombinedParsers.jl is tested against the C PCRE2 library testset. This strategy also allows for efficient benchmarking of code optimizations on many patterns, and runtime comparison with C PCRE2. C PCRE2 optimized is among the fastest regex libraries (second behind Rust, running mariomka's benchmark will position CombinedParser among its competition. Explorations for optimization are in git branches.

All benchmarks are wrong, but some are useful - Szilard, benchm-ml

The package is still young, and optimization is ongoing. If you are interested in and able to dive deeper into the Julia memory layout and compiler, I would gladly collaborate on further optimizations:

  • String layout: Parsing requires repeated Char comparisons. In UTF8, frequent characters are encoded shorter (8 bit), rare have longer codes. For this reason, in Julia String indices are not consecutive and transversal requires using infamous nextind and prevind. Profiling:
    • nextind and prevind comsume considerable time. Could be cached/memoized?
    • CombinedParsers currently operates on the result of getindex(::String,index)::Char (technically on iterate(::String,index)::Tuple{Char,Int}). Could matching use the raw byte representation directly?
  • Macros: make all iteration @generated functions using expressions generated by a dispatched iterate_expression that can be used in a macro @iterate to generate an unrolled/unnested iteration code. (Profiling hints that function calls do hardly contribute to runtime.)

Useful Design

  • WikitextParser.jl is a CombinedParser for parsing wikitext syntax, quite comprehensibly and representing Wikipedia articles within Julia.
  • OrgmodeParser.jl is a CombinedParser for parsing main org mode syntax, representing org files within Julia.
  • CombinedParserTools.jl is currently more or less my own workspace to provide a set of re-useable parsers, used in WikitextParser.
  • Tries.jl is the abstract implementation of the fast prefix-tree matching in CombinedParsers (see docs) If you want to work with any of these open source packages, I will gladly provide professional support. If you are writing your own recursive CombinedParser and seek inspiration, you might find these comprehensive examples interesting. (currently α release, so beware, dragons!)

The CombinedParsers design

  • is fast due to Julia parametric types, and compiler optimizations with generated functions,
  • its strictly typed parsing defines the domain data types,
  • is composable and optimizable with Julia method dispatch,
  • provides flexible public API for parsing, matching, iteration

Making Julia parametric types central for the parser design equally allows automation of the data pipeline after parsing!

  • fast db-indexing of text streams (e.g. logging): If you need support indexing logging streams into a (SQL-)Database, the (currently) proprietary TypeGraphs.jl provides CombinedParsers plug and play: Table schemas are infered from your parser.
  • fast HTTP-serving of parsed data: If you need support with a parsing server-client infrastructure, the (currently) proprietary GraphQLAlchemy.jl provides CombinedParsers plug and play: GraphQL schemas and resolver are infered from your parser.
  • fast out-of core data science/AI on your parsed data: If you need support with storing parsed data in optimized memory-mapped JuliaDB, TypeDB.jl provides CombinedParsers plug and play.
  • fast scientific measurements in a data graph: FilingForest IA.jl provides CombinedParsers plug and play: even for recursively nested data. All (currently) proprietary packages are default-over-configuration for fast integration, and are in active development.


This package is enabled only due to the Julia's compiler and superior type system. Thankfully: a really concise language for powerful computing!

I am thankful for contributions and inspiration from many great packages:


A bunch of fast text parsing tools, used in CSV.jl

CombinedParsers composes with fast TextParse.jl both ways because CombinedParser <: TextParse.AbstractToken and by providing a method for TextParse.tryparsenext, (leveraging the supreme Julia compiler, type and package architecture).

  • If you seek support with a dates parser example, please contact me.
  • If you seek support with a CSV example, please contact me (e.g. address text field parsing).


  • The work was strongly inspired by the great Scala fastparse package, and also the elm parser.
  • Parsers.jl, a collection of parsers for date and primitive types, inspired the parse methods.
  • Automa.jl, a Julia package for text validation, parsing, and tokenizing based on state machine compiler. The package compiles deterministic finite automata. (Currently there is no inter-operation possible, because in Automa processing of parsed tokens is done with actions and UTF8 support is lacking).
  • ParserCombinator.jl was a great inspiration. Yet I decided for a new design with a focus on transformations and type inference with parametric types, instead of basing this work off ParserCombinator, written before 2016 (and fixed for Julia 1.0 in 2018). CombinedParsers integrates into the Julia 1.0 Iteration API, small Union{Nothing,T} where T types instead of using Nullables, compiler optimizations and generated functions. I want to provide benchmarks comparisons with ParserCombinator.jl.

Next Steps

  • Syntax freeze -- your comments are appreciated!
  • decide for a error tracing strategy, backtracking. If you want to collaborate on stepping & debugging, please reach out to me.
  • Performance optimizations
  • streaming
  • test coverage underestimated (PCRE tests are not included in travis)
  • Code Style: Blue

Contributing and Questions

Contributions and feedback are very welcome, especially regarding brief syntax and constructor dispatch. Please open an issue if you encounter any problems or would just like to ask a question, or contact me at

Used By Packages

No packages found.