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Trivial Lua human-readable binary-safe serialization library

README.md

luatexts: Trivial Lua human-readable binary-safe serialization library

See the copyright information in the file named COPYRIGHT.

Why not...

  • XML — large and unwieldy
  • JSON — not Lua-aware (can't encode table-as-key and other fancy values)
  • Lua code — needs sandboxing, slower load times
  • Luabins — is too binary for some languages
  • ...

Inspired by

Supported data types

  • nil
  • boolean
  • number
  • string
  • table (no references)

Format

Note on human-readability

Note that while human-readability is one of design goals, nobody claims that the actual data is easy to read or write by hand.

You can do it, but you're better off using some API instead.

If you often need to work with luatexts data manually for purposes other than debugging, consider using something more friendly like JSON or XML or sandboxed Lua code.

Definition

The luatexts format is defined as follows:

<unsigned-data-base-10:tuple-size>\n
<type1>\n
<data1>
...
<typeN>\n
<dataN>

\n here and below may be either LF or CRLF

Types

  • Nil
    • type: -
    • data: (none)
  • Boolean (false)
    • type: 0
    • data: (none)
  • Boolean (true)
    • type: 1
    • data: (none)
  • Number (double)
    • type: N
    • data: plain string representation, readable by strtod\n
  • Number (unsigned integer, base 10, max: 4294967295)
    • type: U
    • data: [0-9]+\n
  • Number (unsigned integer, base 16, max: 4294967295)
    • type: H
    • data: plain string representation, readable by strtoul\n
  • Number (unsigned integer, base 36, max: 4294967295)
    • type: Z
    • data: plain string representation, readable by strtoul\n
  • String (regular)

    • type: S
    • data:

          <unsigned-data-base-10:size-in-bytes>\n
          <string-data, "binary" stuff supported>\n
      
  • String (UTF-8)

    • type: 8
    • data:

          <unsigned-data-base-10:length-in-codepoints>\n
          <string-data, only valid UTF-8 supported, without BOM>\n
      
  • Fixed-size table

    • type: T
    • data:

          <unsigned-data-base-10:array-size>\n
          <unsigned-data-base-10:hash-size>\n
          <array-item-1>
          ...
          <array-item-N>
          <hash-key-1>
          <hash-value-1>
          ...
          <hash-key-N>
          <hash-value-N>
      
  • Streaming-friendly table

    • type: t
    • data:

          <key-1>\n
          <value-1>\n
          ...
          <hash-key-N>
          <hash-value-N>
          <nil-value>
      

Notes on table data type:

  • Nested tables are supported;
  • references in tables are not supported (saved as separate tables);
  • if table references itself, it can not be saved;
  • array/hash separation is optional, encoder can opt to use hash part only, (but decoder must support both);
  • array part may include nil values (hash values may be nil as well);
  • table keys may not be NaN or nil.

Examples

Everything on the line after \n is comments, do not put them into your data.

  • Zero-sized tuple

    In Lua:

      return
    

    In luatexts:

      0\n ; == Tuple size ==
    
  • Mutiple values in tuple

    In Lua:

      return 42, "Hello, world!\n", true
    

    In luatexts:

      3\n               ; == Tuple size ==
      N\n               ; -- Number --
      42\n              ; Number value
      S\n               ; -- String --
      13\n              ; String size in bytes
      Hello, world!\n\n ; String data
      1\n               ; -- Boolean true --
    
  • Simple table

    In Lua:

      return { 42 }
    

    In luatexts:

      1\n  ; == Tuple size ==
      T\n  ; -- Table --
      1\n  ; Array part size
      0\n  ; Hash part size
      N\n  ; [1]: -- Number --
      42\n ; [1]: Number value
    

    In luatexts (equivalent):

      1\n  ; == Tuple size ==
      T\n  ; -- Table --
      0\n  ; Array part size
      1\n  ; Hash part size
      N\n  ; Key: -- Number --
      1\n  ; Key: Number value
      N\n  ; Value: -- Number --
      42\n ; Value: Number value
    

Array vs. hash parts of a table

Note that, as far as Lua implementation is concerned, it does not matter much if you put a value in array part or in hash part of a table in your luatexts data.

As in Lua table constructor, you can even put a value for the same key both in array and in hash part of a table:

In Lua:

  return { 3.14, [1] = 2.71 }

In luatexts:

  1\n    ; == Tuple size ==
  T\n    ; -- Table --
  1\n    ; Array part size
  1\n    ; Hash part size
  N\n    ; [1]: -- Number --
  3.14\n ; [1]: Number value
  N\n    ; Key: -- Number --
  1\n    ; Key: Number value
  N\n    ; Value: -- Number --
  2.71\n ; Value: Number value

As in Lua, it is not defined which one of values would end up in the loaded table.

Regular strings vs. UTF-8 strings

Regular strings are treated just as a blob of bytes. Their size is specified in bytes, and reader implementation never looks inside the string data. You can pass any data, including something binary as a regular string. (Obviously, you can also pass UTF-8 strings as regular strings.)

UTF-8 strings are honestly treated as UTF-8 data. Their size is specified in codepoints, and reader implementation does read UTF-8 codepoints one-by-one, doing the full validation. You can only pass valid UTF-8 text data as an UTF-8 string.

Apart from validation, in Lua implementation it does not matter much, if you used regular string or UTF-8 string type to represent your data. But UTF-8 strings are handy if you compose your data payload from the language that does not know anything about bytes.

Security notes

Protect from memory attacks by limiting the payload string size. Luatexts does not do that for you.

Mini-FAQ

  1. Why no load() in other language versions?

    Did not have time to write them yet. Do not need them personally, because I always try to feed the data to the consumer in the format consumer understands best.

  2. What if I need one of these missing functions?

    • Use luabins or other feature-complete serialization library.

    • Write it yourself (it is easy!) and send @agladysh a pull request.

    • Ask @agladysh nicely.

  1. When to use luatexts and when luabins?

    • Use either of them when data consumer is Lua code. Outside of that both formats are of limited usefulness, since they follow Lua-specific data semantics closely.

    • If data producer language does have luabins or luatexts bindings, use them. If both are available, prefer luabins for speed, luatexts for human-readability.

    • If data producer language does not have existing bindings and it is C-aware, use luabins, as it has Lua-less C serialization API. I would appreciate if you would share your bindings code with the community, but it is not mandatory.

    • Otherwise, if data producer language is not C-aware, use luatexts, as luatexts format writer it is more trivial to implement (see JS API for an example). Again, I would greatly appreciate if you will share your implementation with the community, but it is not mandatory.

  1. Should I use "length in characters" or "length in codepoints" for String (UTF-8)?

    Use length in codepoints (UTF-8 is complex). In JavaScript String.length() returns length in codepoints, so that is not a problem.

    If unsure which is which (and using something more aware about bytes that JavaScript), just use String (regular).

API

Lua (C API)

local luatexts = require 'luatexts'
  • luatexts.load(data : string) : true, ... / nil, err

    Returns unserialized data tuple (as multiple return values). Tuples may be of zero values.

Lua (Plain)

This module is primarily used in tests. It may be considered as a reference implementation of luatexts data serializer.

local luatexts_lua = require 'luatexts.lua'
  • luatexts_lua.save(...) : string / nil, err

    Serializes given data tuple. Returns nil, err on error.

    Uses fixed-table data type to serialize tables.

    Issues:

    • Throws error() on self-referencing tables.
    • Asserts if detects non-serializable value inside a table.

    (Both issues to be fixed in later revisions.)

  • luatexts_lua.save_cat(cat : function, ...) : cat / nil, err

    Serializes given data tuple to cat() function. Throws on error.

    cat(v : string|number) : cat
    

    Uses streaming-friendly-table data type to serialize tables. Useful for serialization to streams (e.g. files / stdout).

  • luatexts_lua.load(data : string) : true, ... / nil, err

    Returns unserialized data tuple (as multiple return values). Tuples may be of zero values.

    Issues (to be fixed in later revisions):

    • Does not support loading UTF-8 string value type. Use ordinary string value data to pass UTF-8 data instead. (You'll need to know its size in bytes, of course.)
  • luatexts_lua.load_from_buffer(buf : buffer) : true, ... / nil, err

    Returns unserialized data tuple (as multiple return values). Tuples may be of zero values.

    The buffer object must have following methods:

    • buf:read(bytes : number) : string / nil

      Reads specified number of bytes from the buffer and returns them as string.

      Returns nil and sets buffer state to failed on error.

    • buf:readpattern(lua_pattern : string) : string / nil

      Reads specified Lua pattern from the buffer, and returns captures.

      Pattern is guaranteed to have at least one capture (including () positional capture), and to terminate with '\n' character.

      Returns nil and sets buffer state to failed on error (including the case when pattern does not match anything, or if there is any unread data in the buffer before pattern).

    • buf:good() : boolean

      Returns false if buffer state is failed, true otherwise.

    • buf:fail(error_message : string) : none

      Sets buffer state to failed with a given error_message.

    • buf:result() : true | nil, error_message

      Returns true if buffer state is good. Returns nil, error_message if buffer state is failed.

    You may find a reference implementation of buffer object in the Lua module source code.

    Issues (to be fixed in later revisions):

    • Does not support loading UTF-8 string value type. Use ordinary string value data to pass UTF-8 data instead. (You'll need to know its size in bytes, of course.)

JavaScript

  • LUATEXTS.save(...) : string

    Serializes its arguments and returns them as a string. If does not know how to serialize value, throws Exception. Call without arguments produces a zero-sized tuple.

Type conversion rules for JS --> Lua:

  • undefined --> nil
  • null --> nil
  • boolean --> boolean
  • number --> number
  • string --> string (assuming UTF-8 encoding)
  • object --> table with hash part
  • array --> table with array part (implicitly saved as 1-based)
  • function --> not supported

Nested objects / arrays are supported.

Warning: For JavaScript client code to work consistently between browsers, you must specify the encoding of the page that the code is executed in. Otherwise each browser will assume its own default encoding. Make sure that the encoding does match whatever your server-side code does expect.

To specify the encoding you may either send correct Content-Encoding HTTP header, or put this tag into the page's <head>:

<meta http-equiv="Content-Type" content="text/html; charset=utf-8" />

Current JavaScript library implementation works only with UTF-8 strings. It is up to user to ensure that string encoding is correct.

PHP

  • Luatexts::save( ... ) : string

    Serializes its arguments and returns them as a string. If does not know how to serialize value, throws Exception. Call without arguments produces a zero-sized tuple.

Type conversion rules for JS --> Lua:

  • null --> nil
  • boolean --> boolean
  • number --> number
  • string --> string (assuming UTF-8 encoding)
  • array --> table with array part (implicitly saved as 1-based)
  • function --> not supported
  • object --> not supported

Nested arrays are supported.

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