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Swift Protobuf Plugin

The protoc-gen-swift program is a plugin to Google's protoc compiler that works with protoc to translate proto files into Swift code.

Getting Started

If you've worked with Protocol Buffers before, adding Swift support is very simple: you just need to build the protoc-gen-swift program and copy it into any directory in your PATH. The protoc program will find and use it automatically, allowing you to build Swift sources for your proto files. You will also, of course, need to add the corresponding Swift runtime library to your project.

System Requirements

To use Swift with Protocol buffers, you'll need:

  • A recent Swift 3.1 compiler that includes the Swift Package Manager. We recommend using the latest release build from or the command-line tools included with the latest version of Xcode.

  • Google's protoc compiler. You can get recent versions from Google's github repository.

Build and Install

Building the plugin should be simple on any supported Swift platform:

$ git clone
$ cd swift-protobuf
$ swift build -c release -Xswiftc -static-stdlib

This will create a binary called protoc-gen-swift in the .build/release directory. To install, just copy this one executable anywhere in your PATH.

Converting .proto files into Swift

To generate Swift output for your .proto files, you run the protoc command as usual, using the --swift_out=<directory> option:

$ protoc --swift_out=. my.proto

The protoc program will automatically look for protoc-gen-swift in your PATH and use it.

Each .proto input file will get translated to a corresponding .pb.swift file in the output directory.

How to Specify Code-Generation Options

The plugin tries to use reasonable default behaviors for the code it generates, but there are a few things that can be configured to specific needs.

You can use the --swift_opt argument to protoc to pass options to the Swift code generator as follows:

$ protoc --swift_opt=[NAME]=[VALUE] --swift_out:. foo/bar/*.proto mumble/*.proto

If you need to specify multiple options, you can use more than one --swift_opt argument:

$ protoc \
    --swift_opt=[NAME1]=[VALUE1] \
    --swift_opt=[NAME2]=[VALUE2] \
    --swift_out=. foo/bar/*.proto mumble/*.proto

NOTE: protoc 3.2.0 does not recognize --swift_opt if you rely on protoc-gen-swift being found on the PATH. To work around this, you need to explicitly add the argument --plugin=[PATH-TO-protoc-gen-swift] to the command line, then the --swift-opt argument will be understood. If you are using protoc 3.2.1 or later, then this workaround is not needed.

Generation Option: FileNaming - Naming of Generated Sources

By default, the paths to the proto files are maintained on the generated files. So if you pass foo/bar/my.proto, you will get foo/bar/my.pb.swift in the output directory. The Swift plugin supports an option to control the generated file names, the option is given as part of the --swift_out argument like this:

$ protoc --swift_opt=FileNaming=[value] --swift_out=. foo/bar/*.proto mumble/*.proto

The possible values for FileNaming are:

  • FullPath (default): Like all other languages, "foo/bar/baz.proto" makes "foo/bar/baz.pb.swift.
  • PathToUnderscores: To help with things like the Swift Package Manager where someone might want all the files in one directory; "foo/bar/baz.proto" makes "foo_bar_baz.pb.swift".
  • DropPath: Drop the path from the input and just write all files into the output directory; "foo/bar/baz.proto" makes "baz.pb.swift".
Generation Option: Visibility - Visibility of Generated Types

By default, SwiftProtobuf does not specify a visibility for the generated types, methods, and properties. As a result, these will end up with the default (internal) access. You can change this with the Visibility option:

$ protoc --swift_opt=Visibility=[value] --swift_out=. foo/bar/*.proto mumble/*.proto

The possible values for Visibility are:

  • Internal (default): No visibility is set for the types, so they get the default internal visibility.
  • Public: The visibility on the types is set to public so the types will be exposed outside the module they are compiled into.
Generation Option: ProtoPathModuleMappings - Swift Module names for proto paths

By default, the code generator assumes all of the resulting Swift files will be put into the same module. However, since protos can reference types from another proto file, those generated files might end up in different modules. This option allows you to specify that the code generated from the proto files will be distributed in multiple modules. This data is used during generation to then import the module and scope the types. This option takes the path of a file providing the mapping:

$ protoc --swift_opt=ProtoPathModuleMappings=[path.asciipb] --swift_out=. foo/bar/*.proto

The format of that mapping file is defined in swift_protobuf_module_mappings.proto, and files would look something like:

mapping {
  module_name: "MyModule"
  proto_file_path: "foo/bar.proto"
mapping {
  module_name: "OtherModule"
  proto_file_path: "mumble.proto"
  proto_file_path: "other/file.proto"

The proto_file_path values here should match the paths used in the proto file import statements.

Building your project

After copying the .pb.swift files into your project, you will need to add the SwiftProtobuf library to your project to support the generated code. If you are using the Swift Package Manager, you should first check what version of protoc-gen-swift you are currently using:

$ protoc-gen-swift --version
protoc-gen-swift 1.0.1

And then add a dependency to your Package.swift file. Adjust the Version() here to match the protoc-gen-swift version you checked above:

dependencies: [
        .Package(url: "", Version(1,0,1))

If you are using Xcode, then you should:

  • Add the Swift source files generated from your protos directly to your project.
  • Clone the SwiftProtobuf package.
  • Add the SwiftProtobuf target from the Xcode project from that package to your project.