Plugin and runtime library for using protobuf with Swift
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Latest commit 758cafd Feb 21, 2017 @thomasvl thomasvl committed on GitHub Merge pull request #290 from thomasvl/partial_decode
Add partial support to the binary decoding initializer.

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Swift Protobuf

⚠️ WARNING ⚠️ This project is in a prerelease state. There is active work going on that will result in API changes that can/will break code while things are finished. Use with caution.

Welcome to Swift Protobuf!

Apple's Swift programming language is a perfect complement to Google's Protocol Buffer serialization technology. They both emphasize high performance and programmer safety.

This project provides both the command-line program that adds Swift code generation to Google's protoc and the runtime library that is necessary for using the generated code. After using the protoc plugin to generate Swift code from your .proto files, you will need to add this library to your project.


More information is available in the associated documentation:

  • documents the protoc-gen-swift plugin that adds Swift support to the protoc program
  • documents the API you should use
  • documents the structure of the generated code
  • documents the style guidelines we have adopted in our codebase if you are interested in contributing
  • has the latest full API documentation

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 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 Swift runtime library to your project.

System Requirements

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

  • A recent Swift 3 compiler that includes the Swift Package Manager. The Swift protobuf project is being developed and tested against the release version of Swift 3.0 available from

  • Google's protoc compiler. The Swift protoc plugin is being actively developed and tested against the latest protobuf 3.x sources; in particular, the tests need a version of protoc which supports the swift_prefix option. It may work with earlier versions of protoc. 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

Pick what released version of SwiftProtobuf you are going to use. You can get a list of tags with:

$ git tag -l

Once you pick the version you will use, set your local state to match, and build the protoc plugin:

$ git checkout tags/[tag_name]
$ swift build

This will create a binary called protoc-gen-swift in the .build/debug 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.

Building your project with swift build

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, add a dependency to your Package.swift file. Adjust the Version() here to match the [tag_name] you used to build the plugin above:

dependencies: [
        .Package(url: "", Version(0,9,24))

Building your project with Xcode

If you are using Xcode, then you should:

  • Add the .pb.swift source files generated from your protos directly to your project
  • Add the Protobuf target from the Xcode project in this package to your project.

Using the library with CocoaPods

If you're using CocoaPods, add this to your Podfile but adjust the :tag to match the [tag_name] you used to build the plugin above:

pod 'SwiftProtobuf', git: '', :tag => '0.9.24'

And run pod install.

(Swift 3 frameworks require CocoaPods 1.1 or newer)

Using the library with Carthage

If you're using Carthage, add this to your Cartfile but adjust the tag to match the [tag_name] you used to build the plugin above:

github "apple/swift-protobuf" "0.9.24"

Run carthage update and drag SwiftProtobuf.framework into your Xcode.project.

Quick Example

Here is a quick example to illustrate how you can use Swift Protocol Buffers in your program, and why you might want to. Create a file DataModel.proto with the following contents:

syntax = "proto3";

message BookInfo {
   int64 id = 1;
   string title = 2;
   string author = 3;

message MyLibrary {
   int64 id = 1;
   string name = 2;
   repeated BookInfo books = 3;
   map<string,string> keys = 4;

After saving the above, you can generate Swift code using the following command:

$ protoc --swift_out=. DataModel.proto

This will create a file DataModel.pb.swift with a struct BookInfo and a struct MyLibrary with corresponding Swift fields for each of the proto fields and a host of other capabilities:

  • Full mutable Swift copy-on-write value semantics
  • CustomDebugStringConvertible: The generated struct has a debugDescription method that can dump a full representation of the data
  • Hashable, Equatable: The generated struct can be put into a Set<> or Dictionary<>
  • Binary serializable: The .serializeProtobuf() method returns a Data with a compact binary form of your data. You can deserialize the data using the init(protobuf:) initializer.
  • JSON serializable: The .serializeJSON() method returns a flexible JSON representation of your data that can be parsed with the init(json:) initializer.
  • Portable: The binary and JSON formats used by the serializers here are identical to those supported by protobuf for many other platforms and languages, making it easy to talk to C++ or Java servers, share data with desktop apps written in Objective-C or C++, or work with system applications developed in Python or Go.

And of course, you can define your own Swift extensions to the generated MyLibrary struct to augment it with additional custom capabilities.

Best of all, you can take the same DataModel.proto file and generate Java, C++, Python, or Objective-C for use on other platforms. Those platforms can all then exchange serialized data in binary or JSON forms, with no additional effort on your part.

Report any issues

If you run into problems, please send us a detailed report. At a minimum, please include:

  • The specific operating system and version (for example, "macOS 10.12.1" or "Ubuntu 15.10")
  • The version of Swift you have installed (from swift --version)
  • The version of the protoc compiler you are working with from protoc --version
  • The specific version of this source code (you can use git log -1 to get the latest commit ID)
  • Any local changes you may have