A monadic LL(infinity) parser combinator library for javascript
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(by @jayferd and @laughinghan)

Parsimmon is a small library for writing big parsers made up of lots of little parsers. The API is inspired by parsec and Promises/A.

Quick Example

var regex = Parsimmon.regex;
var string = Parsimmon.string;
var optWhitespace = Parsimmon.optWhitespace;

var id = regex(/^[a-z_]\w*/i);
var number = regex(/^[0-9]+/).map(parseInt);

var atom = number.or(id);

var form = string('(').skip(optWhitespace).then(function() {
  return expr.many().skip(string(')'));

var expr = form.or(atom).skip(optWhitespace);

expr.parse('3') // => 3
expr.parse('(add (mul 10 (add 3 4)) (add 7 8))')
  // => ['add', ['mul', 10, ['add', 3, 4]], ['add', 7, 8]]


A Parsimmon parser is an object that represents an action on a stream of text, and the promise of either an object yielded by that action on success or a message in case of failure. Under the hood, this is represented by a function that takes a stream and calls one of two callbacks with an error or a result. For example, string('foo') yields the string 'foo' if the beginning of the stream is 'foo', and otherwise fails.

The combinator method .map is used to transform the yielded value. For example, string('foo').map(function(x) { return x + 'bar'; }) will yield 'foobar' if the stream starts with 'foo'. The parser digits.map(function(x) { return parseInt(x) * 2; }) will yield the number 24 when it encounters the string '12'. The method .result can be used to set a constant result.

The two core ways to combine parsers are .then and .or. The method .then provides a way to decide how to continue the parse based on the result of a previous parser. For a kind of contrived example,

var sentence = regex(/[\w\s]+/).then(function(contents) {
  var ending;

  if (contents.indexOf('bang') >= 0) {
    ending = '!';
  else {
    ending = '.'

  return string(ending).result(contents + ending);

sentence.parse('quick brown dogs and things.') // => 'quick brown dogs and things.'
sentence.parse('shebang.') // parse error: expected '!'
sentence.parse('shebang!') // => 'shebang!'

For the monad-loving crowd, .then is the bind operation on the parser monad (much like Parsec). For others, this is very similar to the Promises/A spec, implemented by jQuery's deferred objects.

The method .or allows a parser to continue by trying another parser if it fails. So string('a').or(string('b')) will yield an 'a' if the stream starts with an 'a', and a 'b' if the stream starts with a 'b', and fail otherwise.

Full API

Included parsers / parser generators:

  • Parsimmon.string("my-string") is a parser that expects to find "my-string", and will yield the same.
  • Parsimmon.regex(/^myregex/) is a parser that expects the stream to match the given regex. Due to limitations in javascript's regex API, the regex must be anchored (with ^ at the beginning).
  • Parsimmon.succeed(result) is a parser that doesn't consume any of the string, and yields result.
  • Parsimmon.fail(message)
  • Parsimmon.letter is equivalent to Parsimmon.regex(/^[a-z]/i)
  • Parsimmon.letters is equivalent to Parsimmon.regex(/^[a-z]*/i)
  • Parsimmon.digit is equivalent to Parsimmon.regex(/^[0-9]/)
  • Parsimmon.digits is equivalent to Parsimmon.regex(/^[0-9]*/)
  • Parsimmon.whitespace is equivalent to Parsimmon.regex(/^\s+/)
  • Parsimmon.optWhitespace is equivalent to Parsimmon.regex(/^\s*/)
  • Parsimmon.any consumes and yields the next character of the stream.
  • Parsimmon.all consumes and yields the entire remainder of the stream.
  • Parsimmon.eof expects the end of the stream.

Parser methods

  • parser.or(otherParser): returns a new parser which tries parser, and if it fails uses otherParser.
  • parser.then(function(result) { return anotherParser; }): returns a new parser which tries parser, and on success calls the given function with the result of the parse, which is expected to return another parser.
  • parser.then(anotherParser): expects anotherParser to follow parser, and yields the result of anotherParser. NB: the result of parser here is ignored.
  • parser.map(function(result) { return anotherResult; }): transforms the output of parser with the given function.
  • parser.skip(otherParser) expects otherParser after parser, but preserves the yield value of parser.
  • parser.result(aResult): returns a new parser with the same behavior, but which yields aResult.
  • parser.many(): expects parser zero or more times, and yields an array of the results.
  • parser.times(n): expects parser exactly n times, and yields an array of the results.
  • parser.times(min, max): expects parser between min and max times, and yields an array of the results.
  • parser.atMost(n): expects parser at most n times. Yields an array of the results.
  • parser.atLeast(n): expects parser at least n times. Yields an array of the results.