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README.md

Nom Tutorial

Nom is a wonderful parser combinators library written in Rust. It can handle binary and text files. Consider it where you would otherwise user a regular expression or Flex and Bison. Nom has the advantage of Rusts's strong typing and memory safety, and it is often more performant than alternatives. Learning nom is a worthwhile addition to your Rust toolbox.

Rationale

Nom's official documentation includes trivially simple examples (e.g. how to parse a hexadecimal RGB color code) and very complicated examples (e.g. how to parse json). When I first learned nom I found a steep learning curve in between the simple and complex examples. Furthermore, previous versions of nom, and most of the existing documentation, use macros. From nom 5.0 onward macros are soft-deprecated in favor of functions. This tutorial aims to fill the gap between simple and complex parsers by parsing the contents of /proc/mounts, and it demonstrates the use of functions instead of macros.

Table of Contents

  1. The Exercise
  2. Getting Started
  3. Hello Parser
  4. Reading the Nom Documentation
  5. Laying the Groundwork
  6. It's Not Whitespace
  7. The Great Escape
  8. Mount Options
  9. Putting it All Together
  10. Iterators are the Finishing Touch

The Exercise

If you use Linux then you are likely familiar with the mount command. If you run mount without any arguments it will print a list of mounted filesystems to the terminal.

$ mount
sysfs on /sys type sysfs (rw,seclabel,nosuid,nodev,noexec,relatime)
proc on /proc type proc (rw,nosuid,nodev,noexec,relatime)
...output trimmed for length...

Replicating the entire function of the mount command in Rust is beyond the scope of this tutorial, but we can replicate the above output with the help of nom. The Linux kernel stores information about all the currently mounted filesystems in /proc/mounts.

$ cat /proc/mounts
sysfs /sys sysfs rw,seclabel,nosuid,nodev,noexec,relatime 0 0
proc /proc proc rw,nosuid,nodev,noexec,relatime 0 0

Each mount is described on a separate line. Within each line, the properties of the mount are space delimited.

  1. Device (e.g. sysfs, /dev/sda1)
  2. Mount point (e.g. /sys, /mnt/disk)
  3. Filesystem type (e.g. sysfs, ext4)
  4. Mount options, a comma-delimited string of options (e.g. rw, ro)
  5. Each line ends in 0 0 to mimic the format of /etc/fstab. This 5th column 0 0 is just decoration -- it is the same for every line and therefore does not contain any useful information.

In this tutorial we will write a program to parse each line of /proc/mounts into a Rust struct and print them back out to the console just like the command mount.

Getting Started

To learn from the example code you will need to have Rust installed, and I will assume you have some basic familiarity with the Rust language. To download and run the complete tutorial:

$ git clone https://github.com/benkay86/nom-tutorial.git
$ cd nom-tutorial
$ cargo run
sysfs on /sys type sysfs (rw,seclabel,nosuid,nodev,noexec,relatime)
proc on /proc type proc (rw,nosuid,nodev,noexec,relatime)
...output trimmed for length...

The finished version of the tutorial is a lot to digest at once, so in the sections below we will build up to it step-by-step. I recommend creating your own cargo project to experiment with cargo new my-nom-tutorial and keeping a copy of the completed tutorial as a reference. To use nom in your own cargo package simply edit Cargo.toml to contain:

[dependencies]
nom = "5.0"

Hello Parser

In your new project, edit main.rs to contain the following:

extern crate nom;

fn hello_parser(i: &str) -> nom::IResult<&str, &str> {
	nom::bytes::complete::tag("hello")(i)
}

fn main() {
	println!("{:?}", hello_parser("hello"));
	println!("{:?}", hello_parser("hello world"));
	println!("{:?}", hello_parser("goodbye hello again"));
}

Compile and run the program:

$ cargo run
Ok(("", "hello"))
Ok((" world", "hello"))
Err(Error(("goodbye hello again", Tag)))

Let's break this program down line by line.

Using the Nom Crate

extern crate nom;

In the previous section we added nom as a dependency in Cargo.toml. This additional line in main.rs tells your program about the nom crate, enabling you to access it through nom::. You can optionally add lines like use nom::IResult; to cut down on typing, but I have deliberately used the verbose notation in this tutorial so that you can clearly see the module hierarchy.

Creating a Custom Parser

fn hello_parser(i: &str) -> nom::IResult<&str, &str> {
	nom::bytes::complete::tag("hello")(i)
}

This creates a function called hello_parser that takes a &str (borrowed string slice) as its input and returns a type nom::IResult<&str, &str>, which we'll talk more about later. Within the body of the function we create a nom tag parser. A tag parser recognizes a literal string, or "tag", of text. The tag parser tag("hello") is a function object that recognizes the text "hello". We then call the tag parser with the input string as its argument and return the result. (Remember, in Rust you can omit the return keyword from the last line in a function.)

Invoking the Parser

println!("{:?}", hello_parser("hello world"));
// Ok((" world", "hello"))

Now let's go to main() and see what the parser does. Recall that println!("{:?}", x) prints out the debugging version of x, giving us an easy way to inspect the content of Rust variables. Here we call hello_parser() with several different test strings and print out the returned nom::IResult<&str, &str>. As you can see, it turns out an IResult is a Rust Result, which can contain an Ok or Err. When the parser succeeds it returns a tuple of its generic type parameters, in this case &str . The second element of the tuple is the "output" of the parser, which is often the string matched or "consumed by" the parser, "hello". The first element of the tuple is the remaining input, " world".

println!("{:?}", hello_parser("hello"));
// Ok(("", "hello"))

In this case the tag consumes the whole input, so the first element of the tuple (the remaining input) is an empty string.

println!("{:?}", hello_parser("goodbye hello again"));
// Err(Error(("goodbye hello again", Tag)))

Here the tag returns an Err because the input string didn't start with "hello." Note that the parser failed even though the word "hello" appears in the middle of the input -- most nom parsers (including tag) will only match the beginning of the input. The Error object is a nom::Err::Error((&str, nom::error::ErrorKind)), which is a tuple of the remaining input (the parser failed, so all of the input remained) and an ErrorKind describing which parser failed. You can read more about advanced nom error handling on github.

Summary

  • Nom parsers typically take an input &str and return an IResult<&str,&str>.
  • You can compose your own parser by defining a fn (&str) -> IResult<&str,&str> that returns the result of some combination of nom parsers.
  • When a parser successfully matches some or all of the input it returns Ok with a tuple of the remaining input and the consumed input.
  • When a parser fails to match any input it returns an Err.
  • Most nom parsers match only the beginning of the input, even if there is a pattern that could match later in the input.

Reading the Nom Documentation

You will need to refer to the documentation for nom often. Make sure you are reading the documentation for version 5.0 or later, since a lot has changed since version 4. Previous versions of nom were very macro centric, so you will find a lot of references to macros like tag!(). Macros have been soft-deprecated in favor of functions. Most functions have the same name as their macro counterparts but without the exclamation point, i.e. tag(). You can see a list of all nom's functions here.

You will find that there are streaming and complete submodules. In advanced use, nom supports streaming, or buffered, input where the parser might encounter incomplete fragments of input. In this tutorial we will focus on the complete submodule for non-streaming input.

  • nom::branch parsers perform logical operations on multiple sub-parsers. For example, nom::branch::alt succeeds if any one of its sub-parsers succeeds.
  • nom::bytes::complete parsers operate on sequences of bytes. Our friend tag belongs to this submodule.
  • nom::character::complete recognizes characters, for example nom::character::complete::multispace1 matches 1 or more characters of whitespace.
  • nom::combinator allows us to build up combinations of parsers. For example, nom::combinator::map passes the output of one parser into a second parser.
  • nom::multi parsers return collections of outputs. For example, nom::multi::separated_list returns a vector of strings separated by a delimiter.
  • nom::number::complete parsers match numeric values.
  • nom::sequence parsers match finite sequences of input. For example, nom::sequence::tuple takes a tuple of sub-parsers and returns a tuple of their outputs.

Laying the Groundwork

This section deals with setting up the non-nom (isn't that fun to read out load?) parts of the program. If you are already quite familiar with rust and just want to read about nom then skip to the next section.

Encapsulation

It is simple, and tempting, to write your whole program in one file. However, it is good practice to split your program into a library (or crate) and binary to make the underlying logic easy to reuse. We'll take the high road in this tutorial and create an empty file called lib.rs in the same directory as main.rs. Cargo automatically knows to build lib.rs into a library/crate with the name "nom-example" we specified in Cargo.toml using the line name = "nom-example". Then let's make a new main.rs that uses our nom-example crate instead of using nom directly.

extern crate nom_example;

fn main() {
}

Note that when the name of a crate contains hyphens we replace them with underscores in the Rust code.

Error Handling

Unfortunately, many Rust tutorials handle potential errors by having you write could_fail.unwrap() or could_fail.expect("Oh no!"). These statements cause your code to panic whenever an error occurs. That's all well and good in a simple didactic example, but you should avoid writing production code that panics. So as to set a good example, let's edit main.rs to look like this:

extern crate nom_example;

fn main() -> std::result::Result<(), std::boxed::Box<dyn std::error::Error>> {
	Ok(())
}

Our main() function now returns a Result in which the error type is a boxed trait. The use of a boxed trait with the dyn keyword enables us to handle any error that implements the std::error:Error trait. We even have the ability to reflect on the underlying type of the error during runtime (although that is beyond the scope of this tutorial). When we write main() or any other function in this way it allows us to write could_fail? which behaves similarly to could_fail.unwrap() except that it returns an error up the call stack instead of panicking. Refer to the Rust Book section on error handling to learn more about this design pattern.

Let's edit lib.rs to contain the following:

#[derive(Default)]
pub struct ParseError;
impl std::fmt::Display for ParseError {
	fn fmt(&self, f: &mut std::fmt::Formatter<'_>) -> std::fmt::Result {
		write!(f, "A parsing error occurred.")
	}
}
impl std::fmt::Debug for ParseError {
	fn fmt(&self, f: &mut std::fmt::Formatter<'_>) -> std::fmt::Result {
		<ParseError as std::fmt::Display>::fmt(self, f)
	}
}
impl std::error::Error for ParseError { }

There's a lot to do here! The problem we are trying to solve is that nom::Err::Error unfortunately does not implement std::error::Error, which means that propagating nom parser errors up the call stack is going to be complicated. We will solve this by writing our own error type ParseError that does implement std::error::Error and returning a ParseError whenever a nom parser error occurs. The Rust language documentation for the Error trait explains how to do this.

#[derive(Default)]
pub struct ParseError;

Here we create a struct called ParseError. It doesn't have any data members, and as we'll see in a moment it doesn't need to.

impl std::fmt::Display for ParseError {
	fn fmt(&self, f: &mut std::fmt::Formatter<'_>) -> std::fmt::Result {
		write!(f, "A parsing error occurred.")
	}
}

This implements the Display trait on our ParseError, which allows it to be displayed with println!({}", my_parse_error) or similar. As you can see our implementation is very simple -- it just displays, "A parsing error occurred," without any other useful information. Not the best, but good enough for our example.

impl std::fmt::Debug for ParseError {
	fn fmt(&self, f: &mut std::fmt::Formatter<'_>) -> std::fmt::Result {
		<ParseError as std::fmt::Display>::fmt(self, f)
	}
}

The Error trait also requires that we implement the Debug trait, which is supposed to be similar to the Display trait but with more verbose information intended for consumption by a programmer debugging our program. We used the Debug trait earlier in this tutorial with the syntax println!("{:?}", my_parse_error). Our humble ParseError is so simple that the Debug output is identical to the Display output, so we simply call fmt() from the Display trait to render our Debug output.

impl std::error::Error for ParseError { }

Finally we've implemented all the methods/traits on ParseError that are required by the Error trait. The above icing on the cake tells Rust that our ParseError type officially implements the Error trait.

Storing the Mount Information

When we parse a line in /proc/mounts we are going to want to parse it into something. Let's add a simple struct to lib.rs for storing the information about a mount. Note that we could use a HashSet for the mount options but will instead use a vector for simplicity.

#[derive(Clone, Default, Debug)]
pub struct Mount {
	pub device: std::string::String,
	pub mount_point: std::string::String,
	pub file_system_type: std::string::String,
	pub options: std::vec::Vec<std::string::String>,
}

It's Not Whitespace

Building a parser with nom is a lot like building with legos. You start with building the smallest piece and then gradually combine pieces together until you get a cool looking castle or spaceship. You'll recall that each line in /proc/mounts is whitespace-delimited:

sysfs /sys sysfs rw,seclabel,nosuid,nodev,noexec,relatime 0 0

That means that each item within the line is simply a sequence of characters/bytes that is not whitespace. We'll start by making a nom parser that recognizes any sequence of one or more bytes that is not whitespace.

pub(self) mod parsers {
	use super::Mount;

	fn not_whitespace(i: &str) -> nom::IResult<&str, &str> {
		nom::bytes::complete::is_not(" \t")(i)
	}
	
	#[cfg(test)]
	mod tests {
		use super::*;
		
		#[test]
		fn test_not_whitespace() {
			assert_eq!(not_whitespace("abcd efg"), Ok((" efg", "abcd")));
			assert_eq!(not_whitespace("abcd\tefg"), Ok(("\tefg", "abcd")));
			assert_eq!(not_whitespace(" abcdefg"), Err(nom::Err::Error((" abcdefg", nom::error::ErrorKind::IsNot))));
		}
	}
}

The core of this parser is nom::bytes::complete::is_not(" \t") which is a nom parser that recognizes one or more bytes that is not a space or tab -- i.e. is not whitespace, exactly what we want! If the syntax for creating a custom parser (here named not_whitespace) doesn't look familiar to you then go back to the Hello Parser example.

Organization

Although not strictly necessary to make a program work, we try to model good coding practices through encapsulation. We'll put all our nom parsers inside a submodule named parsers. The submodule is pub(self), which means that other methods in lib.rs can use it but it's not exposed outside of our crate.

One of the parsers we write later on will need to use the Mount struct we defined in the previous section. We use use super::Mount to make the Mount struct defined in the parent, or "super" scope of the parsers module visible inside the parsers module.

Unit Tests

We also model another good programming practice, unit testing. Within the parsers module we've defined another submodule called tests (you could call it anything you want). The line #cfg[(test)] tells Cargo that the tests module should only be compiled when running cargo test. The actual test takes place inside the function fn test_not_whitespace() (which again can have any name, but let's not get too creative). The #[test] just before the function name tells Cargo to run that function as a unit test when invoked with cargo test.

Here panics are OK. A unit test succeeds if it doesn't panic. The macro assert_eq!() panics if its two arguments aren't equal. We test out a few assertions in which the not_whitespace parser should succeed and make sure that the whitespace and following characters in each input sequence are not consumed. We also test out one case where the parser should fail. Even though our program isn't finished yet, you can already compile it and make sure the not_whitespace parser works as expected:

$ cargo test
   Compiling nom-tutorial v0.1.0 (/home/benjamin/nom-tutorial)
    Finished dev [unoptimized + debuginfo] target(s) in 11.11s
     Running target/debug/deps/nom_tutorial-111f8746083b8c53

running 1 tests
test parsers::tests::test_not_whitespace ... ok

test result: ok. 1 passed; 0 failed; 0 ignored; 0 measured; 0 filtered out

     Running target/debug/deps/nom_tutorial-a3501c35106b411e

running 0 tests

test result: ok. 0 passed; 0 failed; 0 ignored; 0 measured; 0 filtered out

The Great Escape

What happens if we mount a directory with spaces? If you have root access you can try the following, otherwise take my word for it.

$ mkdir "Marry had"
$ mkdir "a little lamb"
$ sudo mount -o bind "a little lamb" "Mary had"
$ cat /proc/mounts
/dev/nvme0n1p3 /home/benjamin/Mary\040had btrfs rw,seclabel,noatime,nodiratime,ssd,discard,space_cache,subvolid=258,subvol=/home/benjamin/a\040little\040lamb 0 0
...output trimmed for length...

As you can see, each space was replaced with \040. This is a feature common to many languages you might have to parse called an escaping. The character \ is the escape character and 040 is the escaped sequence. Sometimes you might actually want a \ to appear in which case you would escape it as \\.

Fortunately, nom already has a built-in parser for dealing with escaped sequences called nom::bytes::complete::escaped_transform. As the name implies, it transforms each escaped sequence of bytes into a literal sequence of bytes.

pub(self) mod parsers {
	// ...
	
	fn escaped_space(i: &str) -> nom::IResult<&str, &str> {
		nom::combinator::value(" ", nom::bytes::complete::tag("040"))(i)
	}
	
	fn escaped_backslash(i: &str) -> nom::IResult<&str, &str> {
		nom::combinator::recognize(nom::character::complete::char('\\'))(i)
	}
	
	fn transform_escaped(i: &str) -> nom::IResult<&str, std::string::String> {
		nom::bytes::complete::escaped_transform(nom::bytes::complete::is_not("\\"), '\\', nom::branch::alt((escaped_backslash, escaped_space)))(i)	
	}
	
	#[cfg(test)]
	mod tests {
		// ...
		
		#[test]
		fn test_escaped_space() {
			assert_eq!(escaped_space("040"), Ok(("", " ")));
			assert_eq!(escaped_space(" "), Err(nom::Err::Error((" ", nom::error::ErrorKind::Tag))));
		}
		
		#[test]
		fn test_escaped_backslash() {
			assert_eq!(escaped_backslash("\\"), Ok(("", "\\")));
			assert_eq!(escaped_backslash("not a backslash"), Err(nom::Err::Error(("not a backslash", nom::error::ErrorKind::Char))));
		}
		
		#[test]
		fn test_transform_escaped() {
			assert_eq!(transform_escaped("abc\\040def\\\\g\\040h"), Ok(("", std::string::String::from("abc def\\g h"))));
			assert_eq!(transform_escaped("\\bad"), Err(nom::Err::Error(("bad", nom::error::ErrorKind::Tag))));
		}
	}
}

Start Simple

We start by defining custom parsers escaped_space and escaped_backslash that recognize their escaped sequences, 040 and \, and return the un-escaped sequences and \, respectively.

The escaped_space parser uses nom::combinator::value, which returns the specified value (in this case a space) when its child parser (in this case the familiar tag succeeds). We could have written it this way:

fn escaped_space(i: &str) -> nom::IResult<&str, &str> {
	match nom::bytes::complete::tag("040")(i) {
		Ok((remaining_input, _)) => Ok((remaining_input, " ")),
		Err(e) => Err(e)
	}
}

But nom provides us with a lot of convenient parsers like combinator::value out-of-the-box to make our lives easier.

Combining Parsers

With our simpler sub-parsers written and tested, it is now easy to use the escaped_transform parser. If we were only escaping \040 and didn't care about \\ then we could have written it as:

nom::bytes::complete::escaped_transform(nom::bytes::complete::is_not("\\"), '\\', escaped_space)(i)	

escaped_transform takes two parsers and a char as arguments:

  1. A sequence of bytes that is not escaped. In our case we can use the familiar bytes::complete::is_not parser to match one or more bytes that is not the escape character.
  2. The escape character itself, \.
  3. A parser that transforms the escaped sequence (minus the preceding \) into its final form.

In our example we have multiple escaped sequences to deal with, so we use nom::branch::alt, which takes a tuple of parsers as arguments and returns the result of whichever one matches first:

escaped_transform(..., alt((escaped_backslash, escaped_space)))

Return Types

Up until now we've seen nom parsers return an IResult<&str, &str>, but nom parsers are just Rust functions and they can return anything. If you've studies the example code closely you've noticed:

fn transform_escaped(i: &str) -> nom::IResult<&str, std::string::String>

This is because the escaped_transform parser can't generate its output string without copying/allocating memory, so instead of an &str it returns nom::IResult<&str, std::string::String>.

Mount Options

We're almost there. We have to define one more custom parser before we assemble all our custom parsers into (metaphorically) a glorious lego spaceship. The following custom parser transforms a comma-separated list of mount options like ro,user into a vector of strings like ["ro", "user"]. By now it should be fairly obvious to you what this code does and how it works:

pub(self) mod parsers {
	// ...
	
	fn mount_opts(i: &str) -> nom::IResult<&str, std::vec::Vec<std::string::String>> {
		nom::multi::separated_list(
			nom::character::complete::char(','),
			nom::combinator::map_parser(
				nom::bytes::complete::is_not(", \t"),
				transform_escaped
			)
		)(i)
	}
	
	#[cfg(test)]
	mod tests {
		// ...
		
		#[test]
		fn test_mount_opts() {
			assert_eq!(mount_opts("a,bc,d\\040e"), Ok(("", vec!["a".to_string(), "bc".to_string(), "d e".to_string()])));
		}
	}
}

As you can see from the return type of mount_opts we are going to generate a Vec<String> just like we promised. The parser multi::separated_list does just that, parsing a list separated by some parser with elements that match some other parser into a vector.

  1. The list is separated by character::complete::char(',').
  2. The elements of the list must not contain commas. They also must not contain whitespace because the list is terminated by whitespace.
  3. While we're at it, we use combinator::map_parser to call the transform_escaped parser on the output of is_not(", \t") before adding it to the vector. This allows us to conveniently deal with the escaped characters in one fell swoop.

Putting it All Together

This tutorial may have felt like a lot of coding with no end in sight. Now that we've defined all the custom parsers we need, we will write one more parser that puts everything together. Hopefully when you see how simple it is to compose high-level parsers from simple parsers you will appreciate how powerful your programs will be when you use nom.

The Final Parser

pub(self) mod parsers {
	// ...
	
	pub fn parse_line(i: &str) -> nom::IResult<&str, Mount> {
		match nom::combinator::all_consuming(nom::sequence::tuple((
			/* part 1 */
			nom::combinator::map_parser(not_whitespace, transform_escaped), // device
			nom::character::complete::space1,
			nom::combinator::map_parser(not_whitespace, transform_escaped), // mount_point
			nom::character::complete::space1,
			not_whitespace, // file_system_type
			nom::character::complete::space1,
			mount_opts, // options
			nom::character::complete::space1,
			nom::character::complete::char('0'),
			nom::character::complete::space1,
			nom::character::complete::char('0'),
			nom::character::complete::space0,
		)))(i) {
				/* part 2 */
				Ok((remaining_input, (
				device,
				_, // whitespace
				mount_point,
				_, // whitespace
				file_system_type,
				_, // whitespace
				options,
				_, // whitespace
				_, // 0
				_, // whitespace
				_, // 0
				_, // optional whitespace
			))) => {
				/* part 3 */
				Ok((remaining_input, Mount { 
					device: device,
					mount_point: mount_point,
					file_system_type: file_system_type.to_string(),
					options: options
				}))
			}
			Err(e) => Err(e)
		}
	}
	
	#[cfg(test)]
	mod tests {
		// ...
		
		#[test]
		fn test_parse_line() {
			let mount1 = Mount{
				device: "device".to_string(),
				mount_point: "mount_point".to_string(),
				file_system_type: "file_system_type".to_string(),
				options: vec!["options".to_string(), "a".to_string(), "b=c".to_string(), "d e".to_string()]
			};
			let (_, mount2) = parse_line("device mount_point file_system_type options,a,b=c,d\\040e 0 0").unwrap();
			assert_eq!(mount1.device, mount2.device);
			assert_eq!(mount1.mount_point, mount2.mount_point);
			assert_eq!(mount1.file_system_type, mount2.file_system_type);
			assert_eq!(mount1.options, mount2.options);
		}
	
	}
}

Wow, that's a lot of code! Taking a birds-eye view, notice that parse_line returns a Mount. Also notice that it's pub since this is the one parser we'll want to call from outside the parsers module. Let's break up the details into 3 parts (labeled by comments in the code):

  1. Ignore the all_consuming parser for now, sequence::tuple matches a tuple of sub-parsers in order. In part 1 we supply a list of child parsers (as a tuple) that we want to match. This allows us to tell nom what a line in /proc/mounts should look like: first some non-whitespace, then some whitespace, then some more non-whitespace, then some more whitespace, at some point some mount options, and so forth. Note how we slipped in some calls to map_parser with transform_escaped to deal with escaped characters.

  2. The sequence::tuple parser returns a tuple where each element in the tuple corresponds to each of its child parsers. In part 2 we destructure the tuple into some descriptively names local variables. For example, the very first non-whitespace sequence on a line is the device, so we destructure the first element in the tuple to a variable called device. We ignore elements of the tuple we don't care about (like the whitespace) by using _ as a placeholder.

  3. We create and then return a new Mount object using the local variables desctructured in part 2.

Finally, the all_consuming parser fails if there is any input left over. This will cause parse_line to (conservatively) return an error if there is something at the end of the line we were not expecting.

Alternative Final Parser

I've received what I think is valid feedback that the final parser above is too complicated to look at. What follows is an alternative version of the final parser that accomplishes the same objective with fewer, possibly more readable (depending on your sensibilities) lines of code. It makes heavy use of the ? operator to break the tuple parser into individual statements. The ? operator ends the function early, returning an error, if a parser fails. The remaining input from each parser is used as the input of the next parser. Pertinent variables are stored and later used to construct the Mount object at the end of the function. Superfluous variables are discarded by assigning to _.

pub fn parse_line_alternate(i: &str) -> nom::IResult<&str, Mount> {
	let (i, device) = nom::combinator::map_parser(not_whitespace, transform_escaped)(i)?; // device
	let (i, _) = nom::character::complete::space1(i)?;
	let (i, mount_point) = nom::combinator::map_parser(not_whitespace, transform_escaped)(i)?; // mount_point
	let (i, _) = nom::character::complete::space1(i)?;
	let (i, file_system_type) = not_whitespace(i)?; // file_system_type
	let (i, _) = nom::character::complete::space1(i)?;
	let (i, options) = mount_opts(i)?; // options
	let (i, _) = nom::combinator::all_consuming(nom::sequence::tuple((
		nom::character::complete::space1,
		nom::character::complete::char('0'),
		nom::character::complete::space1,
		nom::character::complete::char('0'),
		nom::character::complete::space0
	)))(i)?;
	Ok((i, Mount {
		device: device,
		mount_point: mount_point,
		file_system_type: file_system_type.to_string(),
		options:options
	}))
}

Try it out for yourself by commenting-out the original function and renaming parse_line_alternate to parse_line. Use whichever style you like better in your own code.

Testing It Out

You can already verify the program works with cargo test but let's make things a little nicer so that calling our binary will display a line-by-line list of mounts. We'll define a function nom_tutorial::mounts() to print them out and then call it from main.rs.

lib.rs

// Needed to use traits associated with std::io::BufReader.
use std::io::BufRead;
use std::io::Read;

pub fn mounts() -> Result<(), std::boxed::Box<dyn std::error::Error>> {
	let file = std::fs::File::open("/proc/mounts")?;
	let buf_reader = std::io::BufReader::new(file);
	for line in buf_reader.lines() {
		match parsers::parse_line(&line?[..]) {
			Ok( (_, m) ) => {
				println!("{}", m);
			},
			Err(_) => return Err(ParseError::default().into())
		}
	}
	Ok(())
}

main.rs

extern crate nom_tutorial;

fn main() -> std::result::Result<(), std::boxed::Box<dyn std::error::Error>> {
	nom_tutorial::mounts()?
	Ok(())
}

We open the file /proc/mounts, created a BufReader to read it line-by-line, and then parse each line. If parsing leads to an error we convert that into our custom error type ParseError defined earlier. If parsing is successful (which it should be) we print the Mount option out on a new line. To try it out:

$ cargo run
/dev/nvme0n1p3 on /home/benjamin/Mary had type btrfs (rw,seclabel,noatime,nodiratime,ssd,discard,space_cache,subvolid=258,subvol=/home/benjamin/a little lamb)
...output trimmed for length...

We could have read the entire contents of /proc/mounts and used nom::character::complete::line_ending to modify our parsers to recognize the line endings. However, what if /proc/mounts was very long? Maybe we are working on a big server with hundreds of mounted filesystems leading /proc/mounts to be hundreds of megabytes in size! (OK, that probably wouldn't happen in real life.) Since Rust already gives us another way to parse line endings (the BufReader) we might as well take advantage of it to lower our (theoretical) memory use and keep our parser simple.

Iterators are the Finishing Touch

From the standpoint of splitting our parser into a library and a binary, simply having a function mounts() that prints out a list of mounts isn't very ergonomic. The final version of this tutorial, which you can download from Github, introduces a new object of type Mounts that internally manages a BufReader on /proc/mounts and implements the IntoIterator trait. This enables us to write main.rs like this:

extern crate nom_tutorial;

fn main() -> std::result::Result<(), std::boxed::Box<dyn std::error::Error>> {
	for mount in nom_tutorial::mounts()? {
		println!("{}", mount?);
	}
	Ok(())
}

To see how powerful this is we can play around a little:

extern crate nom_tutorial;

fn main() -> std::result::Result<(), std::boxed::Box<dyn std::error::Error>> {
	for mount in nom_tutorial::mounts()? {
		let mount = mount?; // Result --> Mount
		println!("The device \"{}\" is mounted at \"{}\".", mount.device, mount.mount_point);
	}
	Ok(())
}
$ cargo run
The device "/dev/nvme0n1p3" is mounted at "/home/benjamin/Mary had".
...output trimmed for length...

Unfortunately, there is a fair bit of boilerplate code needed to write a custom iterator in Rust. Rather than try to explain it all here I recommend you read Dan DiVica's tutorial on Rust iterators. Note that once we get a line from BufReader we can't rewind and get the line again. Therefore, Mounts implements a consuming iterator and a mutable iterator, but it doesn't implement a borrowed iterator. To demonstrate what that means:

extern crate nom_tutorial;

fn main() -> std::result::Result<(), std::boxed::Box<dyn std::error::Error>> {
	let mounts = nom_tutorial::mounts()?;
	
	// Do it once
	for mount in mounts {
		println!("{}", mount?);
	}
	
	// Do it again
	// Fails because we already consumed mounts in the previous for loop
	for mount in mounts {
		println!("{}", mount?);
	}
	
	// Do it again
	// Works because we get a new instance of Mounts
	// Internally works because we get a new file handle on /proc/mounts
	for mount in nom_tutorial::mounts()? {
		println!("{}", mount?);
	}
	Ok(())
}
$ cargo check
    Checking nom-tutorial v0.1.0 (/home/benjamin/src/rust/nom-tutorial)
error[E0382]: use of moved value: `mounts`
  --> src/main.rs:12:15
   |
4  |     let mounts = nom_tutorial::mounts()?;
   |         ------ move occurs because `mounts` has type `nom_tutorial::Mounts`, which does not implement the `Copy` trait
...
7  |     for mount in mounts {
   |                  ------ value moved here
...
12 |     for mount in mounts {
   |                  ^^^^^^ value used here after move

error: aborting due to previous error

For more information about this error, try `rustc --explain E0382`.
error: Could not compile `nom-tutorial`.

To learn more, run the command again with --verbose.

Closing

I hope this tutorial has helped you feel comfortable using nom, and maybe even learned a little bit more about Rust than you knew before. Please don't hesitate to open an issue on Github if you discover typos, errors, or omissions. Happy coding!

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