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Awesome binary parsing

A list of generic tools for parsing binary data structures, such as file formats, network protocols or bitstreams.

Parser generators, parsing libraries and frameworks

  • Kaitai Struct (DSL): declarative language used for describe various binary data structures, laid out in files or in memory
  • Nom (Rust): Rust parser combinator framework
  • Hammer (C): bit-oriented parsing library
  • Construct (Python): library for parsing and building of data structures (binary or textual). Define your data structures in a declarative manner
  • Spicy (DSL, C/C++, Zeek): a next-generation parser generator for network protocols and file formats
  • Hachoir (Python): view and edit a binary stream field by field. Long list of parsers for all kinds of formats
  • RecordFlux: toolset for the formal specification of messages and the generation of verifiable binary parsers and message generators (Ada-inspired).
  • DataScript Tools (DSL): DataScript is a formal language for modelling binary datatypes, bitstreams or file formats. PDF
  • Parsifal (OCaml): OCaml-based parsing engine. Paper: A pragmatic solution to the binary parsing problem. Olivier Levillain
  • Haka (Lua): open source security oriented language which allows to describe protocols and apply security policies on (live) captured traffic
  • BinData (Ruby): provides a declarative way to read and write structured binary data
  • Binary-parser (Node): binary parser builder library for node, which enables you to write efficient parsers in a simple & declarative way
  • Gloss (Clojure): turn complicated byte formats into Clojure data structures and Clojure data structures into compact byte representations
  • Preon (Java): Bit syntax for Java. A declarative data binding framework for dealing with binary encoded data
  • attoparsec and attoparsec-binary: (Haskell): fast parser combinator library, aimed particularly at dealing efficiently with network protocols and complicated text/binary file formats
  • Marpa (C/C++, Perl, Go): libmarpa (C)
  • Scapy (Python): send, sniff and dissect and forge network packets. Usable interactively or as a library
  • libtins (C++): crafting, sending, sniffing and interpreting raw network packets
  • libcrafter (C++): high level library for C++ designed to create and decode network packets
  • scodec (Scala): Combinator library for working with binary data
  • Daffodil (Scala/Java, XML Schema): an open-source implementation of DFDL (Data Format Description Language) capable of describing many industry and military standards and parsing into a infoset, which is most commonly represented as either XML or JSON, and writing back to native format.
  • binaryparse (Nim, DSL): In-language DSL for reading and writing binary data supporting all sorts of patterns. Generates an efficient stream based reader and writer for the runtime execution.
  • FlexT - a DSL and a tool for generating parsers in Delphi.
  • FormatFuzzer (C++): framework for high-efficiency, high-quality generation and parsing of binary inputs
  • Deku (Rust): bit-level, symmetric, serialization/deserialization implementations for structs and enums
  • restruct (Go): library for reading and writing binary data

Stand-alone software

Hex editors with grammars

Wireshark is a network protocol analyzer that includes dissectors for over two thousand protocols.

  • TShark: command line version, can easily be called from shell scripts.
  • Wireshark Generic Dissector: add-on, allows dissection of a protocol based on a text description of the protocol elements
  • Wireshark Lua: dissectors can be written in Lua (Examples)
  • pyreshark: plugin providing a simple interface for writing Wireshark dissectors in Python
  • Sharktools (Python, Matlab): Tools for programmatic parsing of packet captures using Wireshark functionality
Other Stand-alone Software
  • Netzob: open source tool for reverse engineering, traffic generation and fuzzing of communication protocols
  • Cat Karat Packet Builder: packet generation tool that allows to build custom packets for firewall or target testing
  • radare2 (C, with bindings/pipe for almost all languages): Unix-like reverse engineering framework and commandline tools. See Parsing a fileformat with radare2 and Types.
  • Veles: open source tool for binary analysis

Research papers

  • EverParse: Verified Secure Zero-Copy Parsers for Authenticated Message Formats. Tahina Ramananandro et. al.
  • Nail: A Practical Tool for Parsing and Generating Data Formats. Julian Bangert and Nickolai Zeldovich,
  • GAPA: Generic Application-Level Protocol Analyzer and its Language. Nikita Borisov, David J. Brumley, Helen J. Wang, Chuanxiong Guo
  • PADS/ML: a functional data description language. Y. Mandelbaum, K. Fisher, D. Walker, M. F. Fernandez, and A. Gleyzer.
  • PacketTypes: P. J. McCann and S. Chandra. Packet types: Abstract specification of network protocol messages.
  • Zebu: A Language-Based Approach for Improving the Robustness of Network Application Protocol Implementations. Larent Burgy et. al.
  • Zebra: Improving the Performance of Message Parsers for Embedded Systems. Jigar Solanki et. al.
  • z2z: Automatic Generation of Network Protocol Gateways. Yerom-David Bromberg, Laurent Reveillere, Julia L. Lawall, Gilles Muller
  • Yakker: Semantics and Algorithms for Data-dependent Grammars. Trevor Jim, Yitzhak Mandelbaum, David Walker
  • BinPAC: Superseded by BinPAC++, which is now known as Spicy
  • FlowSifter: High-Speed Application Protocol Parsing and Extraction for Deep Flow Inspection. Alex X. Liu, Chad R. Meiners, Eric Norige, and Eric Torng
  • TSN.1: Transfer Syntax Notation One (TSN.1). A formal notation for describing messages in binary protocols
  • NetPDL: Markup Language that aims to describe Protocols from OSI layer 2 to OSI layer 7
  • Tupni: Automatic Reverse Engineering of Input Formats. Weidong Cui et. al.
  • W. Underwood Grammar-Based Specification and Parsing of Binary File Formats. William Underwood

Lists of interesting binary formats

This is obviously rather subjective and definitely not supposed to be a complete list:

Related topics


A list of generic tools for parsing binary data structures, such as file formats, network protocols or bitstreams




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