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C Library for Parsing NMEA 0183 Sentences

Build Status Memory Leaks License

Libnmea is a lightweight C library that parses NMEA 0183 sentence strings into structs. It is written in a modular architecture that dynamically loads a parser module for each implemented sentence type. This way, new sentences can easily be added to the library without modifying the core code. It is also possible to statically link the parser modules at build time to enable libnmea to be used in environments where a dynamic loader isn't available.

If you find any sentence missing, please add it by contributing to the code. I am open to suggestions regarding the code and architecture, so if you have any ideas or improvements, please tell me or submit a merge request :-).

Supported sentences: GPGGA, GPGLL, GPGSA, GPGSV, GPRMC, GPTXT, and GPVTG.

To build

$ make && make check

When running make, the library will be built to a local build directory (./build).


Run make install to install libnmea. The files will be installed in /usr/ by default. Use the environment variable PREFIX to set a different installation prefix.

Ex. to build and install the library and header files locally, in the ./target directory, run the following commands:

$ make
$ PREFIX=target make install

Try it

When the library is built and installed, you can compile the example programs:

$ make examples
$ echo -ne "\$GPGLL,4916.45,N,12311.12,W,225444,A,*1D\r\n" | build/parse_stdin

If the library was installed with a custom prefix, you may have to set the following environment variables before running make:

export LIBRARY_PATH="<prefix>/lib"
export C_INCLUDE_PATH="<prefix>/include"
export LD_LIBRARY_PATH="<prefix>/lib"

Additionally, set NMEA_PARSER_PATH variable before running the program:

export NMEA_PARSER_PATH="<prefix>/lib/nmea/"

Note that the trailing slash is required!

How to use it

First, include nmea.h and the header files for the desired sentence types:

#include <stdlib.h>
#include <stdio.h>
#include <string.h>

#include <nmea.h>
#include <nmea/gpgll.h>
#include <nmea/gpgga.h>

	/* ... */
	return 0;

To parse an NMEA sentence string, use nmea_parse():

// Sentence string to be parsed
char sentence[] = "$GPGLL,4916.45,N,12311.12,W,225444,A,*1D\r\n";

// Pointer to struct containing the parsed data
nmea_s *data;

// Parse it...
data = nmea_parse(sentence, strlen(sentence), 0);
if (NULL == data) {

The parsed data can be found in the data variable and for example printed to screen:

if (NMEA_GPGGA == data->type) {
	nmea_gpgga_s *gpgga = (nmea_gpgga_s *) data;

	printf("GPGGA Sentence\n");
	printf("Number of satellites: %d\n", gpgga->n_satellites);
	printf("Altitude: %d %c\n", gpgga->altitude, gpgga->altitude_unit);

if (NMEA_GPGLL == data->type) {
	nmea_gpgll_s *gpgll = (nmea_gpgll_s *) data;

	printf("GPGLL Sentence\n");
	printf("  Degrees: %d\n", gpgll->longitude.degrees);
	printf("  Minutes: %f\n", gpgll->longitude.minutes);
	printf("  Cardinal: %c\n", (char) gpgll->longitude.cardinal);
	printf("  Degrees: %d\n", gpgll->latitude.degrees);
	printf("  Minutes: %f\n", gpgll->latitude.minutes);
	printf("  Cardinal: %c\n", (char) gpgll->latitude.cardinal);

Free the memory used by the data variable:


Compile with -lnmea:

$ gcc example.c -lnmea -o example

Environment variables

Run time:

NMEA_PARSER_PATH - The path where the parser libraries are located. Default is /usr/lib/nmea. If a custom prefix was used when installing, they will be located in PREFIX/lib/nmea. This variable isn't used when libnmea is built with static parser module loading (see next chapter).

Build time:

NMEA_STATIC - If defined, it forces libnmea to be built with static parser module loading (see next chapter). It should contain a comma seperated list of parser modules to be included in the build, ex: NMEA_STATIC=GPRMC,GPGGA.

Static build

It is possible to statically link the parser modules at build time which is useful when a dynamic loader isn't available. To do this, the environment variable NMEA_STATIC must be defined along with a comma-seperated list of selected parser modules to include in the library. Note that both dynamic and static module loading cannot be utilized at the same time.


Run tests

After make, run the tests against the build directory:

$ make check

To run the unit tests against the installation directory, run the following command:

$ make unit-tests

To check for memory leaks, run:

$ make check-memory-leaks

To verify that parse_stdin example works, build it and run the test script:

$ make examples
$ tests/parse_stdin/ build/parse_stdin

Library functions

Check nmea.h for more detailed info about functions. The header files for the sentences (ex: nmea/gpgll.h) contains the struct definitions for each sentence.

Implement a new sentence type

To create a new sentence parser, create the following files and replace the <TYPE> with the sentence type word in uppercase letters and <type> in lowercase. Make sure that the sentence type is defined in src/nmea.h and add it to src/nmea/parser_static.h.


#ifndef INC_NMEA_<TYPE>_H
#define INC_NMEA_<TYPE>_H

#include <stdlib.h>
#include <string.h>
#include <time.h>
#include <nmea.h>

typedef struct {
	nmea_s base;
	/* sentence values */
} nmea_<type>_s;

/* Value indexes */
#define NMEA_<TYPE>_<index>	0
/* more value indexes... */

#endif  /* INC_NMEA_<TYPE>_H */


#include "../nmea/parser_types.h"
#include "<type>.h"
#include "parse.h"

init(nmea_parser_s *parser)
	/* Declare what sentence type to parse */
	return 0;

allocate_data(nmea_parser_s *parser)
	parser->data = malloc(sizeof (nmea_<type>_s));
	return 0;

set_default(nmea_parser_s *parser)
	memset(parser->data, 0, sizeof (nmea_<type>_s));
	return 0;

free_data(nmea_s *data)
	return 0;

parse(nmea_parser_s *parser, char *value, int val_index)
	nmea_gpgll_s *data = (nmea_<type>_s *) parser->data;

	switch (val_index) {
	case NMEA_<TYPE>_<index>:
		/* Parse some value */
		data->some_value = value;


	return 0;


Contributions are more than welcome. Be sure to read this chapter before submitting a merge request.

Coding style

The code should conform to the KNF formatting guidelines.

Example indent command:

$ indent -st -bad -bap -bbb -bc -blf -bli0 -br -brs -bs -cbi0 -ce -cli0 -cs -nbfda -npcs -nprs -nsob -saf -saw -sai src/nmea/nmea.c

Example astyle command:

astyle --style=knf --indent=tab src/nmea/nmea.c

Use hard tabs. Example vim options:

:set noexpandtab
:set preserveindent
:set softtabstop=0
:set shiftwidth=4
:set tabstop=4


Every merge request must pass all the tests.

New sentence types

When contributing support for new sentence types, please do the following: