How to write a parser

Ryan Benson edited this page Sep 4, 2018 · 12 revisions


This page is intended to give you an introduction into developing a parser for plaso.

  • First a step-by-step example is provided to create a simple binary parser for the Safari Cookies.binarycookies file.
  • At bottom are some common troubleshooting tips that others have run into before you.

This page assumes you have at least a basic understanding of programming in Python and use of git.


Before you can write a binary file parser you will need to have a good understanding of the file format. A description of the Safari Cookies.binarycookies format can be found here.

Parsers vs. Plugins

Before starting work on a parser, check if Plaso already has a parser that handles the underlying format of the file you're parsing. Plaso currently supports plugins for the following file formats:

  • Bencode
  • Web Browser Cookies
  • Plist
  • SQLite
  • Syslog
  • Windows Registry

If the artifact you're trying to parse is in one of these formats, you need to write a plugin of the appropriate type, rather than a parser.

For our example, however, the Safari Cookies.binarycookies file is in its own binary format, so a separate parser is appropriate.

Test data

First we make a representative test file and add it to the test_data/ directory, in our example:


Make sure that the test file does not contain sensitive or copyrighted material.

Parsers, formatters, events and event data

  • parser; subclass of plaso.parsers.interface.FileObjectParser, that extracts events from the content of a file.
  • formatter (or event formatter); subclass of plaso.formatters.interface.EventFormatter, that generates a human readable description of the event data.
  • event; subclass of, that represents an event
  • event data; subclass of, that represents data related to the event.

Writing the parser

Registering the parser

Add an import for the parser to:

from plaso.parsers import safari_cookies

When plaso.parsers is imported this will load the safari_cookies module (

The parser class BinaryCookieParser is registered using manager.ParsersManager.RegisterParser(BinaryCookieParser).

# -*- coding: utf-8 -*-
"""Parser for Safari Binary Cookie files."""

from plaso.parsers import interface
from plaso.parsers import manager

class BinaryCookieParser(interface.FileObjectParser):
  """Parser for Safari Binary Cookie files."""

  NAME = 'binary_cookies'
  DESCRIPTION = 'Parser for Safari Binary Cookie files.'

  def ParseFileObject(self, parser_mediator, file_object, **kwargs):
    """Parses a Safari binary cookie file-like object.

      parser_mediator (ParserMediator): parser mediator.
      file_object (dfvfs.FileIO): file-like object to be parsed.

      UnableToParseFile: when the file cannot be parsed, this will signal
          the event extractor to apply other parsers.

  • NAME

Writing the event formatter

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