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README.md

flex-bison-indentation

An example of how to correctly parse python-like indentation-scoped files using flex (and bison).

Besides that, this project also serves as a template CMake-based project for a flex&bison parser and includes rules to track the current line and column of the scanner.

Quick overview

All the magic happens in the scanner, which emits TOK_INDENT and TOK_OUTDENT tokens whenever the level of indentation increases or decreases. The parser in this project just echoes the tokens.

The scanner includes the <normal> mode which it starts in. That's where you put your regular rules. Whenever a newline is encountered in that mode, the parser enters the <indent> mode, in which it keeps counting the spaces and tabs (and ignoring blank lines) until it sees anything else, in which case it outputs either a TOK_INDENT, one or more TOK_OUTDENT as necessary or none of these tokens and goes back to <normal> mode.

The scanner also does its best to keep track of the column where the current match starts, which can be accessed (and changed) through yycolumn. The line number is kept track of by flex internally.

All of this means that you can write the parser as usual, make use of the TOK_INDENT and TOK_OUTDENT tokens in order to handle indentation and access the current line of tokens through @1.first_line (and @1.last_line if the token spans multiple lines, which I don't recommend.) and the column range of it through @1.first_column and @1.last_column.

One caveat is that if one of your rules includes a newline character and is matches text longer than one symbol, you will need to reset yycolumn by hand.

Another one is that, for technical reasons, the column-range of the TOK_INDENT and TOK_OUTDENT tokens is the first character of the line or, for outdents happening through reaching the end of the file, 0-0.

Until I write a full tutorial, I recommend you look at the code, it is short and fully commented.

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An example of how to correctly parse python-like indentation-scoped files using flex (and bison).

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