OCaml bindings for the YAJL streaming JSON parser
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OCaml bindings for the YAJL streaming JSON parser. Also includes a convenient, high-level JSON representation.


yajl-ocaml works on Linux and Mac OS X with OCaml 3.12 and above. The easiest way to install it is using OPAM: opam install yajl.

If you don't use OPAM, set up findlib, define the OCAMLFIND_DESTDIR environment variable if necessary and

git clone https://github.com/mlin/yajl-ocaml.git && cd yajl-ocaml && make install

Build Status

The Makefile will automatically pull in a few dependencies, including YAJL itself and ocaml+twt.

You can then use ocamlfind as usual to include the yajl package when compiling your program (making sure OCAMLPATH includes OCAMLFIND_DESTDIR if you changed it).

API documentation

See ocamldoc:YAJL

Example usage

JSON parsing

yajl-ocaml provides fairly direct bindings to the YAJL callback API, in which the parser invokes your callback functions for each JSON "event" and it's mainly up to you to build a data structure based on the sequence of events. The bindings help with threading a polymorphic "context value" through your callbacks.

Here's a program that demonstrates use of the callback API to build up a list of the events observed during parsing. It then post-processes the list to print the number of string values in the input. In this example, event list is the type of the context value passed through the callbacks.

type event = Null | Bool of bool | Int of int | Float of float | String of string
  | Start_map | Map_key of string | End_map | Start_array | End_array

let on_null lst = Null :: lst
let on_bool lst b = (Bool b) :: lst
let on_int lst i = (Int i) :: lst
let on_float lst x = (Float x) :: lst
let on_string lst buf ofs len = (String (String.sub buf ofs len)) :: lst
let on_start_map lst = Start_map :: lst
let on_map_key lst buf ofs len = (Map_key (String.sub buf ofs len)) :: lst
let on_end_map lst = End_map :: lst
let on_start_array lst = Start_array :: lst
let on_end_array lst = End_array :: lst 

let my_callbacks = {
  YAJL.on_null = on_null;
  on_bool = on_bool;
  on_number =  `Parse_numbers ((`Int on_int), on_float);
  on_string = on_string;
  on_start_map = on_start_map;
  on_map_key = on_map_key;
  on_end_map = on_end_map;
  on_start_array = on_start_array;
  on_end_array = on_end_array

let parser = YAJL.make_parser my_callbacks [] ;;
YAJL.parse parser "{\"foo\": [null,false,true,0,12345" ;;
YAJL.parse parser ",3.14159,6e23,\"bar\",\"\"]}" ;;
let events = List.rev (YAJL.complete_parse parser) ;;

Printf.printf "%d strings\n"
  (List.length (List.filter (function String _ -> true | _ -> false) events))

Note that we provided the JSON data to YAJL in multiple parts. Large JSON data can be streamed from a file or socket in arbitrary chunks, without buffering it all in memory, and the callbacks are invoked as early as possible.

JSON generation

yajl-ocaml also provides bindings to YAJL's JSON generator functions.

let json =
  let gen = YAJL.make_gen () in
    YAJL.gen_start_map gen;
    YAJL.gen_string gen "key";
    YAJL.gen_start_array gen;
    YAJL.gen_bool gen true;
    List.iter (YAJL.gen_int gen) [1; 2; 3];
    YAJL.gen_string gen "骆驼\"\000";
    YAJL.gen_end_array gen;
    YAJL.gen_end_map gen;
    let buf, ofs, len = YAJL.gen_get_buf gen in
    String.sub buf ofs len
  end ;;

Printf.printf "%s\n" json

This produces: {"key":[true,1,2,3,"骆驼\"\u0000"]}. Note that YAJL handled escaping the string.

High-level JSON representation

This repo also contains an "extra" OCaml library with a convenient, high-level JSON representation based on data structures in batteries. Among other conveniences, it defines operators to make it especially easy to manipulate JSON objects (look up keys, set values, etc.).

To use it opam install yajl-extra, or make install-extra in the repo directory, and then use package yajl-extra. This package provides a module JSON: ocamldoc:JSON

As an example, suppose we want to parse this configuration JSON.

{"servers": [
  {"host": "", "port": 9119},
  {"host": "", "port": 9120}

We could do something like this:

open Batteries_uni
open JSON.Operators
let config () =
  let json = JSON.from_file "config.json" in
  let servers = json$"servers" in
  servers |> JSON.array |> Vect.to_array |> Array.map
    (fun entry -> JSON.string (entry$"host"), JSON.int (entry$"port")) ;;

config() |> Array.iter (fun (host,port) -> Printf.printf "%s:%d\n" host port)

batteries is required for this "extra" library, but not the callback-based yajl-ocaml.

Performance notes

Given a set of callbacks that don't do anything, yajl-ocaml will go through a large JSON much faster than other OCaml JSON libraries. Of course, that's not a fair comparison, because that way of using yajl-ocaml would not produce any useful results.

Given callbacks that produce a comparable general-purpose data structure, such as the "extra" JSON library, yajl-ocaml will not be much faster or slower than other good OCaml JSON libraries like Yojson, because that task is mainly bound to memory allocation, string copying, and number parsing.

yajl-ocaml could be used to its greatest advantage somewhere in between: for example, suppose you had to process a large numeric matrix represented as JSON arrays. yajl-ocaml would give you the flexibility to do that much more efficiently than a general-purpose JSON parser (e.g., streaming the rows one- by-one while reusing the same float array to avoid memory allocation).

Running tests

Ensure you have oUnit and batteries installed via findlib. Then, just make test in the repo directory. This will automatically wget a certain large, pathological JSON before running the tests (which use it).

The tests also run on Travis CI: Build Status

Version history

v0.7.3 (11 Jan 2013)

  • "Extra" JSON library now compiles against batteries 2.x; previous versions used batteries 1.x.

v0.7.2 (9 Dec 2012)

  • Fix JSON generation of large integers

v0.7.1 (29 Oct 2012)

  • First released on OPAM