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README.md

PLY (Python Lex-Yacc)

Version 3.5

Copyright (C) 2001-2012, David M. Beazley (Dabeaz LLC) All rights reserved.

Redistribution and use in source and binary forms, with or without modification, are permitted provided that the following conditions are met:

  • Redistributions of source code must retain the above copyright notice, this list of conditions and the following disclaimer.
  • Redistributions in binary form must reproduce the above copyright notice, this list of conditions and the following disclaimer in the documentation and/or other materials provided with the distribution.
  • Neither the name of the David Beazley or Dabeaz LLC may be used to endorse or promote products derived from this software without specific prior written permission.

THIS SOFTWARE IS PROVIDED BY THE COPYRIGHT HOLDERS AND CONTRIBUTORS "AS IS" AND ANY EXPRESS OR IMPLIED WARRANTIES, INCLUDING, BUT NOT LIMITED TO, THE IMPLIED WARRANTIES OF MERCHANTABILITY AND FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE ARE DISCLAIMED. IN NO EVENT SHALL THE COPYRIGHT OWNER OR CONTRIBUTORS BE LIABLE FOR ANY DIRECT, INDIRECT, INCIDENTAL, SPECIAL, EXEMPLARY, OR CONSEQUENTIAL DAMAGES (INCLUDING, BUT NOT LIMITED TO, PROCUREMENT OF SUBSTITUTE GOODS OR SERVICES; LOSS OF USE, DATA, OR PROFITS; OR BUSINESS INTERRUPTION) HOWEVER CAUSED AND ON ANY THEORY OF LIABILITY, WHETHER IN CONTRACT, STRICT LIABILITY, OR TORT (INCLUDING NEGLIGENCE OR OTHERWISE) ARISING IN ANY WAY OUT OF THE USE OF THIS SOFTWARE, EVEN IF ADVISED OF THE POSSIBILITY OF SUCH DAMAGE.

Introduction

PLY is a 100% Python implementation of the common parsing tools lex and yacc. Here are a few highlights:

  • PLY is very closely modeled after traditional lex/yacc. If you know how to use these tools in C, you will find PLY to be similar.

  • PLY provides very extensive error reporting and diagnostic information to assist in parser construction. The original implementation was developed for instructional purposes. As a result, the system tries to identify the most common types of errors made by novice users.

  • PLY provides full support for empty productions, error recovery, precedence specifiers, and moderately ambiguous grammars.

  • Parsing is based on LR-parsing which is fast, memory efficient, better suited to large grammars, and which has a number of nice properties when dealing with syntax errors and other parsing problems. Currently, PLY builds its parsing tables using the LALR(1) algorithm used in yacc.

  • PLY uses Python introspection features to build lexers and parsers.
    This greatly simplifies the task of parser construction since it reduces the number of files and eliminates the need to run a separate lex/yacc tool before running your program.

  • PLY can be used to build parsers for "real" programming languages. Although it is not ultra-fast due to its Python implementation, PLY can be used to parse grammars consisting of several hundred rules (as might be found for a language like C). The lexer and LR parser are also reasonably efficient when parsing typically sized programs. People have used PLY to build parsers for C, C++, ADA, and other real programming languages.

How to Use

PLY consists of two files : lex.py and yacc.py. These are contained within the 'ply' directory which may also be used as a Python package. To use PLY, simply copy the 'ply' directory to your project and import lex and yacc from the associated 'ply' package. For example:

import ply.lex as lex
import ply.yacc as yacc

Alternatively, you can copy just the files lex.py and yacc.py individually and use them as modules. For example:

import lex
import yacc

The file setup.py can be used to install ply using distutils.

The file doc/ply.html contains complete documentation on how to use the system.

The example directory contains several different examples including a PLY specification for ANSI C as given in K&R 2nd Ed.

A simple example is found at the end of this document

Requirements

PLY requires the use of Python 2.2 or greater. However, you should use the latest Python release if possible. It should work on just about any platform. PLY has been tested with both CPython and Jython. It also seems to work with IronPython.

Resources

More information about PLY can be obtained on the PLY webpage at:

http://www.dabeaz.com/ply

For a detailed overview of parsing theory, consult the excellent book "Compilers : Principles, Techniques, and Tools" by Aho, Sethi, and Ullman. The topics found in "Lex & Yacc" by Levine, Mason, and Brown may also be useful.

A Google group for PLY can be found at

http://groups.google.com/group/ply-hack

Acknowledgments

A special thanks is in order for all of the students in CS326 who suffered through about 25 different versions of these tools :-).

The CHANGES file acknowledges those who have contributed patches.

Elias Ioup did the first implementation of LALR(1) parsing in PLY-1.x. Andrew Waters and Markus Schoepflin were instrumental in reporting bugs and testing a revised LALR(1) implementation for PLY-2.0.

Special Note for PLY-3.0

PLY-3.0 the first PLY release to support Python 3. However, backwards compatibility with Python 2.2 is still preserved. PLY provides dual Python 2/3 compatibility by restricting its implementation to a common subset of basic language features. You should not convert PLY using 2to3--it is not necessary and may in fact break the implementation.

Example

Here is a simple example showing a PLY implementation of a calculator with variables.

# -----------------------------------------------------------------------------
# calc.py
#
# A simple calculator with variables.
# -----------------------------------------------------------------------------

tokens = (
    'NAME','NUMBER',
    'PLUS','MINUS','TIMES','DIVIDE','EQUALS',
    'LPAREN','RPAREN',
    )

# Tokens

t_PLUS    = r'\+'
t_MINUS   = r'-'
t_TIMES   = r'\*'
t_DIVIDE  = r'/'
t_EQUALS  = r'='
t_LPAREN  = r'\('
t_RPAREN  = r'\)'
t_NAME    = r'[a-zA-Z_][a-zA-Z0-9_]*'

def t_NUMBER(t):
    r'\d+'
    t.value = int(t.value)
    return t

# Ignored characters
t_ignore = " \t"

def t_newline(t):
    r'\n+'
    t.lexer.lineno += t.value.count("\n")

def t_error(t):
    print("Illegal character '%s'" % t.value[0])
    t.lexer.skip(1)

# Build the lexer
import ply.lex as lex
lex.lex()

# Precedence rules for the arithmetic operators
precedence = (
    ('left','PLUS','MINUS'),
    ('left','TIMES','DIVIDE'),
    ('right','UMINUS'),
    )

# dictionary of names (for storing variables)
names = { }

def p_statement_assign(p):
    'statement : NAME EQUALS expression'
    names[p[1]] = p[3]

def p_statement_expr(p):
    'statement : expression'
    print(p[1])

def p_expression_binop(p):
    '''expression : expression PLUS expression
                  | expression MINUS expression
                  | expression TIMES expression
                  | expression DIVIDE expression'''
    if p[2] == '+'  : p[0] = p[1] + p[3]
    elif p[2] == '-': p[0] = p[1] - p[3]
    elif p[2] == '*': p[0] = p[1] * p[3]
    elif p[2] == '/': p[0] = p[1] / p[3]

def p_expression_uminus(p):
    'expression : MINUS expression %prec UMINUS'
    p[0] = -p[2]

def p_expression_group(p):
    'expression : LPAREN expression RPAREN'
    p[0] = p[2]

def p_expression_number(p):
    'expression : NUMBER'
    p[0] = p[1]

def p_expression_name(p):
    'expression : NAME'
    try:
        p[0] = names[p[1]]
    except LookupError:
        print("Undefined name '%s'" % p[1])
        p[0] = 0

def p_error(p):
    print("Syntax error at '%s'" % p.value)

import ply.yacc as yacc
yacc.yacc()

while 1:
    try:
        s = raw_input('calc > ')   # use input() on Python 3
    except EOFError:
        break
    yacc.parse(s)

Bug Reports and Patches

My goal with PLY is to simply have a decent lex/yacc implementation for Python. As a general rule, I don't spend huge amounts of time working on it unless I receive very specific bug reports and/or patches to fix problems. I also try to incorporate submitted feature requests and enhancements into each new version. To contact me about bugs and/or new features, please send email to dave@dabeaz.com.

In addition there is a Google group for discussing PLY related issues at

http://groups.google.com/group/ply-hack

-- Dave

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