Declarative object serialization for networked programs in Python
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README.md

cerealize

Declarative object serialization for Python

cerealize is a library that allows you to define custom binary serialization functionality for Python objects using a declarative syntax. It is built on top of attrs and is effectively a superset of that package.

The motiviation for creating this library was to reduce the amount of boilerplate code needed to implement message creation and parsing for networked / distributed software. With cerealize you can use real classes for representing your packets and messages, and define the serialization of those messages directly within your class definitions.

Built for OOP

Inspired by existing packages such as construct, cerealize enables a similar declarative style of defining serialization behavior. Where cerealize stands out however is in its optimization for object-oriented programming: You can use full-featured classes to represent your messages, complete with encapsulated data and logic, and also define the serialization behavior directly within the class definition.

Compatible with attrs

cerealize is a superset of the attrs package, and thus fully backward compatible (for Python 3.x).

C-Like Type Definitions

Most network protocols rely on C data types to specify the form of message fields. Cerealize provides C-Like type defintions to ease the process of implementing code from protocol documentation, such that the resulting classes resemble C structs.

Consider a hypothetical C struct for representing a packet header:

struct Header {
  uint32_t version;
  char sender[12];
  bool flag;
  int64_t checksum;
};

The equivalent Python class implemented with cerealize would be:

@serializable
class Header(SerialClass):
    version = field(serial_type=uint32_t)
    sender = field(serial_type=string_t(12))
    flag = field(serial_type=bool_t)
    checksum = field(serial_type=int64_t)

Example

Let's say we have a message type Foo that we want to represent as a class. This message has 4 fields w,x,y,z with types int16_t[5], boolean, int32_t, and a string of at most 12 characters (char[12]). We can declare this message as follows:

@serializable
class Foo:
    w = field(Array(int16_t, 5))
    x = field(bool_t)
    y = field(int32_t)
    z = field(string_t(12))

We can now instantiate messages as regular Python objects:

>>> myObject = Foo(w=[1,2,5,6,7], x=True, y=938281, z="Hello world!")
>>> myObject

Foo(w=[1, 2, 5, 6, 7], x=True, y=938281, z='Hello world!')

To send our messages over the wire, we pass the message object to cerealize's encode() function to convert it to a stream of bytes:

>>> encodedBytes = encode(myObject)
>>> encodedBytes

b'\x00\x01\x00\x02\x00\x05\x00\x06\x00\x07\x01\x00\x0eQ)Hello world!'

On the receiving end, a buffer of bytes is passed to cerealize's decode() function (in addition to the target class) to convert bytes back into a live Python object:

>>> decodedObject, buf = decode(Foo, encodedBytes)
>>> decodedObject

Foo(w=[1, 2, 5, 6, 7], x=True, y=938281, z='Hello world!')