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Emacs Lisp structure packing
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bitpack: an Emacs Lisp structure packing library

bitpack is similar to the built-in bindat package. However, this package can encode IEEE 754 floating point values, both single (32-bit) and double precision (64-bit).

In Emacs 26.1 on modern x86-64 hardware, it stores ~290k double precision floats per second, and loads them at ~1.3M per second.

Requires either:

  • Emacs 27 (any)
  • Emacs 24.3 through 26.x (64-bit or --with-wide-int 32-bit)

Use make check to verify that your particular Emacs build works correctly with this package.


Rather than return and accept unibyte strings, each function operates on the current buffer. This buffer must not be multibyte (i.e. set-buffer-multibyte to nil).

The byte-order argument can be :> (big endian) or :< little endian.

;; Store floats
(bitpack-store-f32 byte-order x)
(bitpack-store-f64 byte-order x)

;; Store integers
(bitpack-store-i8 x)
(bitpack-store-i16 byte-order x)
(bitpack-store-i32 byte-order x)
(bitpack-store-i64 byte-order x)

;; Load floats
(bitpack-load-f32 byte-order)
(bitpack-load-f64 byte-order)

;; Load integers
(bitpack-load-u16 byte-order)
(bitpack-load-s16 byte-order)
(bitpack-load-u32 byte-order)
(bitpack-load-s32 byte-order)
(bitpack-load-u64 byte-order)
(bitpack-load-s64 byte-order)

When writing values, the sign doesn't matter. When reading values, the sign determines how the value is interpreted.


Packing and unpacking floating a point value:

  (set-buffer-multibyte nil)
  (bitpack-store-f64 :> pi)
;; => "\x40\x09\x21\xfb\x54\x44\x2d\x18"

  (set-buffer-multibyte nil)
    (insert #x40 #x09 #x21 #xfb #x54 #x44 #x2d #x18))
  (bitpack-load-f64 :>))
;; => 3.141592653589793

This writes a middle-c.wav file with three seconds of a middle C tone:

(with-temp-file "middle-c.wav"
  (set-buffer-multibyte nil)
  (let ((hz 44100)
        (seconds 3)
        (freq 261.6)) ;; middle C
    (insert "RIFF")
    (bitpack-store-i32 :< -1)       ; file length
    (insert "WAVE")
    (insert "fmt ")
    (bitpack-store-i32 :< 16)       ; struct size
    (bitpack-store-i16 :< 1)        ; PCM
    (bitpack-store-i16 :< 1)        ; mono
    (bitpack-store-i32 :< hz)       ; sample rate (i.e. 44.1 kHz)
    (bitpack-store-i32 :< (* 2 hz)) ; byte rate
    (bitpack-store-i16 :< 2)        ; block size
    (bitpack-store-i16 :< 16)       ; bits per sample
    (insert "data")
    (bitpack-store-i32 :< -1)       ; byte length
    (dotimes (i (* seconds hz))
      (let* ((time (/ i (float hz)))
             (value (sin (* time freq 2.0 pi)))
             (sample (* 32767 value)))
        (bitpack-store-i16 :< (round sample))))))
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