A prototype implementation of the ASDF Standard for C++
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The Advanced Scientific Data Format (ASDF) is a next-generation interchange format for scientific data. This repository contains a prototype library implementation of the ASDF Standard in C++. It is not yet feature-complete, but it supports ASDF's core capabilities of storing metadata in YAML and serializing n-dimensional numerical data arrays.


Building and installing this library requires cmake.

The YAML implementation is provided by `yaml-cpp <https://github.com/jbeder/yaml-cpp`_.

The zlib and bzip2 libraries are optional dependencies but are required in order to support compression of array data blocks.

Build Instructions

CMake is used to configure, build, and install the package. CMake encourages out-of-place builds. The first step is to create a build directory:

$ mkdir build

Next, move into the build directory:

$ cd build

Now we configure CMake. This step allows users to configure the path to the installed library using the CMAKE_INSTALL_PREFIX variable. If this variable is omitted from the command line, CMake will use a default system path as a prefix. This will most likely be /usr/local on a Unix-like system. Note that installing to a system path may require elevated privileges.

$ cmake .. -DCMAKE_INSTALL_PREFIX=/path/to/install/tree

Now it is possible to build the package. CMake will automatically build the yaml-cpp dependency in this step as well:

$ make

The example programs can be run without installing the package. However, in order to link other applications against this library, it will need to be installed.

To install the yaml-cpp dependency to the path specified by CMAKE_INSTALL_PREFIX, run the following command. This step will be necessary unless you cloned the repository (remember to use the fork mentioned above for now) from github and installed it separately:

$ make yaml-cpp-extern-install

To install asdf-cpp itself, run the following command:

$ make install


So far little effort has been made to support cross-platform portability. It should be possible to build the library with any sufficiently recent version of clang or gcc. It almost certainly will not build on Windows yet. If this is important to you, please feel free to submit a PR in order to help us support cross-platform compatibility.

Linking Against asdf-cpp

To link an application against asdf-cpp, it is recommended to use CMake. When configuring the build for the application, the CMAKE_PREFIX_PATH should be set to the same path as the CMAKE_INSTALL_PREFIX that was used to configure the library build. (If not given, it will default to a system path such as /usr/local).

A very basic application example complete with CMakeLists.txt is provided in examples/asdf-toy. This can be used as a project template for applications that wish to build against asdf-cpp.

To build the toy:

$ cd examples/asdf-toy $ mkdir build $ cd build $ cmake .. -DCMAKE_PREFIX_PATH=/path/to/install/tree $ make


The examples directory contains toy programs that demonstrate the current functionality of the library. The program write-asdf creates an ASDF file that contains YAML metadata and also several n-dimensional arrays. This file can be read by the program read-asdf.

The program write-compressed demonstrates ASDF's ability to compress the n-dimensional data arrays for more efficient storage on disk. The file created by write-compressed can be read by read-compressed.

Running the examples

After configuring and building the package, the example program executables can be found in the following directory (where $BUILD_ROOT represents the path to the CMake build directory that was created when setting up the build):


The examples can be run from the command line. For example, to create an ASDF file, run the following command:

$BUILD_ROOT/examples/write-asdf example.asdf

This will create a new file called example.asdf. This file can be read using the following command:

$BUILD_ROOT/examples/read-asdf example.asdf

Limitations and Future Improvements

The following features are not currently supported, but will be added incrementally:

  • Schema validation: schemas are currently not validated either when reading or writing files. This means that it is currently possible to create ASDF files using this API that may not be validated successfully by other implementations of ASDF.
  • Complex numbers
  • Table data
  • External arrays and "exploded" form
  • Handling big-endian data and big-endian platforms


We welcome feedback and contributions to the project. Contributions of code, documentation, or general feedback are all appreciated. Please follow the contributing guidelines to submit an issue or a pull request.

We strive to provide a welcoming community to all of our users by abiding to the Code of Conduct.

See Also