Python packed binary data for networking.
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NetStruct is a struct-like module for Python designed to make it a bit easier to send and received packed binary data.

NetStruct is available under the Apache License, Version 2.0.


NetStruct can be installed using pip:

pip install netstruct

You can also grab the latest code from the git) repository:

git clone git://

NetStruct runs on Python 2.6+, PyPy, and Python 3 (though only Python 3.3 has been tested).

Differences from struct

NetStruct has two differences from struct.

First, it defaults to using network byte-order, rather than native byte-order, on the assumption that you'll be using it to send data over the network and, thus, it's saving you time.

Additionally, the generated strings don't have any padding when using non-native byte-order.

Second, NetStruct supports a new formatting character, the dollar sign ($). The dollar sign represents a variable-length string, encoded with its length preceeding the string itself. To accomplish this, the formatting character directly before the dollar sign is assumed to represent the string's length.


This is as basic as it gets:

>>> import netstruct
>>> netstruct.pack(b"b$", b"Hello World!")
b'\x0cHello World!'


>>> netstruct.unpack(b"b$", b"\x0cHello World!")
[b'Hello World!']

You can get a bit more complex, if you'd like:

>>> netstruct.pack(b"ih$5b", 1298, b"largeBiomes", 0, 0, 1, 0, 8)

And, of course, you can unpack complex data too:

>>> netstruct.unpack(b"bh$h$i", b"'\x00\x07stendec\x00\tlocalhost\x00\x00c\xdd")
[39, b'stendec', b'localhost', 25565]

You just have to be sure to use a long enough string:

>>> netstruct.unpack(b"bh$h$i", b"'\x00\x07stendec\x00\tlocalhost\x00")
Traceback (most recent call last):
  File "<stdin>", line 1, in <module>
  File "site-packages/", line 275, in unpack
    return NetStruct(format).unpack(data)
  File "site-packages/", line 165, in unpack
    raise error("unpack requires a string argument of length %d" % (len(data) + out))
struct.error: unpack requires a string argument of length 25

But wait, you say. How am I supposed to provide a long enough string to unpack the data when I can't possibly know the length ahead of time? Simply put, you can know the length:

>>> it = netstruct.iter_unpack(b"ih$5b")
>>> next(it)

The iter_unpack function returns an iterator. Each time you call that iterator with next(), or call its .send() method, it can return one of two values. Either it'll return the number of bytes it wants you to read next, or it'll return the completed object.

Let's continue from above:

>>> it.send(b"\x00\x00\x05\x12\x00\x0b")
>>> it.send(b"largeBiomes")
>>> it.send(b"\x00\x00\x01\x00\x08   more")
[1298, b'largeBiomes', 0, 0, 1, 0, 8]

There. I've sent enough data, so it returned the completed list of the unpacked data. At this point, I can take my data, and do whatever it is I want with it.

But wait! I just sent too much data to that iterator, and now I've lost some of my string, haven't I? That's not a problem either. You can call the iterator one final time and it will return the unconsumed remainder of the data:

>>> next(it)
b'   more'

It's just that simple. Of course, not everyone likes iterators, even if they are quicker and less memory intensive than a class instance. NetStruct is prepared, with its Unpacker class and obj_unpack. Let's try that last example one more time:

>>> obj = netstruct.obj_unpack(b"ih$5b")
>>> obj.remaining
>>> obj.feed(b"\x00\x00\x05\x12\x00\x0b")
>>> obj.feed(b"largeBiomes")
>>> obj.feed(b"\x00\x00\x01\x00\x08   more")
>>> obj.result
[1298, b'largeBiomes', 0, 0, 1, 0, 8]
>>> obj.unused_data
b'   more'