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.. _ctags-optlib(7):
Universal-ctags parser definition language
:Version: @VERSION@
:Manual group: Universal-ctags
:Manual section: 7
| **@CTAGS_NAME_EXECUTABLE@** [options] [file(s)]
| **@ETAGS_NAME_EXECUTABLE@** [options] [file(s)]
**Exuberant-ctags**, the ancestor of **Universal-ctags**, has provided
the way to define a new parser from command line. Universal-ctags
extends and refines this feature. **optlib parser** is the name for such
parser in Universal-ctags. "opt" intents a parser is defined with
combination of command line options. "lib" intents an optlib parser
can be more than ad-hoc personal configuration.
This man page is for people who wants to define an optlib parser. The
reader should read ctags(1) of Universal-ctags first. Following
options are for defining (or customizing) a parser:
* ``--langdef=``
* ``--kinddef-<LANG>=``
* ``--map-<LANG>=``
* ``--regex-<LANG>=``
Following options are for controlling loading parser
* ``--optlib-dir=[+]directory``
* ``--options=file|directory``
* ``--options-maybe=pathname``
The design of options and notations for defining a parser in
Exuberant-ctags may focus on reducing the number of typing by user.
Reducing the number of typing is important for users who want to
define (or customize) a parser quickly.
On the other hand, the design in Universal-ctags focuses on
maintainability. The notation of Universal-ctags is redundant than
that of Exuberant-ctags; the newly introduced kind should be declared
explicitly, (long) names are approved than single letter flags
specifying kinds, and naming rules are stricter.
This man page explains only stable options and flags. Universal-ctags
also introduces experimental options and flags which have names starting
with ``_``. For documentation on these options and flags, visit
Universal-ctags web site at
Storing a parser definition to a file
Though it is possible to define a parser from command line, you don't
want to type the same command line each time when you need the parser.
You can store options for defining a parser into a file.
@CTAGS_NAME_EXECUTABLE@ loads files (preload files) listed in "FILES"
section of ctags(1) at program starting up. You can put your parser
definition needed usually to the files.
``--options=pathname``, ``--options-maybe=pathname``, and
``--optlib-dir=[+]directory`` are for loading optlib files you need
occasionally. See "COMMAND LINE INTERFACE" section of ctags(1) for
these options.
As explained in FILES section of ctags(1), options for defining a
parser listed line by line in an optlib file. Prefixed white spaces are
ignored. A line starting with '#' is treated as a comment. Escaping
shell meta character is not needed.
Use ".ctags" as file extension for optlib file. You can define
multiple parsers in an optlib file but it is better to make a file for
each parser definition.
``--_echo=msg`` and ``--_force-quit=[num]`` options are for debugging
optlib parser.
Overview for defining a parser
1. Design the parser
You need know both the target language and the ctags'
concepts (definition, reference, kind, role, field, extra). About
the concepts, ctags(1) of Universal-ctags may help you.
2. Give a name to the parser
Use ``--langdef=name`` option. *NAME* is referred as *<LANG>* in
the later steps.
3. Give a file pattern or file extension for activating the parser
Use ``--map-<LANG>=[+|-]extension|pattern``.
4. Define kinds
Use ``--kinddef-<LANG>=letter,name,description`` option.
Universal-ctags introduces this option. Exuberant-ctags doesn't
have. In Exuberant-ctags, a kind is defined as a side effect of
specifying ``--regex-<LANG>=`` option. So user doesn't have a
chance to recognize how important the definition of kind.
5. Define patterns
Use ``--regex-<LANG>=/regexp/replacement/[kind-spec/][flags]`` option.
As *KIND-SPEC*, you can use the letter defined with
``--kinddef-<LANG>=letter,name,description`` option.
This is the definition (pod.ctags) used in ctags for parsing pod
( file.
--regex-pod=/^=head1[ \t]+(.+)/\1/c/
--regex-pod=/^=head2[ \t]+(.+)/\1/s/
--regex-pod=/^=head3[ \t]+(.+)/\1/S/
--regex-pod=/^=head4[ \t]+(.+)/\1/t/
Defines a new user-defined language, *name*, to be parsed with regular
expressions. Once defined, name may be used in other options taking
language names.
The names of built-in parsers are capitalized. When
@CTAGS_NAME_EXECUTABLE@ evaluates an option in a command line, and
chooses a parser, @CTAGS_NAME_EXECUTABLE@ uses the names of
parsers in a case-insensitive way. Therefore, giving a name
started from a lowercase character doesn't help you to avoid the
parser name confliction. However, in a tags file,
@CTAGS_NAME_EXECUTABLE@ prints parser names in a case-sensitive
way; it prints a parser name as specified in ``--langdef=``
option. Therefore, we recommend you to give a name started from a
lowercase character to your private optlib parser. With this
convention, people can know where a tag entry in a tag file comes
from a built-in parser or a private optlib parser.
Lists the flags that can be used in ``--regex-<LANG>`` option.
Define a kind for *<LANG>*.
Be not confused this with ``--kinds-<LANG>``.
*letter* must be an alphabetical character ('[0-9a-zA-EG-Z]')
other than "F". "F" has been reserved for representing a file
since Exuberant-ctags.
*name* also must come from alphabetical characters ('[0-9a-zA-Z]+').
Do not use "file" as *name*. It has been reserved for representing
a file since Exuberant-ctags.
*description* comes from any printable ASCII characters. The
exception is "{" and "\". "{" is reserved for adding flags
this option in the future. So put "\" before "{" to include
"{" to a description. To include "\" itself to a description,
put "\" before "\".
Both *letter*, *name* and their combination must be unique in
a *<LANG>*.
This option is newly introduced in Universal-ctags. This option
reduces the typing defining a regex pattern with
``--regex-<LANG>=``, and keeps the consistency of kind
definitions in a language.
The *letter* can be used as an argument for ``--kinds-<LANG>``
option to enable or disable the kind. Unless ``K`` field is
enabled, the *letter* is used as value in the "kind" extension
field in tags output.
The *name* surrounded by braces can be used as an argument for
``--kind-<LANG>`` option. If ``K`` field is enabled, the *name*
is used as value in the "kind" extension field in tags output.
The *description* and *letter* are listed in ``--list-kinds``
output. All three elements of kind-spec are listed in
``--list-kinds-full`` output. Don't use braces in the
*description*. They will be used meta characters in the future.
The /regexp/replacement/ pair defines a regular expression
replacement pattern, similar in style to sed substitution
commands, with which to generate tags from source files mapped to
the named language, *<LANG>*, (case-insensitive; either a built-in
or user-defined language). The regular expression, regexp, defines
an extended regular expression (roughly that used by egrep(1)),
which is used to locate a single source line containing a tag and
may specify tab characters using \t. When a matching line is
found, a tag will be generated for the name defined by
*replacement*, which generally will contain the special
back-references \1 through \9 to refer to matching sub-expression
groups within regexp. The '/' separator characters shown in the
parameter to the option can actually be replaced by any
character. Note that whichever separator character is used will
have to be escaped with a backslash ('\') character wherever it is
used in the parameter as something other than a separator. The
regular expression defined by this option is added to the current
list of regular expressions for the specified language unless the
parameter is omitted, in which case the current list is cleared.
Unless modified by flags, regexp is interpreted as a Posix
extended regular expression. The *replacement* should expand for all
matching lines to a non-empty string of characters, or a warning
message will be reported unless ``{placeholder}`` regex flag is
specified. An optional kind specifier for tags matching regexp may
follow *replacement*, which will determine what kind of tag is
reported in the "kind" extension field (see ctags-tags(5)).
*kind-spec* has two forms: letter only form and full form. The
letter form assumes using ``--regex-<LANG>`` option with
``--kinddef-<LANG>`` option. The *kind-spec* in ``--regex-<LANG>``
option just refers a letter defined with
``--kinddef-<LANG>``. This form is recommended in Universal-ctags.
The full form of *kind-spec* is in the form of a single *letter*, a
comma, a *name* (only out of alphabetical characters), a comma, a
*description*. See the description of
``--kinddef-<LANG>=letter,name,description`` option about how the
elements are used.
Either the kind *name* and/or the *description* can be omitted.
However, unless the *letter* is not defined with
``--kinddef-<LANG>`` option, omitting is not recommended in in
Universal-ctags. The omitting form is supported only for keeping
the compatibility with Exuberant-ctags. Supporting the omitting
form will be removed from Universal-ctags in the future. If
kind-spec is omitted, it defaults to "r,regex".
About *flag*, see "Flags for ``--regex-<LANG>`` option".
For more information on the regular expressions used by
@CTAGS_NAME_EXECUTABLE@, see either the regex(5,7) man page, or
the GNU info documentation for regex (e.g. "info regex").
Print *msg* to the standard error stream. This is helpful to
understand (and debug) optlib loading feature of Universal-ctags.
Exits immediately when this option is processed. If *num* is used
as exit status. The default is 0. This is helpful to debug optlib
loading feature of Universal-ctags.
You can specify more than one flag at the end of ``--regex-<LANG>`` to
control how Universal-ctags uses the pattern.
Exuberant-ctags uses a *letter* to represent a flag. In
Universal-ctags, a *name* surrounded by braces (name form) can be used
in addition to *letter*. The name form makes a user reading an optlib
file easier. The most of all flags newly added in Universal-ctags
don't have the letter representation. All of them have only the name
representation. ``--list-regex-flags`` lists all the flags.
``basic`` (letter form ``b``)
The pattern is interpreted as a Posix basic regular expression.
``exclusive`` (letter form ``x``)
Skip testing the other patterns if a line is matched to this
pattern. This is useful to avoid using CPU to parse line comments.
``extend`` (letter form ``e``)
The pattern is interpreted as a Posix extended regular
expression (default).
``icase`` (letter form ``i``)
The regular expression is to be applied in a case-insensitive
Don't emit a tag captured with a regex pattern. The replacement
can be an empty string. See the following description of
``scope=...`` flag about how this is useful.
Specify what to do with the internal scope stack.
A parser programmed with ``--regex-<LANG>`` has a stack (scope
stack) internally. You can use it for tracking scope
information. The ``scope=...`` flag is for manipulating and
utilizing the scope stack.
If ``{scope=push}`` is specified, a tag captured with
``--regex-<LANG>`` is pushed to the stack. ``{scope=push}``
implies ``{scope=ref}``.
You can fill the scope field of captured tag with
``{scope=ref}``. If ``{scope=ref}`` flag is given,
@CTAGS_NAME_EXECUTABLE@ attaches the tag at the top to the tag
captured with ``--regex-<LANG>`` as the value for the ``scope:``
@CTAGS_NAME_EXECUTABLE@ pops the tag at the top of the stack when
``--regex-<LANG>`` with ``{scope=pop}`` is matched to the input
Specifying ``{scope=clear}`` removes all the tags in the scope.
Specifying ``{scope=set}`` removes all the tags in the scope, and
then pushes the captured tag as ``{scope=push}`` does.
In some cases, you may want to use ``--regex-<LANG>`` only for its
side effects: using it only to manipulate the stack but not for
capturing a tag. In such a case, make *replacement* component of
``--regex-<LANG>`` option empty while specifying ``{placeholder}``
as a regex flag. For example, a non-named tag can be put on
the stack by giving a regex flag ``{scope=push}{placeholder}``.
You may wonder what happens if a regex pattern with
``{scope=ref}`` flag matches an input line but the stack is empty,
or a non-named tag is at the top. If the regex pattern contains a
``{scope=ref}`` flag and the stack is empty, the ``{scope=ref}``
flag is ignored and nothing is attached to the ``scope:`` field.
If the top of the stack contains an unnamed tag,
@CTAGS_NAME_EXECUTABLE@ searches deeper into the stack to find the
top-most named tag. If it reaches the bottom of the stack without
finding a named tag, the ``{scope=ref}`` flag is ignored and
nothing is attached to the ``scope:`` field.
When a named tag on the stack is popped or cleared as the side
effect of a pattern matching, @CTAGS_NAME_EXECUTABLE@ attaches the
line number of the match to the ``end:`` field of
the named tag.
@CTAGS_NAME_EXECUTABLE@ clears all of the tags on the stack when it
reaches the end of the input source file. The line number of the
end is attached to the ``end:`` field of the cleared tags.
Four things, an input source file,
an optlib file, a command line invoking ctags, and
output makes an example.
Using scope regex flags
Let's think about writing a parser for a very small subset of the Ruby
input source file ("input.srb")::
class Example
def methodA
puts "in class_method"
def methodB
puts "in class_method"
The parser for the input should capture "Example" with ``class`` kind,
"methodA", and "methodB" with ``method`` kind. "methodA" and "methodB"
should have "Example" as their scope. ``end:`` fields of each tag
should have proper values.
optlib file ("sub-ruby.ctags")::
--regex-subRuby=/^class[ \t]+([a-zA-Z][a-zA-Z0-9]+)/\1/c/{scope=push}
--regex-subRuby=/^[ \t]+def[ \t]+([a-zA-Z][a-zA-Z0-9_]+)/\1/m/{scope=push}
--regex-subRuby=/^[ \t]+end///{scope=pop}{placeholder}
command line and output::
$ ctags --quiet --options=NONE --fields=+eK \
--options=./sub-ruby.ctags -o - input.srb
Example input.srb /^class Example$/;" class end:8
methodA input.srb /^ def methodA$/;" method class:Example end:4
methodB input.srb /^ def methodB$/;" method class:Example end:7
The official Universal-ctags web site at:
ctags(1), regex(5,7), egrep(1)
Universal-ctags project
(This man page partially derived from ctags(1) of
Darren Hiebert <>