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Advantages of using this library
Cost of using Metaparse
Supported platforms

Metaparse is a compile-time parser generator library. Metaparse provides tools to write parsers parsing the content of string literals at compile-time, which makes it possible to embed domain specific languages (DSLs) into C++ without altering their original syntax (Note that the DSL code snippets will be written in string literals, therefore they may need to be escaped).

Assuming that the following template class is available for representing rational numbers in template metaprogramming:

template <class Num, class Denom>
struct rational;

Metaparse can be used to construct such values (instantiate the rational template class) from string literals. Instead of rational<1, 3> one can write RATIONAL("1/3") which can be processed by any standard-compliant C++11 compiler (and mean the same). This can be implemented using Metaparse the following way:

using namespace boost::metaparse;


    last_of<lit_c<'/'>, token<int_>>

typedef build_parser<entire_input<rational_grammar>> rational_parser;

#define RATIONAL(s) \

Note that this is the entire implementation. Also note that this implementation can be extended to improve the error reports in certain situations.

Metaparse is intended to be used by library authors to make their APIs follow the usual notation of the library's problem domain.

Boost.Proto is a tool for building expression templates. Expression templates can be used for DSL embedding by reinterpreting valid C++ expressions as expressions written in the DSL to embed.

This technique has the advantages over parsing the content of string literals (which is Metaparse's approach) that:

  • is faster in most cases
  • APIs using this technique can "emerge" as a process of advancing the API of a library step-by-step. Moving to a completely new DSL (with its own syntax) is a relatively big step.

Using expression templates for DSL embedding has the following disadvantages:

  • the syntax of the embedded DSL is limited. It has to be a valid C++ expression. For most libraries, people familiar with the original DSL usually need to learn the library's syntax to understand the embedded code snippets.

Proto helps embedding DSLs based on expression templates, while Metaparse helps embedding DSLs based on parsing the content of string literals.

Spirit is a tool that can be used to build parsers parsing (among others) the content of string literals at runtime, while Metaparse is a tool that can be used to parse the content of string literals at compile-time.

This library is useful to provide an API for C++ libraries dealing with a problem domain with its own notation. Interfaces built with Metaparse make it possible for the users of the interface to use the domain's own notation, which makes it easier to write and maintain the code. Users of the interface don't need to learn a new notation (trying to follow the problem domain's original one) library authors constrained by the C++ syntax can provide. Example problem domains are regular expressions and SQL queries.

Metaparse can also be useful to build libraries validating the content of string literals at compile time instead of doing it at runtime or not doing it at all. This can help finding (and fixing) bugs in the code early (during compilation). An example problem domain is printf.

The parsers built with Metaparse process the content of the string literals using template metaprograms. This impacts the library using Metaparse the following way:

  • The maintainer of the API built with Metaparse will need to understand template metaprogramming.
  • The content of the string literals will be (re)parsed during every compilation. This will impact the compiler's memory consumption and the compilation speed.
  • The users of the library will receive the error reports coming from the parsers as template error messages of their compiler. (Note that Metaparse actively tries improving their quality and provides tools for parser authors).

Metaparse is based on C++98. The only exception is the BOOST_METAPARSE_STRING macro, which needs C++11 constexpr.

Compilers Metaparse is actively (in a CI environment) tested on:

  • GCC 4.6, 4.7, 4.8, 4.9
  • Clang 3.4, 3.5, 3.6
  • Visual C++ 2015

Metaparse is expected to work on Visual C++ 2012 and 2010.