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The library provides parsing and serialization algorithms to transform JSON to and from the value container as needed. This is accomplished through free functions and classes, described as follows.

Parsing is the process where a serialized JSON is validated and decomposed into elements. The library provides these functions and types to assist with parsing:

Table 1.5. Parsing Functions and Types




A SAX push parser implementation which converts a serialized JSON into a series of member function calls to a user provided handler. This allows custom behaviors to be implemented for representing the document in memory.


A structure used to select which extensions are enabled during parsing.


Parse a string containing a complete serialized JSON, and return a value.


A stateful DOM parser object which may be used to efficiently parse a series of JSONs each contained in a single contiguous character buffer, returning each result as a value.


A stateful DOM parser object which may be used to efficiently parse a series of JSONs incrementally, returning each result as a value.


A low level building block used for efficiently building a value. The parsers use this internally, and users may use it to adapt foreign parsers to produce this library's containers.

The parse function offers a simple interface for converting a serialized JSON text to a value in a single function call. This overload uses exceptions to indicate errors:

value jv = parse( "[1,2,3,4,5]" );

Alternatively, an error_code can be used:

error_code ec;
value jv = parse( "[1,2,3,4,5]", ec );
if( ec )
    std::cout << "Parsing failed: " << ec.message() << "\n";

Even when using error codes, exceptions thrown from the underlying memory_resource are still possible:

    error_code ec;
    value jv = parse( "[1,2,3,4,5]", ec );
    if( ec )
        std::cout << "Parsing failed: " << ec.message() << "\n";
catch( std::bad_alloc const& e)
    std::cout << "Parsing failed: " << e.what() << "\n";

The value returned in the preceding examples use the default memory resource. The following code uses a monotonic_resource, which results in faster parsing. jv is marked const to prevent subsequent modification, because containers using a monotonic resource waste memory when mutated.

    monotonic_resource mr;

    value const jv = parse( "[1,2,3,4,5]", &mr );
Non-Standard JSON

Unless otherwise specified, the parser in this library is strict. It recognizes only valid, standard JSON. The parser can be configured to allow certain non-standard extensions by filling in a parse_options structure and passing it by value. By default all extensions are disabled:

parse_options opt;                                  // all extensions default to off
opt.allow_comments = true;                          // permit C and C++ style comments to appear in whitespace
opt.allow_trailing_commas = true;                   // allow an additional trailing comma in object and array element lists
opt.allow_invalid_utf8 = true;                      // skip utf-8 validation of keys and strings

value jv = parse( "[1,2,3,] // comment ", storage_ptr(), opt );

When building with C++20 or later, the use of designated initializers with parse_options is possible:

value jv = parse( "[1,2,3,] // comment ", storage_ptr(),
        .allow_comments = true,             // permit C and C++ style comments to appear in whitespace
        .allow_trailing_commas = true,      // allow a trailing comma in object and array lists
        .allow_invalid_utf8 = true          // skip utf-8 validation of keys and strings
[Caution] Caution

When enabling comment support take extra care not to drop whitespace when reading the input. For example, std::getline removes the endline characters from the string it produces.


Instances of parser and stream_parser offer functionality beyond what is available when using the parse free functions:

  • More control over memory
  • Streaming API, parse input JSON incrementally
  • Improved performance when parsing multiple JSONs
  • Ignore non-JSON content after the end of a JSON

The parser implementation uses temporary storage space to accumulate values during parsing. When using the parse free functions, this storage is allocated and freed in each call. However, by declaring an instance of parser or stream_parser, this temporary storage can be reused when parsing more than one JSON, reducing the total number of dynamic memory allocations.

To use the parser, declare an instance. Then call write once with the buffer containing representing the input JSON. Finally, call release to take ownership of the resulting value upon success. This example persists the parser instance in a class member to reuse across calls:

class connection
    parser p_;                                      // persistent data member

    void do_read( string_view s )                   // called for each complete message from the network
        p_.reset();                                 // start parsing a new JSON using the default resource
        p_.write( s );                              // parse the buffer, using exceptions to indicate error
        do_rpc( p_.release() );                     // process the command

    void do_rpc( value jv );

Sometimes a protocol may have a JSON text followed by data that is in a different format or specification. The JSON portion can still be parsed by using the function write_some. Upon success, the return value will indicate the number of characters consumed from the input, which will exclude the non-JSON characters:

stream_parser p;
error_code ec;
string_view s = "[1,2,3] %HOME%";
std::size_t n = p.write_some( s, ec );
assert( ! ec && p.done() && n == 8 );
s = s.substr( n );
value jv = p.release();
assert( s == "%HOME%" );

The parser instance may be constructed with parse options which allow some non-standard JSON extensions to be recognized:

parse_options opt;                                  // All extensions default to off
opt.allow_comments = true;                          // Permit C and C++ style comments to appear in whitespace
opt.allow_trailing_commas = true;                   // Allow an additional trailing comma in object and array element lists
opt.allow_invalid_utf8 = true;                      // Skip utf-8 validation of keys and strings
stream_parser p( storage_ptr(), opt );              // The stream_parser will use the options
Streaming Parser

The stream_parser implements a streaming algorithm; it allows incremental processing of large JSON inputs using one or more contiguous character buffers. The entire input JSON does not need to be loaded into memory at once. A network server can use the streaming interface to process incoming JSON in fixed-size amounts, providing these benefits:

  • CPU consumption per I/O cycle is bounded
  • Memory consumption per I/O cycle is bounded
  • Jitter, unfairness, and latency is reduced
  • Less total memory is required to process the full input

To use the stream_parser, declare an instance. Then call write zero or more times with successive buffers representing the input JSON. When there are no more buffers, call finish. The function done returns true after a successful call to write or finish if parsing is complete.

In the following example a JSON is parsed from standard input a line at a time. Error codes are used instead. The function finish is used to indicate the end of the input:

[Caution] Caution

This example will break, if comments are enabled, because of std::getline use (see the warning in Non-Standard JSON section).

value read_json( std::istream& is, error_code& ec )
    stream_parser p;
    std::string line;
    while( std::getline( is, line ) )
        p.write( line, ec );
        if( ec )
            return nullptr;
    p.finish( ec );
    if( ec )
        return nullptr;
    return p.release();
Controlling Memory

After default construction, or after reset is called with no arguments, the value produced after a successful parse operation uses the default memory resource. To use a different memory resource, call reset with the resource to use. Here we use a monotonic_resource, which is optimized for parsing but not subsequent modification:

    monotonic_resource mr;

    stream_parser p;
    p.reset( &mr );                                 // Use mr for the resulting value
    p.write( "[1,2,3,4,5]" );                       // Parse the input JSON
    value const jv = p.release();                   // Retrieve the result
    assert( * == mr );                  // Same memory resource

To achieve performance and memory efficiency, the parser uses a temporary storage area to hold intermediate results. This storage is reused when parsing more than one JSON, reducing the total number of calls to allocate memory and thus improving performance. Upon construction, the memory resource used to perform allocations for this temporary storage area may be specified. Otherwise, the default memory resource is used. In addition to a memory resource, the parser can make use of a caller-owned buffer for temporary storage. This can help avoid dynamic allocations for small inputs. The following example uses a four kilobyte temporary buffer for the parser, and falls back to the default memory resource if needed:

unsigned char temp[ 4096 ];                                 // Declare our buffer
stream_parser p(
    storage_ptr(),                                          // Default memory resource
    parse_options{},                                        // Default parse options (strict parsing)
    temp);                                                  // Use our buffer for temporary storage

Through careful specification of buffers and memory resources, it is possible to eliminate all dynamic allocation completely when parsing JSON, for the case where the entire JSON is available in a single character buffer, as shown here:

/*  Parse JSON and invoke the handler

    This function parses the JSON specified in `s`
    and invokes the handler, whose signature must
    be equivalent to:

        void( value const& jv );

    The operation is guaranteed not to perform any
    dynamic memory allocations. However, some
    implementation-defined upper limits on the size
    of the input JSON and the size of the resulting
    value are imposed.

    Upon error, an exception is thrown.
template< class Handler >
void do_rpc( string_view s, Handler&& handler )
    unsigned char temp[ 4096 ];                 // The parser will use this storage for its temporary needs
    parser p(                                   // Construct a strict parser using the temp buffer and no dynamic memory
        get_null_resource(),                    // The null resource never dynamically allocates memory
        parse_options(),                        // Default constructed parse options allow only standard JSON
        temp );

    unsigned char buf[ 16384 ];                 // Now we need a buffer to hold the actual JSON values
    static_resource mr2( buf );                 // The static resource is monotonic, using only a caller-provided buffer
    p.reset( &mr2 );                            // Use the static resource for producing the value
    p.write( s );                               // Parse the entire string we received from the network client

    // Retrieve the value and invoke the handler with it.
    // The value will use `buf` for storage. The handler
    // must not take ownership, since monotonic resources
    // are inefficient with mutation.
    handler( p.release() );
Custom Parsers

Users who wish to implement custom parsing strategies may create their own handler to use with an instance of basic_parser. The handler implements the function signatures required by SAX event interface. In this example we define the "null" parser, which does nothing with the parsed results, to use in the implementation of a function that determines if a JSON text is valid.

    This example verifies that a file contains valid JSON.

#include <boost/json.hpp>

// This file must be manually included when
// using basic_parser to implement a parser.
#include <boost/json/basic_parser_impl.hpp>

#include <iomanip>
#include <iostream>

#include "file.hpp"

using namespace boost::json;

// The null parser discards all the data
class null_parser
    struct handler
        constexpr static std::size_t max_object_size = std::size_t(-1);
        constexpr static std::size_t max_array_size = std::size_t(-1);
        constexpr static std::size_t max_key_size = std::size_t(-1);
        constexpr static std::size_t max_string_size = std::size_t(-1);

        bool on_document_begin( error_code& ) { return true; }
        bool on_document_end( error_code& ) { return true; }
        bool on_object_begin( error_code& ) { return true; }
        bool on_object_end( std::size_t, error_code& ) { return true; }
        bool on_array_begin( error_code& ) { return true; }
        bool on_array_end( std::size_t, error_code& ) { return true; }
        bool on_key_part( string_view, std::size_t, error_code& ) { return true; }
        bool on_key( string_view, std::size_t, error_code& ) { return true; }
        bool on_string_part( string_view, std::size_t, error_code& ) { return true; }
        bool on_string( string_view, std::size_t, error_code& ) { return true; }
        bool on_number_part( string_view, error_code& ) { return true; }
        bool on_int64( std::int64_t, string_view, error_code& ) { return true; }
        bool on_uint64( std::uint64_t, string_view, error_code& ) { return true; }
        bool on_double( double, string_view, error_code& ) { return true; }
        bool on_bool( bool, error_code& ) { return true; }
        bool on_null( error_code& ) { return true; }
        bool on_comment_part(string_view, error_code&) { return true; }
        bool on_comment(string_view, error_code&) { return true; }

    basic_parser<handler> p_;

        : p_(parse_options())


        char const* data,
        std::size_t size,
        error_code& ec)
        auto const n = p_.write_some( false, data, size, ec );
        if(! ec && n < size)
            ec = error::extra_data;
        return n;

validate( string_view s )
    // Parse with the null parser and return false on error
    null_parser p;
    error_code ec;
    p.write(, s.size(), ec );
    if( ec )
        return false;

    // The string is valid JSON.
    return true;

main(int argc, char** argv)
    if(argc != 2)
        std::cerr <<
            "Usage: validate <filename>"
            << std::endl;
        return EXIT_FAILURE;

        // Read the file into a string
        auto const s = read_file( argv[1] );

        // See if the string is valid JSON
        auto const valid = validate( s );

        // Print the result
        if( valid )
            std::cout << argv[1] << " contains a valid JSON\n";
            std::cout << argv[1] << " does not contain a valid JSON\n";
    catch(std::exception const& e)
        std::cerr <<
            "Caught exception: "
            << e.what() << std::endl;
        return EXIT_FAILURE;

    return EXIT_SUCCESS;

Serialization is the process where a JSON document represented in memory by a value is turned into a sequence of characters. The library provides the following free functions and types for serialization:

Table 1.6. Serialization Functions and Types




Serialize a value, array, object, or string to a std::ostream.


Return a std::string representing a serialized value, array, object, or string.


A stateful object which may be used to efficiently serialize one or more instances of value, array, object, or string.

To facilitate debugging and ease of output, library container types may be written to standard output streams using the stream operator:

value jv = { 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 };

std::cout << jv << "\n";

The serialize function converts a value into a std::string:

value jv = { 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 };

std::string s = serialize( jv );

In situations where serializing a value in its entirety is inefficient or even impossible, serializer can be used to serialize a value incrementally. This may be done for a variety of reasons, such as to avoid buffering the entire output, or to ensure that a fixed amount of work is performed in each cycle. Instances of serializer maintain an output state using internal dynamically allocated structures, with an interface to retrieve successive buffers of the serialized output into a caller provided buffer. Here is an example, demonstrating how operator<< may be implemented using a serializer:

// Serialize a value into an output stream

operator<<( std::ostream& os, value const& jv )
    // Create a serializer
    serializer sr;

    // Set the serializer up for our value
    sr.reset( &jv );

    // Loop until all output is produced.
    while( ! sr.done() )
        // Use a local buffer to avoid allocation.
        char buf[ BOOST_JSON_STACK_BUFFER_SIZE ];

        // Fill our buffer with serialized characters and write it to the output stream.
        os << buf );

    return os;

As with the parser, the serializer may be reused by calling serializer::reset. This sets up the object to serialize a new instance and retains previously allocated memory. This can result in performance improvements when multiple variables are serialized.