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Library for read/write access of binary data via structures

Project Description

The binstruct library allows you to access binary data using a predefined structure. The binary data can be provided in any form that allows an indexed access to single bytes. This could for example be an mmaped file. The data structure itself is defined in way similar to Django database table definitions by declaring a new class with its fields.

Simple Example

First you have to define the structure which you want to use to access your binary data. This is done by specifying all desired fields with their types and their position inside a new class. As an example let’s take the first of the ELF header which in C would look like this

#define EI_NIDENT 16

typedef struct {
    unsigned char e_ident[EI_NIDENT];
    uint16_t      e_type;
    uint16_t      e_machine;
    uint32_t      e_version;
    // rest of the fields omitted for simplicity
} ElfN_Ehdr;

Using binstruct you now declare the following Python class

from binstruct import *

class ElfN_Ehdr(StructTemplate):
    e_ident = RawField(0, 16)
    e_type = UInt16Field(16)
    e_machine = UInt16Field(18)
    e_version = UInt32Field(20)

Note that you have to specify the offset of the fields even though it would be possible to derive that from the size of the previous fields. I opted for this solution because it makes the implementation easier and because it allows for easier skipping of irrelevant or reserved fields.

Now we can create an instance of this class by providing the constructor an indexable data structure and an offset. The indexable data structure is any Python object representing binary data to which you want to have “structured access”. The offset allows you to place the structure at any place inside the indexable data structure.

For this example lets just use a simple list for the binary data

binary_data = 24 * [0]
header = ElfN_Ehdr(binary_data, 0)

Now you can simply read and write any of the fields

header.e_type = 0x0
header.e_ident[0] = 0x7f
header.e_ident[1] = ord('E')
header.e_ident[2] = ord('L')
header.e_ident[3] = ord('F')


The current implementation provides signed and unsigned fields for 8-bit, 16-bit and 32-bit integers, strings, raw data fields and even nested structures. For some ideas of how to use them, also checkout the unit tests.


The library is fully standalone and only requires py.test to run the unit tests. To contribute any changes simply clone the project on GitHub:, push your changes to your own GitHub project and send a pull request. For any changes please make sure you have good unit tests.

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