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Facilities associated with binary data parsing and transcription.

Project description

Latest release 20191230.3: Docstring tweak.

Facilities associated with binary data parsing and transcription.

The classes in this module support easy parsing of binary data structures.

These classes work in conjuction with a cs.buffer.CornuCopyBuffer (henceforce a "buffer"), which presents an iterable of bytes-like values via various useful methods and with factory methods to make one from a variety of sources such as bytes, iterables, binary files, mmapped files, TCP data streams, etc.

Note: this module requires Python 3 and recommends Python 3.6+ because it uses abc.ABC, because a Python 2 bytes object is too weak (just a str) as also is my cs.py3.bytes hack class and because the keyword based Packet initiialisation benefits from keyword argument ordering.

In the description below I use the word "chunk" to mean a piece of binary data obeying the buffer protocol, almost always a bytes instance or a memoryview, but in principle also things like bytearray.

The functions and classes in this module the following:

The two base classes for binary data:

  • PacketField: an abstract class for a binary field, with a factory method to parse it, a transcription method to transcribe it back out in binary form and usually a .value attribute holding the parsed value.
  • Packet: a PacketField subclass for parsing multiple PacketFields into a larger structure with ordered named fields. The fields themselves may be Packets for complex structures.

Several presupplied subclasses for common basic types such as UInt32BE (an unsigned 32 bit big endian integer).

Classes built from struct format strings:

  • struct_field: a factory for making PacketField classes for struct formats with a single value field.
  • multi_struct_field and structtuple: factories for making PacketFields from struct formats with multiple value fields; structtuple makes PacketFields which are also namedtuples, supporting trivial access to the parsed values.

You don't need to make fields only from binary data; because PacketField.__init__ takes a post parse value, you can also construct PacketFields from scratch with their values and transcribe the resulting binary form.

Each PacketField subclass has the following methods:

  • transcribe: easily return the binary transcription of this field, either directly as a chunk (or for convenience, also None or an ASCII str) or by yielding successive binary data.
  • from_buffer: a factory to parse this field from a cs.buffer.CornuCopyBuffer.
  • from_bytes: a factory to parse this field from a chunk with an optional starting offset; this is a convenience wrapper for from_buffer.

That may sound a little arcane, but we also supply:

  • flatten: a recursive function to take the return from any transcribe method and yield chunks, so copying a packet to a file or elsewhere can always be done by iterating over flatten(field.transcribe()) or via the convenience field.transcribe_flat() method which calls flatten itself.
  • a CornuCopyBuffer is an easy to use wrapper for parsing any iterable of chunks, which may come from almost any source. It has a bunch of convenient factories including: from_bytes, make a buffer from a chunk; from_fd, make a buffer from a file descriptor; from_file, make a buffer from a file-like object; from_mmap, make a buffer from a file descriptor using a memory map (the mmap module) of the file, so that chunks can use the file itself as backing store instead of allocating and copying memory. See the cs.buffer module for further detail.

When parsing a complex structure one must choose between subclassing PacketField or Packet. An effective guideline is the degree of substructure.

A Packet is designed for deeper structures; all of its attributes are themselves PacketFields (or Packets, which are PacketField subclasses). The leaves of this hierarchy will be PacketFields, whose attributes are ordinary types.

By contrast, a PacketField's attributes are "flat" values: the plain post-parse value, such as a str or an int or some other conventional Python type.

The base case for PacketField is a single such value, named .value, and the natural implementation is to provide a .value_from_buffer method which returns the basic single value and the corresponding .transcribe_value method to return or yield its binary form (directly or in pieces respectively).

However, you can handle multiple attributes with this class by instead implementing:

  • __init__: to compose an instance from post-parse values (and thus from scratch rather than parsed from existing binary data)
  • from_buffer: class method to parse the values from a CornuCopyBuffer and call the class constructor
  • transcribe: to return or yield the binary form of the attributes

Cameron Simpson 22jul2018

Class BSData(PacketField)

A run length encoded data chunk, with the length encoded as a BSUInt.

Class BSSFloat(PacketField)

A float transcribed as a BSString of str(float).

Class BSString(PacketField)

A run length encoded string, with the length encoded as a BSUInt.

Class BSUInt(PacketField)

A binary serialsed unsigned int.

This uses a big endian byte encoding where continuation octets have their high bit set. The bits contributing to the value are in the low order 7 bits.

Class BytesesField(PacketField)

A field containing a list of bytes chunks.

The following attributes are defined:

  • value: the gathered data as a list of bytes instances, or None if the field was gathered with discard_data true.
  • offset: the starting offset of the data.
  • end_offset: the ending offset of the data.

The offset and end_offset values are recorded during the parse, and may become irrelevant if the field's contents are changed.

Class BytesField(PacketField)

A field of bytes.

Class BytesRunField(PacketField)

A field containing a continuous run of a single bytes value.

The following attributes are defined:

  • length: the length of the run
  • bytes_value: the repeated bytes value

The property value is computed on the fly on every reference and returns a value obeying the buffer protocol: a bytes or memoryview object.

Class EmptyPacketField(PacketField)

An empty data field, used as a placeholder for optional fields when they are not present.

The singleton EmptyField is a predefined instance.

Function fixed_bytes_field(length, class_name=None)

Factory for BytesField subclasses built from fixed length byte strings.

Function flatten(chunks)

Flatten chunks into an iterable of bytes instances.

This exists to allow subclass methods to easily return ASCII strings or bytes or iterables or even None, in turn allowing them simply to return their superclass' chunks iterators directly instead of having to unpack them.

Class Float64BE(PacketField)

A PacketField which parses and transcribes the struct format '>d'.

Class Float64LE(PacketField)

A PacketField which parses and transcribes the struct format '<d'.

Class Int16BE(PacketField)

A PacketField which parses and transcribes the struct format '>h'.

Class Int16LE(PacketField)

A PacketField which parses and transcribes the struct format '<h'.

Class Int32BE(PacketField)

A PacketField which parses and transcribes the struct format '>l'.

Class Int32LE(PacketField)

A PacketField which parses and transcribes the struct format '<l'.

Class ListField(PacketField)

A field which is a list of other fields.

Function multi_struct_field(struct_format, subvalue_names=None, class_name=None)

Factory for PacketField subclasses build around complex struct formats.


  • struct_format: the struct format string
  • subvalue_names: an optional namedtuple field name list; if supplied then the field value will be a namedtuple with these names
  • class_name: option name for the generated class

Class Packet(PacketField)

Base class for compound objects derived from binary data.

Method Packet.__init__(self, **fields)

Initialise the Packet.

A Packet is its own .value.

If any keyword arguments are provided, they are used as a mapping of field_name to Field instance, supporting direct construction of simple Packets. From Python 3.6 onwards keyword arguments preserve the calling order; in Python versions earlier than this the caller should adjust the Packet.field_names list to the correct order after initialisation.

Class PacketField

A record for an individual packet field.

This normally holds a single value, such as a int of a particular size or a string.

There are 2 basic ways to implement a PacketField subclass.

For the simple case subclasses should implement two methods:

  • value_from_buffer: parse the value from a CornuCopyBuffer and returns the parsed value
  • transcribe_value: transcribe the value as bytes

Sometimes a PacketField may be slightly more complex while still not warranting (or perhaps fitting) the formality of a Packet with its multifield structure.

One example is the cs.iso14496.UTF8or16Field class. This supports an ISO14496 UTF8 or UTF16 string field, as as such has 2 attributes:

  • value: the string itself
  • bom: a UTF16 byte order marker or None; None indicates that the string should be encoded as UTF-8 and otherwise the BOM indicates UTF16 big endian or little endian.

To make this subclass it defines these methods:

  • from_buffer: to read the optional BOM and then the following encoded string; it then returns the new UTF8or16Field initialised from these values via cls(text, bom=bom).
  • transcribe: to transcribe the option BOM and suitably encoded string. The instance method transcribe is required because the transcription requires knowledge of the BOM, an attribute of an instance.

Method PacketField.__init__(self, value=None)

Initialise the PacketField. If omitted the inial field value will be None.

Function struct_field(struct_format, class_name)

Factory for PacketField subclasses built around a single struct format.


  • struct_format: the struct format string, specifying a single struct field
  • class_name: the class name for the generated class


>>> UInt16BE = struct_field('>H', class_name='UInt16BE')
>>> UInt16BE.__name__
>>> UInt16BE.format
>>> UInt16BE.struct   #doctest: +ELLIPSIS
<Struct object at ...>
>>> field, offset = UInt16BE.from_bytes(bytes((2,3,4)))
>>> field
>>> offset
>>> field.value

Function structtuple(class_name, struct_format, subvalue_names)

Convenience wrapper for multi_struct_field.

Class UInt16BE(PacketField)

A PacketField which parses and transcribes the struct format '>H'.

Class UInt16LE(PacketField)

A PacketField which parses and transcribes the struct format '<H'.

Class UInt32BE(PacketField)

A PacketField which parses and transcribes the struct format '>L'.

Class UInt32LE(PacketField)

A PacketField which parses and transcribes the struct format '<L'.

Class UInt64BE(PacketField)

A PacketField which parses and transcribes the struct format '>Q'.

Class UInt64LE(PacketField)

A PacketField which parses and transcribes the struct format '<Q'.

Class UInt8(PacketField)

A PacketField which parses and transcribes the struct format 'B'.

Class UTF16NULField(PacketField)

A NUL terminated UTF-16 string.

Method UTF16NULField.__init__(self, value, *, encoding)

Initialise the PacketField. If omitted the inial field value will be None.

Class UTF8NULField(PacketField)

A NUL terminated UTF-8 string.

Function warning(msg, *a, f=None)

Issue a formatted warning message.

Release Log

Release 20191230.3: Docstring tweak.

Release 20191230.2: Documentation updates.

Release 20191230.1: Docstring updates. Semantic changes were in the previous release.

Release 20191230: ListField: new iter method. Packet: str: accept optional skip_fields parameter to omit some field names. Packet: new .add_from_value method to add a named field with a presupplied value. Packet: new remove_field(field_name) and pop_field() methods to remove fields. BytesesField: iter yields the bytes values, transcribe=iter. PacketField: propagate keyword arguments through various methods, required for parameterised PacketFields. New UTF16NULField, a NUL terminated UTF16 string. PacketField: provide a default .transcribe_value method which makes a new instance and calls its .transcribe method. Documentation update and several minor changes.

Release 20190220: Packet.self_check: fields without a sanity check cause a warning, not a ValueError. New Float64BE, Float64LE and BSSFloat classes for IEEE floats and floats-as-strings. Additional module docstringage on subclassing Packet and PacketField. BSString: drop redundant from_buffer class method. PacketField.init: default to value=None if omitted.

Release 20181231: flatten: do not yield zero length bytelike objects, can be misread as EOF on some streams.

Release 20181108: New PacketField.transcribe_value_flat convenience method to return a flat iterable of bytes-like objects. New PacketField.parse_buffer generator method to parse instances of the PacketField from a buffer until end of input. New PacketField.parse_buffer_values generator method to parse instances of the PacketField from a buffer and yield the .value attribute until end of input.

Release 20180823: Some bugfixes. Define PacketField.eq. BSUInt, BSData and BSString classes implementing the serialisations from cs.serialise. New PacketField.value_from_bytes class method. New PacketField.value_from_buffer method.

Release 20180810.2: Documentation improvements.

Release 20180810.1: Improve module description.

Release 20180810: BytesesField.from_buffer: make use of the buffer's skipto method if discard_data is true.

Release 20180805: Packet: now an abstract class, new self_check method initially checking the PACKET_FIELDS class attribute against the instance, new methods get_field and set_field to fetch or replace existing fields, allow keyword arguments to initialise the Packet fields and document the dependency on keyword argument ordering. PacketField: len computed directory from a transcribe, drop other len methods. EmptyField singleton to use as a placeholder for missing optional fields. BytesField: implement value_s and from_buffer. multi_struct_field: implement len for generated class. flatten: treat memoryviews like bytes. Assorted docstrings and fixes.

Release 20180801: Initial PyPI release.

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