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rsonlite -- extremely lightweight version of rson

Project description

Version 0.1

Copyright (c) 2012, Patrick Maupin


rsonlite is the easiest way to create custom indented data file formats in Python. It is a single small module that can be shipped with your application, or it can be easy-installed or pipped from PyPI.


The rson project contains a parser that allows experimentation with variations on readable file formats, and defines a base RSON profile that is a strict superset of JSON (properly subclassed, the RSON parser passes the Python simplejson testsuite, which itself creates a superset of JSON).

RSON was born out of frustration with the size and speed of the available pure-Python YAML parsers at the time, and was designed with very similar goals to YAML – key to these formats is the use of indentation as syntax, removal of unnecessary syntactical elements such as quotes whenever possible, the ability to add comments, and the ability to use JSON as valid input.

The base RSON format definition was designed to be easily parseable from any language, but the Python parser itself is both flexible and fast, allowing for variant formats to be easily designed and tested. One such format is something that easily round-trips to XML and another format allows macros and include processing.

But the flexibility comes at a price. There is more code, and the learning curve for all the options is more steep than it would be if the parser was not that flexible, and the documentation – well, it would take a long time to do a decent job on properly documenting all the options, so that hasn’t happened yet.

rsonlite is a pared-down version of rson that primarily handles the semantics of the indentation, allowing client code to do higher-level parsing. Unlike JSON or base RSON, which distinguish between ‘true’, ‘false’, ‘null’, strings, and numbers, or simplejson, which adds ‘Nan’ and ‘Infinity’ to the mix, rsonlite divides the world up into container nodes and leaf nodes, and every leaf node is a string.


rsonlite is a Python library that makes it easy to build a file parser for declarative hierarchical data structures using indentation. (Spaces only – tabs are not considered indentation.)


The only special characters are #, =, and indentation:


Indentation denotes a key/value relationship. The value is indented from the key.


Denotes the start of a free-format string. These strings can contain ‘=’ and ‘#’ characters, and even be multi-line, but every line in the string must be indented past the initial equal sign.

Note that, for multi-line strings, indentation is preserved but normalized such that at least one line starts in the left column. This allows for restructuredText or Python code, or even additional rsonlite to be parsed later, to exist inside multi-line strings.


Denotes the start of a line comment, when not inside a free-format string.


The only Python objects resulting from parsing a file with rsonlite.loads() are:


free-format strings (described above) can contain any character, but the whitespace before/after the string may be stripped.

Regular strings must fit on a single line and cannot contain ‘=’ or ‘#’ characters.

Regular strings may be used as keys in key/value pairs, but free-format strings may not.


A key/value pair is a two-element tuple. The key is always a string. The value is always a list. (It was judged that the consistency of always having the value be a list was more useful than the shortcut of simply letting the value sometimes be a single string.)


The top level is a list, and the value element of every key/value pair tuple is also a list. Lists can contain strings and key/value pair tuples.

rsonlite.simpleparse() leverages rsonlite.loads to return a data structure with dictionaries. Ordered dictionaries are used if they are available, otherwise standard dictionaries are used.

lists are returned whereever dictionaries would not work or would lose information.


As far as rsonlite is concerned, most input data is fine. The main thing that makes it unhappy is indentation errors, and it will throw the Python IndentationError exception if it encounters an invalid indentation.


I have shamelessly stolen most of these examples from the JSON example page, because JSON is an excellent thing to compare and contrast rsonlite against.

Example 1:

>>> import rsonlite
>>> jsonstr1 = '''
... {
...     "glossary": {
...         "title": "example glossary",
...         "GlossDiv": {
...             "title": "S",
...             "GlossList": {
...                 "GlossEntry": {
...                     "ID": "SGML",
...                     "SortAs": "SGML",
...                     "GlossTerm": "Standard Generalized Markup Language",
...                     "Acronym": "SGML",
...                     "Abbrev": "ISO 8879:1986",
...                     "GlossDef": {
...                         "para": "A meta-markup language",
...                         "GlossSeeAlso": ["GML", "XML"]
...                     },
...                     "GlossSee": "markup"
...                 }
...             }
...         }
...     }
... }
... '''
>>> rsonstr1 = '''
...     glossary
...         title = example glossary
...         GlossDiv
...             title = S
...             GlossList
...                 GlossEntry
...                     ID = SGML
...                     SortAs = SGML
...                     GlossTerm = Standard Generalized Markup Language
...                     Acronym = SGML
...                     Abbrev = ISO 8879:1986
...                     GlossDef
...                         para = A meta-markup language
...                         GlossSeeAlso = [GML, XML]
...                     GlossSee = markup
... '''
>>> jsondata1 = eval(jsonstr1)
>>> rsondata1 = rsonlite.simpleparse(rsonstr1)
>>> jsondata1 == rsondata1

Example 2:

>>> jsonstr2 = '''
... {"menu": {
...     "id": "file",
...     "value": "File",
...     "popup": {
...         "menuitem": [
...         {"value": "New", "onclick": "CreateNewDoc()"},
...         {"value": "Open", "onclick": "OpenDoc()"},
...         {"value": "Close", "onclick": "CloseDoc()"}
...         ]
...     }
... }}
... '''
>>> rsonstr2 = '''
...     menu
...         id = file
...         value = File
...         popup
...             menuitem
...                 value = New
...                 onclick = CreateNewDoc()
...                 value = Open
...                 onclick = OpenDoc()
...                 value = Close
...                 onclick = CloseDoc()
... '''
>>> jsondata2 = eval(jsonstr2)
>>> rsondata2 = rsonlite.simpleparse(rsonstr2)
>>> jsondata2 == rsondata2



This is the primary interface. It returns a list of tuples, strings, and lists, as defined in the introduction.

rsonlite.dumps(data, indent=’ ‘, initial_indent=’’)

This function takes data as returned from loads() and dumps it back out to a string. For example:

>>> rsondata1 = rsonlite.loads(rsonstr1)
>>> roundtrip = rsonlite.dumps(rsondata1, initial_indent='    ')
>>> roundtrip == rsonstr1[1:]    # Get past initial \n

>>> rsondata2 = rsonlite.loads(rsonstr2)
>>> roundtrip = rsonlite.dumps(rsondata2, initial_indent='    ')
>>> roundtrip == rsonstr2[1:]    # Get past initial \n

rsonlite.pretty(data, indent=’ ‘)

This pretty-prints a data structure created by loads() for debugging. The structure is accurate, yet quasi-readable:

>>> data = rsonlite.loads(rsonstr2)
>>> pretty = rsonlite.pretty(data)
>>> print pretty,
    ('menu', [
        ('id', ['file']),
        ('value', ['File']),
        ('popup', [
            ('menuitem', [
                ('value', ['New']),
                ('onclick', ['CreateNewDoc()']),
                ('value', ['Open']),
                ('onclick', ['OpenDoc()']),
                ('value', ['Close']),
                ('onclick', ['CloseDoc()']),
>>> eval(pretty) == data

rsonlite.simpleparse(source, stringparse=stringparse, stddict=stddict)

This is a convenience wrapper on loads for simple data structures, and also provides an example client for loads. This is the interface that was used in the JSON example section above. Parameters:


source may either be a string that is passed to loads, or a list, that is assumed to be the result of running loads on a string.


stringparse is a function that accepts a (non-key) string, and returns a parsed value of the string. The default example stringparse in rsonlite will handle the JSON keywords true, false and null, and will also translate really simple arrays of strings, as shown in the [GML, XML] example above.


stddict defaults to collections.OrderedDict if available, or a regular dict if not. You may substitute a third-party OrderedDict if desired.


Empty input:

>>> rsonlite.loads('') == rsonlite.loads('   \n \n     \n') == []

Bad indentation:

>>> rsonlite.loads('a\n    b\n  c')
Traceback (most recent call last):
  File "<doctest README.txt[22]>", line 1, in <module>
    rsonlite.loads('a\n    b\n  c')
  File "/home/pat/projects/opensource/rson/lite/", line 179, in loads
    raise err
IndentationError: unindent does not match any outer indentation level (<rsonlite>, line 3)

Multiline data, with special characters:

>>> teststr = '''
...     My key =
...            This is indented #=
...       This should be at the left edge ===#
...           This is indented differently
... '''
>>> test2 = '\n'.join(x[6:] for x in teststr.splitlines()[2:])
>>> rsonlite.loads(teststr) == [('My key', [test2])]

>>> teststr = '''
...     My key =  Something on the first line is at the left edge
...            This is indented
...       This should be at the left edge
...           This is indented differently
... '''
>>> test2 = teststr.split('=', 1)[1].strip().splitlines()
>>> for i in range(1, len(test2)):
...   test2[i] = test2[i][6:]
>>> test2 = '\n'.join(test2)
>>> rsonlite.loads(teststr) == [('My key', [test2])]

Comments and special string stuff:

>>> test1 = '''
...   a
...      b = 1
...       This is part of b's string
...      c
...   d = 2
... '''
>>> test2 = '''
... # Comments can start anywhere outside a string
...   a   # Like here  (but not below)
...      b = 1
...       This is part of b's string
...      # This isn't in the string because it's far enough left
...      # Any non-key string can start with '='
...      = c
...      # This isn't in the string because it's far enough left
...   d = 2
... '''
>>> rsonlite.loads(test1) == rsonlite.loads(test2)

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