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Setuptools command for generating ANTLR based parsers.

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A setuptools command for generating ANTLR based parsers.

This is an extension for setuptools integrating the famous ANTLR parser generator into the Python packaging process. It encapsulates the Java based generator of ANTLR and provides the user a single command to control the generation process.

All command line options of ANTLR are also available through the setuptools command. The user have the choice to pass the options on the command line or configure ANTLR in a dedicated section in the setup.cfg file.

ANTLR grammars and its dependencies like imported grammars or token files are automatically detected. For each root-level grammar a Python package will be generated during execution of the antlr command.


setuptools-antlr can be installed in various ways. To run it the following prerequisites have to be fulfilled:

  • Python 3.5+
  • setuptools 29.0.0+
  • Java JRE 1.7+

The source distribution is already shipped with ANTLR 4.6. It isn’t necessary to download ANTLR additionally.

After installation, the used Python environment has a new setuptools command called antlr.

From Source Code

> git clone
> cd setuptools-antlr
> pip install .

From PyPI

> pip install setuptools-antlr

From GitHub Releases

> pip install <setuptools-antlr_wheel>



For a smooth user experience it’s recommended to pass setuptools-antlr using the setup_requires argument of setup function. Additionally each generated parser requires the ANTLR runtime library which should be added to install_requires argument:


Before generating a parser setuptools will automatically check the Python environment and download setuptools-antlr from PyPI if it’s missing. During the installation of the project package pip will install antlr4-python3-runtime into the Python environment.


setuptools-antlr provides two possibilities to configure the ANTLR parser generator.

All options of ANTLR can be passed on the command line after the antlr command:

> python antlr --visitor

It’s also possible to pass several options to ANTLR or execute multiple commands at once:

> python antlr --visitor --grammar-options "superClass=Abc tokenVocab=SomeLexer" bdist_wheel

See python antlr --help for available command line options:

> python antlr --help
Options for 'AntlrCommand' command:
  --build-lib (-d)   directory to "build" (copy) to
  --atn              generate rule augmented transition network diagrams
  --encoding         specify grammar file encoding e.g. euc-jp
  --message-format   specify output style for messages in antlr, gnu, vs2005
  --long-messages    show exception details when available for errors and
  --listener         generate parse tree listener (default)
  --no-listener      don't generate parse tree listener
  --visitor          generate parse tree visitor
  --no-visitor       don't generate parse tree visitor (default)
  --depend           generate file dependencies
  --grammar-options  set/override a grammar-level option
  --w-error          treat warnings as error
  --x-dbg-st         launch StringTemplate visualizer on generated code
  --x-dbg-st-wait    wait for STViz to close before continuing
  --x-force-atn      use the ATN simulator for all predictions
  --x-log            dump lots of logging info to antlr-<timestamp>.log

The ANTLR documentation explains all command line options and grammar options in detail.

Apart from passing options on the command line it’s also possible to add a dedicated [antlr] section to setup.cfg. The following example section contains all available options:

# Generate DOT graph files that represent the internal ATN data structures (yes|no); default: no
#atn = no
# Specify grammar file encoding (default: utf-8)
#encoding = utf-8
# Specify output style for messages in antlr (antlr|gnu|vs2005); default: antlr
#message-format = antlr
# Show exception details when available for errors and warnings (yes|no); default: no
#long-messages = no
# Generate a parse tree listener (yes|no); default: yes
#listener = yes
# Generate parse tree visitor (yes|no); default: no
visitor = yes
# Generate file dependencies (yes|no); default: no
#depend = no
# Set/override grammar-level options (<option>=<value> [<option>=value ...]); default: language=Python3
grammar-options = superClass=Abc
# Treat warnings as errors (yes|no); default: no
#w-error = no
# Launch StringTemplate visualizer on generated code (yes|no); default: no
#x-dbg-st = no
# Wait for STViz to close before continuing
#x-dbg-st-wait = no
# Use the ATN simulator for all predictions (yes|no); default: no
#x-force-atn = no
# Dump lots of logging info to antlr-<timestamp>.log (yes|no); default: no
#x-log = no


Alongside the setuptools-antlr source code a example project called foobar is provided in the example directory. This example consists of the two ANTLR grammars Foo and Bar. During the execution of setuptools-antlr two Python packages will be generated into the build directory containing a parser for each grammar.

To generate parsers for all root-level grammars and build a foobar wheel package execute the following command:

> python antlr bdist_wheel

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