Good tools for creating a C/C++ parser/analyzer


What are some good tools for getting a quick start for parsing and analyzing C/C++ code?

In particular, I'm looking for open source tools that handle the C/C++ preprocessor and language. Preferably, these tools would use lex/yacc (or flex/bison) for the grammar, and not be too complicated. They should handle the latest ANSI C/C++ definitions.

Here's what I've found so far, but haven't looked at them in detail (thoughts?):

  • CScope - Old-school C analyzer. Doesn't seem to do a full parse, though. Described as a glorified 'grep' for finding C functions.
  • GCC - Everybody's favorite open source compiler. Very complicated, but seems to do it all. There's a related project for creating GCC extensions called GEM, but hasn't been updated since GCC 4.1 (2006).
  • PUMA - The PUre MAnipulator. (from the page: "The intention of this project is to provide a library of classes for the analysis and manipulation of C/C++ sources. For this purpose PUMA provides classes for scanning, parsing and of course manipulating C/C++ sources."). This looks promising, but hasn't been updated since 2001. Apparently PUMA has been incorporated into AspectC++, but even this project hasn't been updated since 2006.
  • Various C/C++ raw grammars. You can get c-c++-grammars-1.2.tar.gz, but this has been unmaintained since 1997. A little Google searching pulls up other basic lex/yacc grammars that could serve as a starting place.
  • Any others?

I'm hoping to use this as a starting point for translating C/C++ source into a new toy language.

Thanks! -Matt

(Added 2/9): Just a clarification: I want to extract semantic information from the preprocessor in addition to the C/C++ code itself. I don't want "#define foo 42" to disappear into the integer "42", but remain attached to the name "foo". This, unfortunately, excludes several solutions that run the preprocessor first and only deliver the C/C++ parse tree)

6/25/2009 5:32:24 AM

Accepted Answer

Parsing C++ is extremely hard because the grammar is undecidable. To quote Yossi Kreinin:

Outstandingly complicated grammar

"Outstandingly" should be interpreted literally, because all popular languages have context-free (or "nearly" context-free) grammars, while C++ has undecidable grammar. If you like compilers and parsers, you probably know what this means. If you're not into this kind of thing, there's a simple example showing the problem with parsing C++: is AA BB(CC); an object definition or a function declaration? It turns out that the answer depends heavily on the code before the statement - the "context". This shows (on an intuitive level) that the C++ grammar is quite context-sensitive.

2/9/2009 1:38:25 AM

You can look at clang that uses llvm for parsing.

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