Yeah! It’s after a lapse of a month or so that there is a post in this blog! :)

Well, this post drives you towards the basics of ANTLR. Previously, we had learnt about setting up of ANTLR as an external tool.

###What is ANTLR?

ANother Tool for Language Recognition, is a language tool that provides a framework for constructing recognizers, interpreters, compilers, and translators from grammatical descriptions containing actions.

###What can be the target languages?

  • Ada
  • Action Script
  • C
  • C#; C#2
  • C#3
  • D
  • Emacs ELisp
  • Objective C
  • Java
  • Java Script
  • Python
  • Ruby
  • Perl6
  • Perl
  • PHP
  • Oberon
  • Scala

###What does ANTLR support?

  • Tree construction
  • Error recovery
  • Error handling
  • Tree walking
  • Translation

###What environment does it support?

ANTLRWorks is the IDE for ANTLR. It is the graphical grammar editor and debugger, written by Jean Bovet using Swing.

###What for ANTLR can be used?

  • "”REAL”” programming languages
  • domain-specific languages [DSL]

###Who is using ANTLR?

  • Programming languages :Boo, Groovy, Mantra, Nemerle, XRuby etc.
  • Other Tools: HIbernate, Intellij IDEA, Jazillian, JBoss Rules, Keynote(Apple), WebLogic(Oracle) etc.

Where is that you can look for ANTLR?

You can always follow here

  • to download ANTLR and ANTLRWorks, which are free and open source
  • docs,articles,wiki,mailing list,examples…. You can catch everything here!

####Basic Terms

  • Lexer : converts a stream of characters to a stream of tokens.
  • Parser : processes of tokens, possibly creating AST
  • Abstract Syntax Tree(AST): an intermediate tree representation of the parsed input that is simpler to process than the stream of tokens. It can as well be processed multiple times.
  • Tree Parser: It processes an AST
  • String Template: a library that supports using templates with placeholders for outputting text

####General Steps

  • Write Grammar in one or more files
  • Write string templates[optional]
  • Debug your grammar with ANTLRWorks
  • Generate classes from grammar
  • Write an application that uses generated classes
  • Feed the application text that conforms to the grammar

A Bit Further..

Lets write a simple grammar which consists of

  • Lexer
  • Parser


Lets take the example of simple declaration type in C of the form “int a,b;” or “int a;” and same with float.

As we see we can write lexer as follows:


grammar TestLexer;
ID  : ('a'..'z'|'A'..'Z'|'_') 
COMMA: ',';
DATATYPE: 'int' | 'float';

As we could see, these were the characters that were to be converted to tokens. So, now lets write some rules which processes these tokens generated and may it create a parse tree accordingly.


grammar TestParser;
options {
language : Java;
decl:DATATYPE ID (',' ID)* ;       

Running ANTLR on the grammar just generates the lexer and parser,TestParser and TestLexer. To actually try the grammar on some input, we need a test rig with a main( ) method as follows:


import org.antlr.runtime.*;
public class Test {
public static void main(String[] args) throws Exception {
// Create an input character stream from standard in
ANTLRFileStream input = new ANTLRFileStream("input"); // give path to the file input
// Create an ExprLexer that feeds from that stream
TestLexer lexer = new TestLexer(input);
// Create a stream of tokens fed by the lexer
CommonTokenStream tokens = new CommonTokenStream(lexer);
// Create a parser that feeds off the token stream
TestParser parser = new TestParser(tokens);
// Begin parsing at rule decl

We shall see how to create an AST and walk over the tree in the next blog post.. Happy learning….! :)