Saturday, March 3, 2012

Configuration file parser - C++

I'm working on a project developed in C++, which can be configured using several parameters on runtime. Since there were lots of options, i decided to include a configuration file in which the user could assign a value to each defined attribute. This is an example of the file's structure:


# Default yasps configuration
# By default the server is bound to
# --------------------------------------------------
# Server configuration

# Authentication configuration
# Unauthenticated connections are allowed by default

As you can see, the options require different data types. Therefore, i needed a generic algorithm that could parse the file and interpret the given values as strings, integer, bools or whatever data type i indicated, and assign them to the corresponding attribute. To achieve this, i created a small class using template parameters.

The ConfigurationParser is extremely simple to use. There is one method which adds an attribute and associates it with a pointer. Whenever that attribute name is found on the file, the parser will try to interpret the given value and store it in that pointer. The method has the following signature:

template<class T>

void add_option(const std::string &name, T *value_ptr);  

The only constraint imposed on the type T is that the input operator(operator>>) is defined. As long as you use either primitive types or std::string(s), you don't have to implement anything else. In case you have created a certain class that can be deserialized, you would have to implement this operator.

Once every attribute has been set, you have to call the ConfigurationParser::parse method, using the configuration file name as the argument. This is the signature of this method:

void parse(const std::string &file_name);

This method can raise different exceptions, depending on what problem was encountered:
  • std::ios_base::failure if an error occurred when opening the file.
  • ConfigurationParser::NoValueGivenError if no value was set for an attribute that appeared on the configuration file. e.g. bleh= . There should be some value after the '=' character.
  • ConfigurationParser::InvalidValueError if there was a data type missmatch when trying to interpret an attribute's value. This can happen if, for example, an attribute expects an integer value, however, a string value is given.
  • ConfigurationParser::InvalidOptionError is raised if an attribute which was not registered using ConfigurationParser::add_option appeared in the configuration file.
No that the ConfigurationParser class is included inside the CPPUtils namespace. Finally, here is an example, taken from the project i'm working on:

#include <iostream>
#include <string>
#include "configparser.h" 

using CPPUtils::ConfigurationParser;

class Configuration {
    void load(const std::string &file_name) {
        ConfigurationParser parser;
        parser.add_option("username", &config_username);
        parser.add_option("password", &config_password);
        parser.add_option("bind_address", &address);
        parser.add_option("log_file", &log_filename);
        parser.add_option("port", &port);
        parser.add_option("noauth", &config_allow_no_auth);
        parser.add_option("enable_logging", &config_enable_logging);
        try {
        catch(std::ios_base::failure &ex) {
            std::cerr << "[ERROR] Error opening " << file_name << "(" << ex.what() << ").\n";
        catch(ConfigurationParser::NoValueGivenError &ex) {
            std::cerr << "[ERROR] Parse error: No value give for " << ex.what() << " attribute.\n";
        catch(ConfigurationParser::InvalidValueError &ex) {
            std::cerr << "[ERROR] Parse error: Invalid value for attribute " << ex.what() << "\n";
        catch(ConfigurationParser::InvalidOptionError &ex) {
            std::cerr << "[ERROR] Parse error: Could not find a valid attribute in \"" << ex.what() << "\"\n";;
    std::string config_username, config_password, address, log_filename;
    short port;
    bool config_allow_no_auth, config_enable_logging;

That's all. You can download the header file here, the source file here and the only header dependency, exception.h. The class is licensed under GPLv3, so feel free to use it.