Chapter 6: Technical documentation

Starting point of the analysis is the parser. The parser needs access to States and Rules. The parser is described here.

After some preliminary definitions flexc++ defines its Parser object. The parser's main tasks are these:

After parsing the Rules object's handleLopRules adds a catch-all rule to the LOP rule processing code. This member also updates the LOP-rules action blocks, calling lop1__, lop2__, lop3__ and lop4__. Again: refer to section 6.10 for details.

Rather than using the characters groups of characters are combined, forming clusters or ranges. This way the DFAs do not need column entries representing the individual input characters, but only need columns representing the categories, usually resulting in strongly reduced column dimensions. The ranges are determined by the Ranges object. These ranges can only be determined once the regular expressions have been analyzed, which is why the Ranges object is defined and performs its actions after the parser has completed its work.

Once the ranges and the states of the regular expressions have been determined, the DFAs can be constructed. A DFA is constructed for each start condition (i.e. start condition) by the DFAs object.

Finally, a Generator generates the output files. The Generator reads the skeleton files, copying them to their destinations which inserting information (like the range definitions and DFA tables) which was created before.

6.1: Notation, Terminology

6.1.1: Example of LOP-patterns

When an F state of a LOP pattern is reached and there is no continuation at that point then the pattern until the A0 state is considered matched and is returned.

6.2: The parser

The parser is called like this:

    Parser parser(rules, states);
The constructor performs no other tasks than initializing the Parser object. Rules and states are still empty at this point.

The parse function was generated by bisonc++(1). It's better understood from the grammar description parser/grammar: The grammar's start rule is


parser/inc/rules: The directives are not covered yet in this section. A rule is defined as:

        rules _rule
        // empty

As a notational convention, all non-terminals not used outside of the file in which they are defined start with an underscore. Furthermore, wherever possible rules are defined before they are used. This cannot always be accomplished, e.g., when defining indirectly recursive rules.

A _rule is a rule definition followed by a newline:

        _rule_def '\n' reset

The reset non-terminal merely calls Parser::reset, preparing the parser for the next rule, resetting various data members to their original, begin-of-line states. See parser/ for details.

A _rule_definition may be empty, but usually it consists of a rule optionally valid for a set of start conditions (optMs_rule, or it is a rule or series of rules embedded in a start condition compound (msComound):

        // only an empty line is OK
        // recovery from errors is OK: continue at the next line
The msCompund isn't interesting by itself, as it repeats optMs_rule, but without the start condition specifications for the individual rules.

An optMs_rule is a rule (_optMs_rule), optionally followed by an action:

            // just regular expressions, without an action block
        // the scanner returns a block if it encounters a non-blank character
        // on a line after ws, unless the character is a '|'
        _optMs_rule action

An _optMS_rule defines one or more rules, sharing the same action block:

    _optMs_rule:                             // after ORNL continue parsing
        _optMs_rule ORNL '\n' reset _optMs_rule // at a new line
            addRule($1, true);  // true: reset the miniscanner spec to INITIAL
And an _optMS_regex, finally, is a regular expression or EOF-pattern, optionally prefixed by a start condition specification:

        ms_spec regexOrEOF
            $$ = $2;
A regexOrEOF defines exactly that:

            $$ = eofPattern();

Actions are defined here; the Rules class is described here; Regular expressions (i.e., regex) are described here.

6.3: Start Conditions and the class StartConditions

Start conditions are handled by a StartConditions object. Each start condition's name and start condition information is stored in d_sc, an FBB::LinearMap, the first one being the INITIAL start condition.

Start condition information consists of the start condition's type and a vector of size_t values, being the rule indices of the rules that were defined for this start condition.

Additional members are d_endUserSC, storing d_sc's size after all user defined start conditions have been inserted into d_sc. As all user-defined start conditions must have been declared in the declaration section, this value is known before start conditions are created by flexc++ when encountering LOP-rules.

Furthermore, a member d_active hold pointers to all currently active start conditions. E.g., when specifying <INITIAL,str> then the rules defined for this tag are active are added to the set if rules defined for StartConditions__::INITIAL and StartConditions__::str.

When LOP-rules having variable sized tails are used, flexc++ defines a catch-all rule which is mathed while lex__ is trying to match the LOP-rule's tail, but as yet failed to do so. When it is defined this catch-all rule does not belong to a particular start condition. This is relized through the member StartConditions::acceptRule, expecting a bool argument. By default recognized rules are added to the current set of active start conditions, but the catch-all rule should not be added to any active set. Instead it is added to the DFAs calling lop3__. Once the input files have been processed, Rules::handleLopRules is called, and this member adds the final (catch-all) rule to d_rules, without adding it to any of the available start conditions.

6.4: Code (action) blocks

The block of C++ code is simply parsed from the first { until the final matching }, acknowledging comment, strings and character constants.

The scanner merely recognizes the beginning of an action (block), returning Parser::BLOCK from its handleCharAfterBlanks member. Then, Parser::block calls Scanner::lex() until it observes the end of the action statement or block.

The parser stores the block's content in its d_block member for later processing by Rules::add.

6.5: The class State

Objects of the class State describe one single state of a RE pattern. A State contains/offers:

Starting from a pattern's initial state all its subsequent states can therefore be reached by visiting the indices stored in StateData.

Figure 4: The State class

6.6: States

The States class object stores all the states defined by all Pattern objects (d_states). When a new pattern is requested the member next or next2 can be invoked to obtain the next or next two free states. Since concatenating pattern produces free states (cf. the description of the pattern concatenation) a vector of free state indices is maintained by the States class as well (d_free).

The member next2 returns a pair of free state indices, the second state index refers to a State that has been initialized to the end-of-pattern state: its state type is State::FINAL and its two successor (next) fields are set to 0, indicating that there is no continuation from this state.

Patterns consisting of multiple states (like the pattern ab, consisting of the state holding a and the state holding b) are stored in a linked-list like structure, implemented using the States's d_state vector. Its representation is as follows (cf. figure 5:

Figure 5: Catenating States

6.7: Rules and the class Rule

All rules (combinations of RE describing Pattern objects and associated action blocks) are accessible from the Rules object. The Rules object contains a reference to the states (see here), and a vector d_rules containing the information about each of the rules, and a hash table linking a final state index back to its rule number (see figure 6)

Figure 6: The Rules class

When the parser has recognized a rule it calls Rules::add. A Rule object is added to d_rules, storing begin and end state indices, a flag indicating whether or not this rule's RE started at BOL. A rule also contains the code of any action block that's associated with it (empty if there are no actions), see also section 6.4.

Rules::add also stores the association between the rule's final state and rule index in its unordered_map d_finalToRule. Furthermore, it calls d_startConditions.add(ruleIdx) to store the rule index at the currently active start conditions. See section 6.3 for the class StartConditions.

States of rules using the LOP need access to the rule to which they belong. For those rules Rules::setRuleIndices is called to assign the State's d_rule field.

The Rule object themselves have an organization shown in figure 7.

Rules starting with ^ can only be matched at begin-of-line (BOL). The data member d_bol of such rules is set to true.

Rules that are matched in some DFA state are viable: such rules can be matched. See section 6.15 for a description of the algorithm that is used for finding (non)viable rules.

Figure 7: The Rule class data members

6.8: Converting REs to Patterns

The various types of REs are converted to Pattern objects (cf. section 6.9). Basically, a Pattern contains the begin- and end-states of a RE.

Various types of REs are processed by various class-type factory functions, constructing Pattern objects. The file parser/inc/regexoreof uses these factory functions when their type of RE has been recognized.

6.8.1: The class CharClass

The characters of a character class are made available through CharClass objects. A CharClass object initially stores all characters of its set in a string, while remembering the offsets where series of ordinary characters or predefined character ranges start in a vector of pair<size_t, CharType> objects. Their first members are indices in the object's string data member where one or more characters of type CharType start.

CharType is an enum having values CHAR, indicating a plain character; PREDEF, indicating a character in a predefined range; and END, which is used for offset d_str.length().

Once all elements of a character class have thus been collected, the member str may be called to create the final character set.

The member set creates the final set of characters. It calls handleMinusAndEscapes to find (tag) all minus characters in d_str, and to process any escape sequence that may have been used in the set. Since flexc++ 2.00.00 escape sequences inside character sets are supported. Thus, to represent a literal minus character \- can be used. The member handleMinusAndEscapes passes each of the sub-strings in d_str (starting at the elements in d_type) to inspect. Inspect only inspects CHAR ranges. It processes all escape-sequences in the CHAR range, and stores the locations of unescaped minuses in d_tag, thus tagging the locations of potential character-range operators. The tags of minus characters that are used as the first or last character in d_str are removed, as initial or final minus characters do not define a range.

Next, the tagged minus characters are inspected. These minuses must define valid ranges, which means:

All characters found in d_str to the left of a range are then inserted into a set<char>. Next the characters of the character range are inserted. Once all character ranges have thus been processed, any trailing characters are added to d_str.

The member str() receives the set, stores its elements in d_str, and returns d_str. Although currently not used by flexc++'s implementation, str also sets the CharClass object's d_state to FINAL: once a CharClass's state is FINAL its d_str is not modified anymore, and str will return d_str without calling set.

6.8.2: The class Interval

The class Interval is a simple support class defining the lower and upper bounds of an interval as size_t values. It uses std::string conversion functions to convert values stored in text format in std::string arguments to size_t values.

The class defines two size_t values (d_lower and d_upper) and several factory members as well as members to access d_lower and d_upper's values.

6.9: Patterns

parser/rules/pattern: Patterns define the regular expressions that can be matched. All patterns start at pattern_ws and consist of:

        pattern opt_ws mode_block
Following the recognition of a pattern, the scanner is reset to its block mode, allowing it to recognize a C++ action block. Blocks are defined here.

The following patterns are defined (more extensive descriptions follow):

Pattern objects contain (and offer, through the members begin and end) index values in the States::d_states of State objects. The value returned by Pattern::begin() is the index of the first State defining the pattern, the value returned by Pattern::end() is the index of the last (so: State::FINAL) State of the pattern (cf. figure 8).

Figure 8: Pattern objects

Pattern objects also have a d_lopData data member, which is a pointer to an internally used LopData struct. This data member is only used with LOP-patterns, and is covered in section 6.10.2.

parser/rules/pattern: the following descriptions of the working of some basic patterns illustrate how the vector of State objects in States is filled. Based on this description other pattern's implementations should be evident.

A basic pattern is the plain character (parser/inc/regexoreof: _single_char, processed by the Pattern::rawText factory function). The plain character pattern is processed as follows:

Figure 9: A plain character pattern

Concatenation of two patterns always produces a free State that can be returned by, e.g., State::nex2. The states, defining a pattern, therefore, do not have to be consecutively stored in the States's vector of State objects (see figure 10).

Figure 10: Concatenating Patterns

6.10: Patterns using the lookahead operator (LOP)

The way the lookahead operator (LOP, /) is handled has completely changed at flexc++'s upgrade from version 1 to version 2. The LOP-handling algorithm used in flexc++ versions before 2 worked correctly in most situations, but we were unable to prove its correctness, and over time bugs in the algorithm were uncovered which often were very hard to squash.

On the other hand, the algorithm implemented since flexc++ version 2 is surprisingly simple and can be proven to work.

The philosophy underlying the current LOP algorithm is simply that, in order to match {head}/{tail}, where {head} and {tail} are regular expressions, the scanner must at least be able to match {head}{tail}: the concatenation of {head} and {tail}.

Lookahead tail patterns, however, must match input strings which should be as short as possible. To find this shortest tail pattern the scanner tries to match the last character of the text that matched {head}/{tail} with the {tail} pattern. If this succeeds, then the shortest tail was found. If the last character didn't already match {tail} then the last two characters are matched against {tail}. This process (i.e., increasing the length of the final substring of the input matching {head}{tail}) is continued until {tail} is eventually matched. This must succeed since, after all, the full input matched {head}{tail}. Thus a short tail was found matching {tail}.

After matching the tail pattern, the matching final substring is removed from the original input string, and the initial substring is passed to the {head} pattern, thus finding the longest match, given that the remaining characters of the matched text still match {tail}. Figure 11 illustrates the algorithm.

Figure 11: Look-ahead matching algorithm

Some minor optimizations handle potentially zero length tails and handle fixed tail lengths. With potentially zero length tail lengths (e.g., {head}/{tail}*) the scanner ignores the tail and replaces {head}/{tail}*) by {head}). With fixed tail lengths the length of the tail (|tail| is known, and the final |tail| characters of the matched input text can immediately be pushed back on to the input stream, returning the remaining text as the text matching {head}.

The following subsections describe how flexc++ recognizes and handles LOP-patterns. The next section (6.18) describes the run-time handling of LOP-patterns.

6.10.1: The parser recognizing LOP patterns

Regular expressions are parsed according to the rules in parser/inc/regexoreof. LOP-patterns are recognized using

    _regex '/' _regex
        $$ = lookahead($1, $3);
Here _regex represents a regular expression pattern, stored in Pattern objects.

The parser's member lookahead verifies that a regular expression contains but one LOP, and that the LOP is not used in a parenthesized regular expression. If the rhs pattern can be empty the rhs is ignored and the lhs pattern is returned. If the rhs pattern has a fixed non-zero length the Pattern constructor

    Pattern(States &states, size_t tailLength,
            Pattern const &lhs, Pattern const &rhs);    
is called to define a pattern having a fixed length tail. Otherwise a variable (standard) LOP-expression was encountered.

Standard LOP expressions are handled according to the algorithm illustrated in figure 11. This is implemented using two separate startconditions (see the next section (

Until the tail pattern is actually matched, its length is gradually increased. This is handled by a catch-all rule (using the pattern .|\n) which can be added to the scanner's input, and which is used as fall-back rule in tail-matching start conditions (see section Start conditions used by standard LOP patterns

Standard LOP-patterns are handled through start conditions which are only referable by code generated by flexc++ itself. Each regular (standard LOP) expression of the form

    {head}/{tail}       action-block
results in two additional start conditions x and x+1, which are defined only for handling this LOP-pattern. Flexc++ generates code in which the above regular expression is transformed into rules that would have looked like this in a flexc++ specification file:

    {head}{tail}       lop1__(x);

        {tail}          lop2__();
        .|\n            lop3__();

    <x+1>{head}         {
Once {head}{tail} is matched (see also figure 11), an internally defined member lop1__(x) is called. This function prepares the scanner for matching the LOP-expression (cf. section 6.18), and switches to start condition x.

In start condition x, an attempt is made to match {tail}. If this does not succeed, the catch-all rule is matched, and lop3__() pushes two characters back on to the input stream: the character preceding the currently first character of the tail and the just-matched character. Thus the input now contains an incremented potential tail, and the scanner again tries to match {tail}. This eventually succeeds, and lop2__() is called.

The member lop2__() pushes all characters initially matched for {head}{tail}, except for the final |tail| number of characters, on to the input stream, and switches to start condition x+1.

At start condition x+1 lop4__() is called, which pushes the characters of the originally matched input beyond the currently matched input characters back on the input stream. This returns the tail beyond the string matched for {head} on to the input. Next it resets the scanner to the start condition that was active when {head}{tail} was first matched. Finally the original action-block's statements (if any) are executed.

Fixed length LOP-expressions do not need additional start conditions, nor do they need catch-all rules. When the above LOP-expression uses a fixed-length tail t, it is transformed to

    {head}{tail}        {
The member lopf__(t) simply pushed the final t characters of the matched input back on to the input stream, resizing d_matched to d_matched.length() - t.

6.10.2: Pattern constructors used with LOP patterns

Two Pattern constructors are used to handle LOP-expressions (see also figure 8, showing the data-members of Pattern objects). Pattern constructors that are used to represent LOP-patterns use their d_lopData members. If this member is zero, the object does not represent a LOP-pattern; if it is non-zero it points to a LopData struct, and the object does represent a LOP-pattern.

This is the constructor used to represent a LOP expression having a fixed non-zero length LOP-tail:

    Pattern(States &states, size_t tailLength,
            Pattern const &lhs, Pattern const &rhs);    
In this case the LopData's mid and lhs fields are not used, and scOrLength stores the length of the fixed-length tail of the LOP-expression.

As the pattern to match is {head}{tail}, the states of the lhs and rhs expressions are concatenated, and the concatenated states are accessed though the object's d_pair member.

Figure 12: Pattern data organization for LOP-expressions

For standard LOP-expressions (having variable length tails) the next constructor is used (cf. figure 12):

    Pattern(States &states,
            Pattern const &lhs, Pattern const &rhs,     
            size_t lopStartCondition);    
Here the pattern to match is, as before, the concatenated states of the lhs and rhs patterns, which are accessed though the object's d_pair member.

Once {head}{tail} has been matched, the tail pattern must be matched, using a separate start condition. The state number of the {tail} pattern's first state is stored in d_lopData->mid, and is used later (by the Rules object) to create a specific tail-matching rule.

The (number of the) start condition handling the tail-matching process is lopStartCondition which is stored in d_lopData->scOrLength.

Another rule must be available to match {head}, once {tail} has been matched. The states of this rule are accessed through d_lopData->lhs, which is a Pattern object initialized with the states of a duplicate of the lhs pattern. Once the {tail} has been matched, this duplicated pattern is used to match {head} in the next start condition.

The type of a pattern is inferred from the pattern object's d_lopData member. If zero, then the pattern does not represent a LOP-expression, and its type (returned by its type() member) is RuleType::NORMAL. Otherwise, if the LOP-expression has a fixed-size tail, then d_lopData->mid equals 0, and the pattern's type is RuleType::LOP_FIXED. If d_lopData->mid is unequal 0, then the pattern represent a standard LOP-expression, and its type is RuleType::LOP_1.

6.10.3: Adding (LOP-)rules

Once parser/inc/regexoreof has recognized a pattern (whether or not a LOP-expression) it is further processed by either optMs_rule (optional start condition rule) in parser/inc/optmsrule, or by msCompound (mini scanner compound) in parser/inc/mscompound.

In both cases the actions that are associated with the regular expressions are determined (they may be `or-actions', in which case the action consists of a |-character, indicating that this rule uses the same action as the next rule, or no actions may be defined, representing an empty action block).

Having determined a pattern and action block, the combination of pattern, action, possibly a begin-of-line requirement (i.e., a rule starting with ^), and the pattern's type are passed to d_rules.add, adding another rule to the set of available rules.

Adding a rule (cf. rules/ means:

6.10.4: After parsing: adding LOP start conditions

After parsing Parser::addLopStartConditions is called.

If no variable tail LOP rules were encountered, this function immediately returns. Otherwise, there are tail matching start conditions, which need a catch-all rule, and for each variable tail LOP rule two start conditions are defined.

The catch-all rule is added to the Rules object by the Rules::processCatchAllRule member. The catch-all rule is the last rule, injected by the scanner once it has reached the end of its input. It is stored inside the Rules object in a separate Rule d_catchAll object.

Next the variable tail LOP rules' start conditions are defined. At this point all user-defined rules are known, and the user-defined start conditions are also known (as the parser has processed the %x and %s directives). Therefore, all start conditions which are required for handling standard LOP-rules have index values exceeding the number of user-defined start conditions. When a standard LOP-rule was encountered by the parser, Parser::lookahead increased its d_lopStartCondition by 2, and so at this point d_lopStartConditions - d_rules.size() start conditions are defined.

These start conditions are for internal use only. Their names are not made available in the generated ScannerBase.h header file. They start with a blank space, which can therefore not be specified in user-defined input files. Furthermore, the code generator only adds the user-defined start condition names to the enum class StartCondition__, defined in ScannerBase.h, so the variable tail LOP rules' start conditions cannot be specified by user-called begin statements.

6.10.5: After parsing: handling LOP rules

The function Rules::handleLopRules performs rule-finalization.

Once the parser has completed its work, the Rules object finalizes its rules, adding additional rules for LOP_1 type of rules.

First Rules::setLopBlocks ensures that each variable length LOP rule has its own action block. The variable tail length LOP rules receive their own lop1__(size_t sc) action block, but their original action blocks must remain available, to be added eventually to the lop4__() action, after matching the LOP rule's {head} pattern. Comparable considerations hold true for fixed-sized tail length LOP rules. Here the rule's original action is appended to the rule's lopf__(size_t tailLength) call.

To prepare the rules for their appropriate actions, consider figure 13.

Figure 13: Providing rules with action blocks

Initially, actionIdx and lopIdx point beyond the last rule index. When a rule has an action block of its own actionIdx is given this rule's index value: actionIdx always holds the index of the most recent rule having an action block of its own. Likewise, lopIdx always holds the index of the most recent LOP rule.

If a LOP rule has an or-action, then it receives a copy of the most recently seen action block. If a normal rule has an or-action then it receives a copy of the most recently seen action block if this happens to be a LOP rule's own action block.

After setLopBlock all LOP rules have their own true (i.e., not or-actions) action blocks.

Next, all fixed tail length LOP rules are processed: each fixed tail length LOP rule's action block receives an initial lopf__(tailSize); statement, where tailSize is obtained from the rule's pattern.lopTailLength() member.

If there are variable tail length LOP rules then these are processed next (by Rules::handleLopRule(idx)).

Rules::handleLopRule receives the index of a variable tail length LOP rule and changes its action block to lop1__(scIndex), where scIndex is the start condition index matching this LOP rule's tail. ScIndex is obtained from the rule's pattern->scIndex() member.

Next, the lop rule's start condition is activated at d_startConditions and the LOP rule's {tail} pattern is added to this start condition, using RuleType::LOP_2. This start condition also needs a catch-all rule, using action block lop3__(), but as all variable tail length LOP rules share this catch-all rule, they are handled separately, see below.

Finally, the lop rule's 2nd start condition is activated and the LOP rule's {head} pattern is added to this start condition, using RuleType::LOP_4, prefixing the original rule's action block by the statement lop4__() (see also section

Once all variable tail length LOP rules have been processed the catch-all rule is added to the Rules object, using RuleType::LOP_3, and the catch-all rule is added to each second start condition of each variable tail length LOP rule (by Rules::addCatchAll).

6.11: Ranges

When processing characters in regular expressions subranges are defined. An expression like `am' defines the ranges ascii-0 to (but not including) 'a'; 'a'; 'b' through 'l'; 'm'; and 'n' through ascii-255.

Likewise, sets may define ranges, like [[:digits:]], defining all ascii characters preceding the digits; all decimal digits; and all ascii characters following the digits.

Rather than having a NFA/DFA having entries for each of these characters the NFA/DFA's column-dimension (see section 6.13) can be reduced, often considerably, by letting each column refer to a set of characters, rather than individual characters.

The Ranges object takes care of defining and manipulating the actual subsets. Its data organization is given in figure 14.

Figure 14: The class Ranges data members

Initially d_ranges is filled with all zeroes. Once a range of characters or a single character is defined in a pattern, it is added to the Ranges object (functions add accepting single characters or strings). The occurrence counts of the added characters are incremented if necessary. De functions update, collision, and countRanges handle the updating.

Details of the algorithm are not covered here, until the need for this arises. For the time being consult the sources for details.

In the user interface the important members are rangeOf, rangeOfBOL and rangeofEOF, returning the column indices in DFAs to which input characters belong.

6.12: The class DFAs

The regular expression patterns define non-finite state automata (NFA) which must be converted to deterministic finite state automata (DFA). Each mini scanner has its own DFA and the class DFAs builds the various DFAs for each of the start conditions. The DFA construction needs access to the rules, states and character ranges, which are available to the DFAs object) (cf. figure 15)

Figure 15: The DFAs class organization

The DFAs object's real work is performed by its build member. The build member visits all the elements of Rules, passing each of the start conditions (stored in the Rules object) to buildDFA. For each of the start conditions, holding the indices of the rules that are defined for the various start conditions, a DFA is constructed for all of the rules of that start condition (cf. figure 6.3).

The function buildDFA performs two tasks:

6.13: The DFA

The conversion from NFA to DFA is the job of the class DFA object (cf. figure 16)

Figure 16: The DFA class data members

The DFA uses the externally available rules, states and character ranges and builds a vector of DFARows, named d_row. It has the following data members:

6.13.1: DFA::build: From NFA to DFA

Building the DFA from the NFA is the task of DFA::build.

Each row of d_row defines a state in the DFA. The Rule numbers of the Rules defining a start condition received as build's vector<size_t> parameter.

DFA::build initially stores the start states of the rules of its start condition in its d_stateSet[0]th element, which is a set (cf. figure 17). This is done by DFA::fillStartSet

Figure 17: Creating the start states for row 0

Next, the e-closure of this initial set of states is computed. The e-closure algorithm is described in ASU's dragon book (1986, figure 3.26). It essentially adds all states that can be reached from each element in the current set of states on an empty transition. The e-closure is computed by States::eClosure.

At this point there is an element in DFA::d_stateSet, but not yet an element in DFA::d_row. By adding a DFARow (see section 6.14) to d_row we associate a DFARow with an initial set of states.

Once the new DFA has been added to d_row its transitions are probed by DFARow::transitions (see section 6.14).

6.13.2: Removing duplicate rows

Having determined the transitions build proceeds to remove implied/identical rows, calling DFA::keepUniqueRows. This latter function visits each of the rows of the DFA, testing whether an existing row has the same transitions and final state information as the current row. `Same transitions' means that the transitions of the current (under inspection) row are present in an earlier row; `same final state information' means that the current row is a final state for the same rule(s) as an earlier row. In such situations the current row can be merged with the earlier row, keeping the earlier row. The (later) row can then be removed as transitions from it are identical to those from the earlier row. This may happen, as the NFA construction algorithm may define more empty edges than strictly necessary, sometimes resulting in additional rows in the DFAs. As an example, consider the pattern (a|ab)+/(a|ba)+, producing the DFA

Input Chars
StateSet a b Final

223 0
423 0
675 0
775 0

Rows 6 and 7 are identical, as are rows 2 and 4. For row 4 the (erroneous, if |TAIL| should be as short as possible) |TAIL| = 2 is shown, resulting from aba being interpreted as HEAD: a and TAIL: ba.

But when |TAIL| should be minimized aba should be interpreted as HEAD: ab and TAIL a, resulting in transitions 0 -> 1 -> 3 -> 2, with |TAIL| = 1. This happens when row 4 is merged to row 2. Having merged the rows, former transitions to the now removed rows must of course be updated to the merging row. So row 3 must transit to 2 when receiving input symbol a. The member shrinkDFA handles the shrinkage of the DFA. In this example the final DFA becomes:

Input Chars
StateSet a b Final

223 0
554 0

6.14: The rows of the DFA: DFAROW

Rows of DFA matrices relate (ranges of) input characters to rows (states) to transit to (see figure 18).

Figure 18: The data of the class DFARow

A DFARow row specification is defined by a set of states accessible as d_stateSets[d_thisIdx]. The values of this set define the (e-closure of the) states of this row (see section 6.13).

Each of these states may result in a transition to another state when observing a character from one of the DFA's input ranges. These `states to transit to' in turn define another set of states (possibly identical to the set of states defining the current row).

Transitions from this row are probed for each of the character ranges (in Ranges, see 6.11) by DFARow::transitions. The member DFARow::transitions may add new elements to d_stateSet, continuing the iteration until eventually there are as many d_row elements as there are d_transitions elements.

If this set of states to transit to is not yet present in the DFA then a new row is added to the DFA. Adding rows is the task of DFA::build, defining and adding new sets of States is the responsibility of DFARow::transition.

6.14.1: Associating a DFARow with a Rule

The values in d_final are set by setFinal, called from DFARow::transit. It receives the the rule index given the index of the row's State.

If the rule index refers to a BOL rule d_finalRule.second is inspected, otherwise d_finalRule.first is inspected.

If the inspected value doesn't refer to a rule yet, the current rule index is assigned. Otherwise, if the current rule type (NORMAL or LOP-rule) equals the rule index's type, and the rule index is smaller than the inspected element's value, or if the rule index refers to a NORMAL rule, but the inspected element doesn't, then the rule index is assigned to the inspected element.

Thus a DFA row will always be associated with the first rule that reaches its final state at the current DFA row if both rules are of identical types, and it will be associated with the NORMAL rule if the other rule is not a NORMAL rule.

6.15: Finding non-viable rules

The following procedure determines which rules can be matched (are viable) and which rules aren't:

Each DFARow has a std::pair<size_t, size_t> d_finalRule data member. In setFinal a rule index is received. If the matching rule is a BOL-rule then d_finalRule.second is determined, otherwise d_finalRule.first.

When multiple rules could match at a final state, then the rule mentioned first takes precedence. Since the elements of d_finalRule are initialized at max<size_t>(), the received rule index is assigned to the appropriate d_finalRule field if it's smaller than the currently stored value.

Once the DFAs have been constructed, the viability of the rules is determined by DFAs::warnNonViable. This function is called from main.

DFAs::warnNonViable first defines the set of all user-defined rule indices. Next it visits all DFAs not having numeric names (as these are internally defined DFAs added by the DFA construction process for LOP-rules), removing all rules that can be matched at their DFA rows from the set of rule indices. If any indices remain in this set then these rules cannot be matched, and a warning is issued for each of them.

Be cautious when defining LOP patterns allowing empty head-matches. The following series of rules result in rule 2 never being matched: an ab sequence matches the tail of rule 1, with an empty head. Next, ab is re-scanned and the procedure repeats itself:

    a*/a*b              d_p = "a*/a*b"; return 1;
    ab                  d_p = "ab";     return 2;
    .                   d_p = ".";      return 3;
The repair consists of reordering these rules, or disallowing an empty LOP-head. Reordering the rules solves the problem:

    ab                  d_p = "ab";     return 1;
    .                   d_p = ".";      return 2;
    a*/a*b              d_p = "a*/a*b"; return 3;
Now rule 1 takes priority over rule 3: an ab sequence is matched by rule 1, rather than becoming rule 3's tail.

Likewise, with the following set of rules rule 2 will never match, as the LOP rule recognizes the \n (realize that $ means: /\n):

    .*$         d_p = ".*$"; return 1;
Again, reordering (or using a non-empty LOP head) solves the problem. E.g., using reordering:

    .*$         d_p = ".*$"; return 1;

6.16: Generating Code

Code is generated by an object of the class Generator. The generator generates the following files (using default names, all defaults can be overruled by directives and options):

Each of these files has a skeleton, found in /usr/share/flexc++ (the development header files are in the skeletons/ subdirectory of the source package). The skeletons are the templates (molds) from which the files matching the requirements as defined in flexc++'s input s are created:

The member genLex generates the lexer file It recognizes $insert lines starting in column 1 and performs the matching action, inserting appropriate elements into the generated file.

Other generating members act similarly:

The member genBase generates the scanner base file Scannerbase.h, the member genScanner generates Scanner.h.

The code generated by flexc++ must read input, match the input with some regular expressin and return the associated token. A catch-all escape is provided by the implicitly provided rule echoing all non-matched input to the standard output stream.

The generated code consists of these parts:

For each of the DFAs the function Generator::dfa is called.

The function Generator::dfa receives as its first argument a DFAs::Pair (see figure 15), containing the name of the start condition that is associated with the DFA and the DFA itself. The function performs the following tasks:

The function Generator::declarations adds the declarations of (*d_dfaBase__)[], s_dfa__[][], s_dfaBase__[][] etc. to ScannerBase.h, providing these declarations with their required (higher order) dimension values.

The function Generator::actions inserts the actions in the function ScannerBase::executeAction__, implemented in Actions are inserted separately for each RuleType that was used. Each NORMAL, LOP_1, LOP_4 and LOP_FIXED (fixed-tail LOP rule) type of rule has its own action block, and their action blocks are inserted first. LOP_2 and LOP_3 actions are all identical, and flexc++ creates a set of fall-through case labels for these actions.

6.16.1: The range-table

The character-table translates input characters into ranges. Each input character (by default the 256 extended ascii-characters) is associated with a character range. Character range indices are then used as column indices of the DFA tables (see sections 6.11 and 6.13).

The function Generator::charTable defines in d_out the static data member size_t const ScannerBase::s_ranges[]. This array has 256 elements, so each character (cast to type unsigned char) can be used as an index into this array, returning its range-number.

In addition to real input characters, the scanner may return two pseudo range values: rangeOfBOL is the range matching the special `character' BOL, returned when a begin-of-line is sensed, and rangeOfEOF which is returned when EOF was sensed (e.g., when the <<EOF>> rule was used). These BOL and EOF tokens must be returned by nextChar when BOL or EOF was sensed, and the DFA's recognizes their ranges. The ranges rangeEOF and rangeBOL are declared in the scanner class's data members section.

If DFA's don't recognize BOL or EOF characters then the default action is performed: BOL is ignored and EOF results in switching back to the previous stream or in returning token 0 (and ending the scanning-process).

The code generator adds code handing BOL and EOF to scanners using these pseudo characters. The code is left out of the generated scanner if these pseudo characters are not used.

Range tables are generated by generator/

6.16.2: The DFAs

The function Generator::dfas, defined in generator/dfas defines defines in d_out the static data member int const ScannerBase::s_dfa[][dfaCols()], where dfaCols returns the number of columns of the DFA matrices.

All DFAs are accessed through this single s_dfa matrix. Each individual DFA starts at a specific row of s_dfa. The first DFA to be written is associated with the INITIAL scanner: INITIAL is always defined and contains all rules not explicitly associated with a start condition.

The matrix s_dfa contains the rows of all DFAs, including those that were generated by flexc++ itself, with the start state INITIAL always being the first DFA.

Each row contains the row to transit to if the column's character range was sensed. Row numbers are relative to the used DFA. There are as many elements in the rows of the s_dfa table as there are character ranges plus two. These final elements represent rule indices of, respectively, the matched rule (normal case) and the matched rule in case of BOL. The value -1 is used if no such rule is associated with the DFA row.

The base locations for the various start conditions are defined in the static array s_dfaBase. Its initial value matches the INITIAL scanner, and points to the first s_dfa row. Additional values are defined for each additional start condition, and point to the initial rows in s_dfa for these start conditions. Here is an example of a enum class Begin and matching s_dfaBase:

    enum class Begin
    std::vector<int const (*)[9]> const ScannerBase::s_dfaBase =
        { s_dfa + 0 },
        { s_dfa + 6 },
The INITIAL scanner's dfa rows start at the top, the str mini scanner starts at row index 6 of s_dfa.

6.17: Run-time operations

The lex function works as follows:

Characters from the input are assigned to d_char. At the beginning of the character processing loop d_char already has received a value. At EOF the character is given the (pseudo) character value AT_EOF.

Next, the character's range (d_range) is determined from s_ranges[d_char].

The variable d_dfaBase points at the dfa currently used. The variable d_dfaIdx holds the index of the current row in the current dfa.

The expression

    nextIdx = (d_dfa + d_dfaIdx)[d_range];
provides the next d_dfaIdx value. If unequal -1 do:

    d_dfaIdx = nextIdx;
    d_char = nextChar();
If equal -1 then there is no continuation for the current rule.

Depending on the current state and action several action types can be returned by the run-time function actionType__:

The following table shows how actions are determined by actionType__. The function actionType__ starts it tests at the first row of the table, and stops as soon as a condition hold true, returning the action type:

Action determined by actionType__

Input Character

Performed Test    not AT_EOF AT_EOF

match found MATCH MATCH
buffer size ECHO1ST ECHO1ST
buffer empty ECHOCHAR RETURN

For each of the returned action types actions must be performed:

The data member d_atBOL is also set to true when lex__ switches to another input stream (either a new one, or returning to a previously stacked one). This handles the borderline case where a file's last line is not properly terminated with a '\n' character.

6.17.1: Handling BOL-rules

The member ScannerBase::knownFinalState (implemented in ScannerBase.h returns

    (d_atBOL && available(d_final.atBOL.rule)) 
only if this is true, ScannerBase::actionType__ returns ActionType__::MATCH.

Three variables are used here, resulting in 8 possibilities:

available rule

nr d_atBOLstdbol action

1 000 prevented by knownFinalState
2 001 prevented by knownFinalState
3 010 use the std. rule
4 011 use the std. rule
5 100 prevented by knownFinalState
6 101 use the BOL rule
7 110 use the std rule
8 111 different match lengths: use
the rule matching the longest text;
equal match lengths: use the earlier rule.

The numbers in this table are referred to by skeleton/'s member matched__.

6.18: Run-time handling of LOP-patterns

ScannerBase.h adds the following data members to ScannerBase.h:

    int             d_lopSC = 0;        // the active SC when lop1__() 
                                        // is called
    std::string     d_lopMatched;       // matched lop-rule characters 
    std::string::iterator d_lopTail;    // iterator pointing to the first 
                                        // character of the tail the scanner
                                        // is trying to match against {tail}.
    std::string::iterator d_lopEnd;     // iterator indicating the end of the
                                        // text to match agains {tail} or the
                                        // end of the text to match against
                                        // {head}
    std::string::iterator d_lopIter;    // iterator iterating from d_lopTail
                                        // to d_lopEnd while trying to match
                                        // {tail}
    size_t          d_lopPending;       // # pending input chars when lop1__
                                        // is called
                                        // pointer to the input function.
    size_t (\@Base::*d_get)() = &\@Base::getInput;

After matching tt{{head}{tail}) of fixed length tail LOP rules, the matched text is first processed by lopf__(tailLength), before the LOP rule's original action block is executed. If fixed length tail LOP rules are used, then lopf__(tailLength) is implemented in and looks like this:

    void ScannerBase::lopf__(size_t tail)
        tail = length() - tail;
        push(d_matched.substr(tail, string::npos));
This member simply pushes the last tail number of characters back to the input stream, and removes them from d_matched.

After matching tt{{head}{tail}) of variable length tail LOP rules, lop1__(size_t lopSc) is called. This member prepares the scanner for finding the shortest tail. It's implementation is:

    void ScannerBase::lop1__(int lopSC)
        d_lopMatched = d_matched;               // local copy of the matched
                                                // text
        d_lopPending = d_input.nPending();      // remember the # of pending
                                                // characters in Input's queue
        d_lopEnd = d_lopMatched.end();          // initialize the iterators
        d_lopTail = d_lopEnd - 1;               // to the final substring
        d_lopIter = d_lopTail;                  // of one character
        d_get = &ScannerBase::getLOP;           // obtain characters from
                                                // d_lopIter
        d_lopSC = d_startCondition;             // remember original SC
        begin(SC(lopSC));                       // activate the 
                                                // tail-matching SC

Note the used of the member Input::nPending. This member is added to the class Input's interface and should return the number of characters currently in the Input object's pending queue. In the default implementation it simply returns the Input object's d_deque's length.

To match the shortest tail lop2__ and lop3__ are used. The member lop3__ is called when the current tail characters do not match {tail}. It increments the tail, and resets d_lopIter:

    void ScannerBase::lop3__()
        d_lopIter = --d_lopTail;                // increase the tail

The member lop2__ is called when {tail} has been matched. It defines the initial characters, up to d_lopTail as the characters to match agains {head} and starts the next next start condition, which handles the matched {head}. Here is lop2__'s implementation:

    void ScannerBase::lop2__()
        d_lopEnd = d_lopTail;                   // read the head
        d_lopIter = d_lopMatched.begin();
        begin(SC(d_startCondition + 1));        // switch to the head-matching
                                                // SC

Finally, lop4__ returns the scanner to its original state, having matched {head}, and pushes the remaining characters (the actual tail) on to the input stream:

    void ScannerBase::lop4__()
        begin(SC(d_lopSC));                     // restore original SC
        d_get = &ScannerBase::getInput;         // restore get function
        d_input.setPending(d_lopPending);       // reduce # pending chars to
                                                // the original number

                                                // reinsert the tail into the 
                                                // input stream
        push(d_lopMatched.substr(length(), string::npos));

As stated in the code, the member Input::setPending resets the number of pending characters to its original value. Its default implementation is

    void setPending(size_t size)
        d_deque.erase(d_deque.begin(), d_deque.end() - size);

6.19: Reflex: refreshing flexc++

When a new flexc++ release is prepared (resulting from a minor or major upgrade or even rewrite) several steps should be performed before the new version is released. Flexc++ should at least be able to regenerate its own lexical scanner function lex().

In flexc++'s distribution the shell script reflex is found. In an interactive process it performs the required steps by which flexc++ recreates its own scanner. The script assumes that a new binary program, representing the latest changes, is available as ./tmp/bin/flexc++, relative to the directory in which the reflex script is found. When creating flexc++ with the provided build script, these assumptions are automatically met.

The reflex script then performs the following steps: