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jsmn (pronounced like 'jasmine') is a minimalistic JSON parser in C. It can be easily integrated into resource-limited or embedded projects.

You can find more information about JSON format at json.org

Library sources are available at bitbucket.org/zserge/jsmn


Most JSON parsers convert JSON string to internal object representation. But if you are using C it becomes more tricky. There is no objects or hash tables. That's why most JSON parsers written in C try to reinvent the wheel, and either invent custom JSON-like objects, custom hash maps, or use callbacks like SAX parsers do.

jsmn is parser for those who don't accept it.

jsmn is designed to be robust (it should work fine even with erroneous data), fast (it should parse data on the fly), portable (no superfluous dependencies or non-standard C extensions). An of course, simplicity is a key feature - simple code style, simple algorithm, simple integration into other projects.



The rudimentary jsmn object is a token. Let's consider a JSON string:

'{ "name" : "Jack", "age" : 27 }'

It holds the following tokens:

The key moment is that in jsmn, tokens do not hold any data, but just point to the token boundaries in JSON string instead. In the example above jsmn will create tokens like:

As you can see, every jsmn token has a type, which indicates the type of corresponding JSON token.

jsmn supports the following token types:

Besides start/end positions, jsmn tokens for complex types (like arrays or objects) also contain a number of child items, so you can easily follow object hierarchy.

This approach provides enough information for parsing any JSON data and makes it possible to use zero-copy techniques.


To clone the repository you should have mercurial installed. Just run:

$ hg clone http://bitbucket.org/zserge/jsmn jsmn

Repository layout is simple: jsmn.c and jsmn.h are library files; demo.c is an example of how to use jsmn (it is also used in unit tests); test.sh is a test script. You will also find README, LICENSE and Makefile files inside.

To build the library, run make. It is also recommended to run make test. Let me know, if some tests fail.

If build was successful, you should get a libjsmn.a library. The header file you should include is called "jsmn.h".


Token types are described by jsmntype_t:

typedef enum {
} jsmntype_t;

Note: Unlike JSON data types, primitive tokens are not divided into numbers, booleans and null, because one can easily tell the type using the first character:

Token is an object of jsmntok_t type:

typedef struct {
    jsmntype_t type; /* Token type */
    int start;       /* Token start position */
    int end;         /* Token end position */
    int size;        /* Number of child (nested) tokens */
} jsmntok_t;

Note: string tokens point to the first character after the opening quote and the previous symbol before final quote. This was made to simplify string extraction from JSON data.

All job is done by jsmn_parser object. You can initialize a new parser using:

struct jsmn_parser parser;


This will initialize (reset) the parser.

Later, you can use jsmn_parse() function to process JSON string with the parser:

jsmntok_t tokens[256];
const char *js;
js = ...;

r = jsmn_parse(&parser, js, tokens, 256);

If something goes wrong, you will get an error returned by jsmn_parse(). Return value will be one of these:

If you get JSON_ERROR_NOMEM, you should re-allocate more tokens and call jsmn_parse once more. If you read json data from the stream, you can periodically call jsmn_parse and check if return value is JSON_ERROR_PART. You will be receiving this error until you reach the end of JSON data.

jsmn stored only offsets inside parser structure, not pointers. It means you can use realloc() to get more tokens, or reallocated your js string when more data arrives.

Non-strict mode

By default jsmn is build in a non-strict mode. It allows you to use it for other useful formats that JSON. In non-struct mode jsmn accepts:

It means the following strings will be parsed, too:

server: example.com
post: 80
message: "hello world"

Looks like a config file, right?

    server: "example.com",
    post: 80,
    message: "hello world"

And this is how you can use jsmn to parse JavaScript code.

To switch to strict mode you should define JSMN_STRICT preprocessor variable.

Other info

This software is distributed under MIT license, so feel free to integrate it in your commercial products.