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3.7.11 A Push Parser

(The current push parsing interface is experimental and may evolve. More user feedback will help to stabilize it.)

A pull parser is called once and it takes control until all its input is completely parsed. A push parser, on the other hand, is called each time a new token is made available.

A push parser is typically useful when the parser is part of a main event loop in the client's application. This is typically a requirement of a GUI, when the main event loop needs to be triggered within a certain time period.

Normally, Bison generates a pull parser. The following Bison declaration says that you want the parser to be a push parser (see api.push-pull):

     %define api.push-pull push

In almost all cases, you want to ensure that your push parser is also a pure parser (see A Pure (Reentrant) Parser). The only time you should create an impure push parser is to have backwards compatibility with the impure Yacc pull mode interface. Unless you know what you are doing, your declarations should look like this:

     %define api.pure full
     %define api.push-pull push

There is a major notable functional difference between the pure push parser and the impure push parser. It is acceptable for a pure push parser to have many parser instances, of the same type of parser, in memory at the same time. An impure push parser should only use one parser at a time.

When a push parser is selected, Bison will generate some new symbols in the generated parser. yypstate is a structure that the generated parser uses to store the parser's state. yypstate_new is the function that will create a new parser instance. yypstate_delete will free the resources associated with the corresponding parser instance. Finally, yypush_parse is the function that should be called whenever a token is available to provide the parser. A trivial example of using a pure push parser would look like this:

     int status;
     yypstate *ps = yypstate_new ();
     do {
       status = yypush_parse (ps, yylex (), NULL);
     } while (status == YYPUSH_MORE);
     yypstate_delete (ps);

If the user decided to use an impure push parser, a few things about the generated parser will change. The yychar variable becomes a global variable instead of a variable in the yypush_parse function. For this reason, the signature of the yypush_parse function is changed to remove the token as a parameter. A nonreentrant push parser example would thus look like this:

     extern int yychar;
     int status;
     yypstate *ps = yypstate_new ();
     do {
       yychar = yylex ();
       status = yypush_parse (ps);
     } while (status == YYPUSH_MORE);
     yypstate_delete (ps);

That's it. Notice the next token is put into the global variable yychar for use by the next invocation of the yypush_parse function.

Bison also supports both the push parser interface along with the pull parser interface in the same generated parser. In order to get this functionality, you should replace the ‘%define api.push-pull push’ declaration with the ‘%define api.push-pull both’ declaration. Doing this will create all of the symbols mentioned earlier along with the two extra symbols, yyparse and yypull_parse. yyparse can be used exactly as it normally would be used. However, the user should note that it is implemented in the generated parser by calling yypull_parse. This makes the yyparse function that is generated with the ‘%define api.push-pull both’ declaration slower than the normal yyparse function. If the user calls the yypull_parse function it will parse the rest of the input stream. It is possible to yypush_parse tokens to select a subgrammar and then yypull_parse the rest of the input stream. If you would like to switch back and forth between between parsing styles, you would have to write your own yypull_parse function that knows when to quit looking for input. An example of using the yypull_parse function would look like this:

     yypstate *ps = yypstate_new ();
     yypull_parse (ps); /* Will call the lexer */
     yypstate_delete (ps);

Adding the ‘%define api.pure’ declaration does exactly the same thing to the generated parser with ‘%define api.push-pull both’ as it did for ‘%define api.push-pull push’.