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3 High-Level Description of GNU gperf

The perfect hash function generator gperf reads a set of “keywords” from an input file (or from the standard input by default). It attempts to derive a perfect hashing function that recognizes a member of the static keyword set with at most a single probe into the lookup table. If gperf succeeds in generating such a function it produces a pair of C source code routines that perform hashing and table lookup recognition. All generated C code is directed to the standard output. Command-line options described below allow you to modify the input and output format to gperf.

By default, gperf attempts to produce time-efficient code, with less emphasis on efficient space utilization. However, several options exist that permit trading-off execution time for storage space and vice versa. In particular, expanding the generated table size produces a sparse search structure, generally yielding faster searches. Conversely, you can direct gperf to utilize a C switch statement scheme that minimizes data space storage size. Furthermore, using a C switch may actually speed up the keyword retrieval time somewhat. Actual results depend on your C compiler, of course.

In general, gperf assigns values to the bytes it is using for hashing until some set of values gives each keyword a unique value. A helpful heuristic is that the larger the hash value range, the easier it is for gperf to find and generate a perfect hash function. Experimentation is the key to getting the most from gperf.