Language - Compiler compilers or (lexer|parser) generators



Compiler-compilers splits the work into a lexer and a parser:

Compiler-compilers generates the lexer and parser from a language description file called a grammar

Parsers and lexical analysers are long and complex components. A software engineer writing an efficient lexical analyser or parser directly has to carefully consider the interactions between the rules.


Build process

As Compiler-compilers need to generates the lexer and parser, it makes the build process a little bit more complicated:

  • First, the compiler-compiler must generate the lexer and parser from the grammar file
  • then, you can use them to compile the code

Error handling

The lexical analyser and parser also are responsible for generating error messages, if the input does not conform to the lexical or syntactic rules of the language.


Antlr, javacc, sablecc, lex are not a parser or a lexical anaylzer but a generator. This means that it outputs lexical analyzers and parser according to a specification that it reads in from a file (the grammar)


JFlex - JFlex is a lexical analyzer generator (also known as scanner generator) for Java, written in Java.

JFlex lexers are based on deterministic finite automata (DFAs).

JFlex is designed to work together with:

It can also be used together with other parser generators like ANTLR or as a standalone tool.

Fro JFlex files editing support, see Grammar Kit

REx Parser Generator

Lex / Yacc

wiki/Lex_(software), wiki/Yacc

Installtion - cygwin includes lex and yacc

Yac is used by php. See bnf yacc grammar




Dead project Babelfish


Parser Building Toolkit for JavaScript


JavaCC is a tool used in many applications, which is much like antlr, with few features different here and there. However, it just generates Java code.

Used by: BeanShell


Java :

used by Calcite (Farrago, Optiq)


SableCC is a compiler-compiler tool for the Java environment. It handles LALR(1) grammars (for those who remember their grammar categories). In other words it's a bottom up parser (unlike JavaCC and Antlr which are top-down).

SableCC is a bottom up parser, which takes an unconventional and interesting approach of using object oriented methodology for constructing parsers. This results in easy to maintain code for generated parser. However, there are some performance issues at this point of time. It generates output in both C++ and Java


unified is an interface for processing text using syntax trees. It’s what powers remark, retext, and rehype, but it also allows for processing between multiple syntaxes.

unified enabled new exciting projects like Gatsby to pull in markdown, MDX to embed JSX, and Prettier to format it. It’s used to check code for Storybook, debugger.html (Mozilla), and (GitHub).

Acorn (Javascript)

Jison (Deprecated)

Jison - used by mermaid), unfortunately, no more updated.

Documentation / Reference

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