jsmn /

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Note from azimoff:

This my fork of zserge's JSMN JSON parser. I added first_child and next_sibling "links" to each jsmntok_t structure, such that the token set can be traversed as a tree. This allows convenient processing of OBJECT and ARRAY types and makes key-value associations much easier to handle. The mod is activated via the JSMN_FIRST_CHILD_NEXT_SIBLING define. It is independent of JSMN_PARENT_LINKS, and can be used alone or together.

Also included is an example that shows how to traverse a JSON token tree in depth-first order. Compile and run like this:

$cd jsmn/example
$gcc -std=c99 -g -DJSMN_FIRST_CHILD_NEXTSIBLING child_sibling_demo.c ../jsmn.c
$./a.out < sample.json

I use this mod in my JSONRPC implementation that is built on top of JSMN. The JSONRPC library can be found here


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

The web page with some information about jsmn can be found at http://zserge.com/jsmn.html


Most JSON parsers offer you a bunch of functions to load JSON data, parse it and extract any value by its name. jsmn proves that checking the correctness of every JSON packet or allocating temporary objects to store parsed JSON fields often is an overkill.

JSON format itself is extremely simple, so why should we complicate 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.


  • compatible with C89
  • no dependencies (even libc!)
  • highly portable (tested on x86/amd64, ARM, AVR)
  • about 200 lines of code
  • extremely small code footprint
  • API contains only 2 functions
  • no dynamic memory allocation
  • incremental single-pass parsing
  • library code is covered with unit-tests


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

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

It holds the following tokens:

  • Object: { "name" : "Jack", "age" : 27} (the whole object)
  • Strings: "name", "Jack", "age" (keys and some values)
  • Number: 27

In jsmn, tokens do not hold any data, but point to token boundaries in JSON string instead. In the example above jsmn will create tokens like: Object [0..31], String [3..7], String [12..16], String [20..23], Number [27..29].

Every jsmn token has a type, which indicates the type of corresponding JSON token. jsmn supports the following token types:

  • Object - a container of key-value pairs, e.g.: { "foo":"bar", "x":0.3 }
  • Array - a sequence of values, e.g.: [ 1, 2, 3 ]
  • String - a quoted sequence of chars, e.g.: "foo"
  • Primitive - a number, a boolean (true, false) or null

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, tests are in the jsmn_test.c, 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 {
    JSMN_OBJECT = 1,
    JSMN_ARRAY = 2,
} 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:

  • <code>'t', 'f'</code> - boolean
  • <code>'n'</code> - null
  • <code>'-', '0'..'9'</code> - number

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:

jsmn_parser parser;
jsmntok_t tokens[10];


// js - pointer to JSON string
// tokens - an array of tokens available
// 10 - number of tokens available
jsmn_parse(&parser, js, tokens, 10);

This will create a parser, and then it tries to parse up to 10 JSON tokens from the js string.

A non-negative reutrn value of jsmn_parse is the number of tokens actually used by the parser. Passing NULL instead of the tokens array would not store parsing results, but instead the function will return the value of tokens needed to parse the given string. This can be useful if you don't know yet how many tokens to allocate.

If something goes wrong, you will get an error. Error will be one of these:

  • JSMN_ERROR_INVAL - bad token, JSON string is corrupted
  • JSMN_ERROR_NOMEM - not enough tokens, JSON string is too large
  • JSMN_ERROR_PART - JSON string is too short, expecting more JSON data

If you get JSON_ERROR_NOMEM, you can 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 get this error until you reach the end of JSON data.

Other info

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