ReSharper DevGuide

Edit page

Utility Classes

ReSharper includes a couple of classes that are useful when writing a lexer, namely NodeTypeSet and LexerDictionary<T>. The NodeTypeSet class the lexer can use to test if a NodeType instance is part of a particular set of nodes, such as keywords, symbols and so on. The LexerDictionary class is a dictionary of strings to NodeType, optimised for use in a lexer.


The NodeTypeSet class is very simple; it is a set of NodeType instances. A custom language can create one or more static instances of NodeTypeSet to represent specific sets of node types, such as keywords, symbolic operators, literals or any other set that makes sense for the language. A lexer, or indeed parser or other piece of code, can see if a NodeType is in the set, as a quick and efficient lookup to categorise the node type, or tree element.

The NodeTypeSet itself derives from NodeTypeDictionary<bool>, which is a simple dictionary like class that returns true if the NodeType is in the set and false if it isn’t. The check is performed using the indexer, such as:

if (myNodeTypeSet[CSharpTokenType.ABSTRACT_KEYWORD]) { // ... }

Creating a NodeTypeSet is easy - simply pass all of the tokens into the constructor:

public static readonly NodeTypeSet KEYWORDS = new NodeTypeSet( CSharpTokenType.ABSTRACT_KEYWORD, CSharpTokenType.AS_KEYWORD, CSharpTokenType.BASE_KEYWORD, ... );

The class also includes a number of typical set methods:

public class NodeTypeSet : NodeTypeDictionary<bool>, IEnumerable<NodeType> { // ... public NodeTypeSet Except(NodeTypeSet set); public NodeTypeSet Except(NodeType nodeType); public NodeTypeSet Union(NodeTypeSet set); public NodeTypeSet Union(NodeType nodeType); public NodeTypeSet Intersect(NodeTypeSet set); }


The LexerDictionary<T> class is a memory-efficient means of looking up an object from a string in a lexer’s buffer, without allocating any memory for the string. It will typically be used to map a string to a NodeType or TokenNodeType instance.

The main use case for LexerDictionary is while lexing keywords and identifiers. In many languages, keywords are simply reserved identifiers. E.g. the rules that match the identifier "hello” would also match "return", if it wasn’t reserved as a keyword.

When implementing a lexer, keywords can either be explicitly added as standalone rules, or matched as identifiers, and checked against reserved keywords. The LexerDictionary is designed to make that easy - if the token text is in the “keywords” dictionary, it’s a keyword, otherwise, it’s just an identifier.

public partial class MyLexer { public static LexerDictionary<TokenNodeType> myKeywords = new LexerDictionary<TokenNodeType>(); public static MyLexer() { foreach (var tokenNodeType in KEYWORDS.OfType(typeof(TokenNodeType)) myKeywords[tokenNodeType.TokenRepresentation] = tokenNodeType; } private TokenNodeType FindKeywordByCurrentToken() { return keywords.GetValueSafe(myBuffer, yy_buffer, yy_buffer_start, yy_buffer_end); } }

And then in the CsLex rules:

<YYINITIAL> {IDENTIFIER} { return makeToken(FindKeywordByCurrentToken() ?? CSharpTokenType.IDENTIFIER); }

The GetValueSafe method will use the string at the current location in the lexer’s buffer to look up the underlying object (TokenNodeType in this example), returning null if not found. It does this without allocating any strings for the given buffer range’s text, which is essential when the lexer is called as frequently as a user types.

The class derives from Dictionary<object, T>, which means that the key is actually an object. Items are usually added with a string key, but are then looked up using a buffer, an offset and a length. No strings are available or allocated during lookup.

The dictionary is created with an instance of TokenTextEqualityComparer, which is an implementation of IEqualityComparer<object> that the dictionary will use to check for equality of keys. This equality comparer can handle multiple types of key, and will perform a string comparison using the characters of a buffer without having to allocate a string.

The equality comparer handles instances of ILexer, BufferRange and ReusableBufferRange, as well as string. If given an instance of ILexer, it will use the Buffer, TokenStart and TokenEnd properties to get at the characters of the buffer.

The BufferRange object contains a reference to IBuffer and a TextRange for the start and end character offsets. It is a value type, which means it is cheap to allocate and doesn’t cause garbage collection, however, if passed to the equality comparer, it causes allocations through boxing. A common pattern is for a lexer to allocate a single instance of ReusableBufferRange in its constructor. This contains a BufferRange that can be updated in place, without any allocations. The lexer itself is single threaded, so a single instance is safe for use in lookups.

The LexerDictionary.GetValueSafe method takes a ReusableBufferRange, and updates it (in place) before passing it to LexerDictionary. Again, there are no allocations:

public partial class MyLexer { private readonly ReusableBufferRange myBuffer = new ReusableBufferRange(); private TokenNodeType FindKeywordByCurrentToken() { // LexerDictionary.GetValueSafe will call myBuffer.Reuse(buffer, new TextRange(start, end)) // which will update the ReusableBufferRange without allocating any memory // (the TextRange is a struct, so copied in place) return keywords.GetValueSafe(myBuffer, yy_buffer, yy_buffer_start, yy_buffer_end); } }

By default, the LexerDictionary is case sensitive, but this can be made case insensitive by passing false to the constructor.

Last modified: 10 July 2017