Serialize++ – Tiny Data Serialization Library for C++


Small, light and easy to understand data serialization library for C++.

This is an extract from the live source of Bvckup 2 . It's not meant to be an universal serialization library, but rather a real-life working example of one of many ways to do serialization. Doing it simply at that.

Quick intro

Given two processes that use the same data model and exchange parts of it with each other, this library helps packing and unpacking in-memory data structures to/from binary blobs with as little fuss as possible .

No separate schemas, no precompilation, no verbose description of protocols, etc.

Just define your data structures ...

struct foo
        bool                 aaa;
        map<string, string>  bbb;

... specify which fields to serialize ...

        __f( aaa ),
        __f( bbb )

... and you are done!

// store: data -> blob

buffer  buf;
foo     something;

store(buf, something);

// parse: blob -> data

parser  par;
foo     inbound;

parse(par, inbound);

assert( parse.eof() );

How it works

The library revolves around two functions - store() and parse() .

Store appends binary representation of its argument to an existing data blob.

Parse extracts an instance of specified type from the blob.

The library knows how to serialize basic types like bool , uint8_t , etc. That is, it has overloaded versions of

void store(buffer & buf, const bool & v);
void store(buffer & buf, const uint8_t & v);

bool parse(parser & par, bool & v);
bool parse(parser & par, uint8_t & v);

It knows how to serialize string , wstring or any other specialization of std::basic_string .

It knows how to serialize vector , set and map and it can be easily extended to support other container types like list and deque .

However, in order to serialize a container, it obviously needs to know how to store/parse the elements contained within. If they are of a known type, e.g. bool , then we are good. But if their type is a class or a struct, then we need to teach the library how to handle them.

Serializing structs

If we have struct foo , then we can obviously implement store(..., const foo &) and parse(..., foo &) and that will do it. That's not terribly elegant though.

It is also too verbose. Both functions will end up looking almost the same, except one will be calling store for every field and another - parse .

It's C++, the most overpowered language in existence. We can do better.

Enter serialize_obj.h

Through a combination of pointers to members , variadic templates and a modest sprinkle of macros it coerces the compiler into auto-generating store and parse overloads from a plain list of struct members.

So we can just go:

OBJECT_SPEC( foo )             -- the type we are describing
        __f( aaa ),            -- field we want to be stored/parsed 
        __f( bbb )             -- another field
END_OF_SPEC                    -- close all open brackets and what not

and we get store(..., const foo &) auto-generated as soon as we call it.



A quick list of cases that aren't supported by the library:

  1. Classes with complicated inheritance, members that are references, pointers, etc., i.e. cases that require some sort of pre- or post-processing when instantiating an object.

  2. Classes that use getters and setters. Not hard to accommodate with a bit of extra code.

  3. Serializing into a tagged format, like JSON or XML. Can be supported by capturing field names in member_ptr .

  4. Storing integers in a network byte order. This too is very easy to support, but a pointless thing to do for IPC within the same host, which is what we have.


For a similar, but a bit more generic library see