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Perl extension for reading all kinds of configuration files

Config::Magic - Perl extension for reading all kinds of configuration files


Example 1

 use Config::Magic; 

 use Data::Dumper;


 Section 1 {

 [Section 4]

 #Comment style #1

 //Comment style #2

 ;Comment style #3




 <Section 2>

 Foo = Bar

 Baz { Bip:1

 Pants==5 }


 <Tasty Cheese="3" />

 <Section 5>





 #Fastest way:

 $config = new Config::Magic();

 print Dumper($config->parse($input));

Example 2

 use Config::Magic; 

 use Data::Dumper;

#Arguments with sorting $ordered_hash = 1; $config = new Config::Magic(``input.conf'',$ordered_hash); print Dumper($config->parse); $result = $config->get_result; print Dumper($result);

OUTPUT (from second example)

  'Section 1' => {

    'Section 4' => {

      'Monkey' => [






    'Section' => [


        '2' => {},

        'Foo ' => 'Bar',

        'Baz' => {

          'Bip' => '1',

          'Pants' => '5'





        'Foo' => [







    'Tasty' => {

      'Cheese' => {




This module uses Parse::RecDescent to generate a parse tree for nearly any kind of configuration file. You can even combine files/configuration types. It understands XML, Apache-style, ini files, csv files, and pretty much everything else I could find. Just give it a file, and get a hash tree out. If it doesn't understand the file, or it isn't well formed (such as if a bracket is missing, etc), then you will get a partial result, or no result at all.

There is a single option that can be passed to this file which indicates that the resulting hash should be ordered rather than random. This is done using Tie::Hash::Indexed. You can also call ``setordered'' directly to change from using ordered to unordered hashes.


Basically, config files as I know them can be broken down into three kinds of things: comments, sections, and assignments. This section covers how these are determined. If you want a more precise description, see the code. What follows is an attempt to put that into words.


Right now, the system recognizes four types of comments: Those beginning with ';', those beginning with '//', those beginning with '#', and C style (beginning with '/*' and ending with '*/'. Obviously you can interrupt any other type of token with a comment EXCEPT quotes. All comments run until the end of the line except C-style comments.


Almost all kinds of sections can hold other sections, allowing nesting. Each section will be represented in the hash tree as a hash, and each element will be a tuple in the hash.

Kinds of sections:

INI section

exactly like a Windows INI file. Because of the structure, these do not contain other sections - only assignments. Example:

 [Section 1]

 a = b

 c : d

XML section

There are two flavors of this: an XML singleton, and an XML block statement


 <Just one=two />


 <Just one:two >Heres==more</Just>

The key thing to remember about XML statements is that within the block, only the first word is considered the name of the section. Beyond that are either assignments, or an array which acts as a variable list. Unlike most assignments, xml assignments are only to single variables - never to arrays. Further, in the case of XML blocks, the assignments within the blocks are put into a variable called ``attribs'' to distiguish elements in the body of the block from attributes that are not.

Bracket Section

There are three kinds of these. The easiest way to see them is to see examples:

 Section 1 {Statements}

 Section 2 (Statements)

 Section 3 [Statements]

Note that the third kind of statement might be confused for an INI if it contains only a singleton. For this reason, the ONLY way to specify this kind of statement is if the block element ``['' is on the same line as the section name declaration. Otherwise, any amount of white space can separate the section name from it's declaration.


There are a lot of ways of doing this. First of all, any of these things are identifiable as assignment operators: :,=,:=,==,=>

If you use any of these, whatever is on the left is considered the left side of the assignment, and whatever is on the right is considered the right side.

Note that each word (anything that doesn't contain spaces) on the right is considered a single operand, so this assignment: Left side=Right side

 Will produce this:

'Left side' => [




If you do not use any operators, the first word (anything not spaces again) will be considered the variable, and everything else will be it's values. Example:

 Left Right Right Right

 Will produce:

  'Left' => [





If there is no right side, the value will be passed along as a singleton. HOWEVER, in order to allow both singletons and lists together, it will become a key in a hash with the value equal to a reference to an empty hash. This behaviour may change in the future depending on user input.

 Example assignments:






  5    =>{}


Quotes and Quote Effects

Quotes may encapsulate anything that goes into the tree. You may use single or double quotes, and the result is that everything within the quotes is considered a single element.

Quotes may also be multiline. For this reason, neglecting to end a quote may have drastic consequences on the interpretation of your data.

If you wish to use a quote within one of your elements, quote it with the other kind of quote.

Example input assignment:

'``Fire bad'''



  '"Fire bad"'=>{}


Note that the double quotes remain. You can also escape a quote.


None by default.



The global options used by Parse::RecDescent will affect this module as well, if you wish to affect this module's internals. Do not change the AutoAction, or this module will most likely cease to function.


The output from Config::Magic is a hash, and normally there is no guarantee of ordering for a hash. This module causes the elements to remain in insertion order - i.e. the things that are higher up in the file end up first. This slows down hashing somewhat.


Because it uses Parse::RecDescent and the grammar created is very large, this module is slow and may take up enormous amounts of memory. On my slowest test machine, a PIII-500, it took approximately two minutes to parse my /etc/apache/commonapache.conf, and used 320MB of RAM at it's peak. This is a very complex configuration file, and is not what you can usually expect from the module; it is closer to the limits you'll reach. I feel that this is okay because it only needs to parse configuration files, which are often small, and only need to be used at the beginning of the program. After you get the hash tree, there's no real need for speed or memory.

It is unlikely to parse tab-separated value files with empty fields correctly. The reason for this is that there is no way to tell the difference between space separated assignments and TSV assignments. Since there are more of the latter, this was included in the grammer, while TSV files were left out.

There are also some things that happen when using ini files that make it difficult to use with other formats. For example, consider this:


 [Section 1]





 [Section stuff


In this example, section 2 is an abiguity. Is ``Section2'' a singleton from an ini section, or as the beginning title of a section? If you combine INI files with other kinds, you must use beginning section markers on their own lines. Note that this could change if there are improvements made to Parse::RecDescent.


 [Section 1]




 Section2 [

 Section stuff


Finally, it is quite likely that there are many bugs remaining of which the author is unaware.


Make it possible to add and remove conflicting configurations from the list, if this is needed, possibly. I'm open to suggestions.


Rusty Phillips <>


Copyright (C) 2004 by Rusty Phillips

This library is free software; you can redistribute it and/or modify it under the same terms as Perl itself, either Perl version 5.6 or, at your option, any later version of Perl 5 you may have available.