In Erlang a Bin is used for constructing binaries and matching binary patterns. A Bin is written with the following syntax:
<<E1, E2, ... En>>
A Bin is a low-level sequence of bytes. The purpose of a Bin is to be able to, from a high level, construct a binary,
Bin = <<E1, E2, ... En>>
in which case all elements must be bound, or to match a binary,
<<E1, E2, ... En>> = Bin
where Bin
is bound, and where the elements are bound or
unbound, as in any match.
Each element specifies a certain segment of the binary. A segment is a set of contiguous bits of the binary (not necessarily on a byte boundary). The first element specifies the initial segment, the second element specifies the following segment etc.
The following examples illustrate how binaries are constructed or matched, and how elements and tails are specified.
Example 1: A binary can be constructed from a set of constants or a string literal:
Bin11 = <<1, 17, 42>>, Bin12 = <<"abc">>
yields binaries of size 3; binary_to_list(Bin11)
evaluates to [1, 17, 42]
, and
binary_to_list(Bin12)
evaluates to [97, 98, 99]
.
Example 2: Similarly, a binary can be constructed from a set of bound variables:
A = 1, B = 17, C = 42, Bin2 = <<A, B, C:16>>
yields a binary of size 4, and binary_to_list(Bin2)
evaluates to [1, 17, 00, 42]
too. Here we used a
size expression for the variable C
in order to
specify a 16-bits segment of Bin2
.
Example 3: A Bin can also be used for matching: if
D
, E
, and F
are unbound variables, and
Bin2
is bound as in the former example,
<<D:16, E, F/binary>> = Bin2
yields D = 273
, E = 00
, and F binds to a binary
of size 1: binary_to_list(F) = [42]
.
Example 4: The following is a more elaborate example
of matching, where Dgram
is bound to the consecutive
bytes of an IP datagram of IP protocol version 4, and where we
want to extract the header and the data of the datagram:
-define(IP_VERSION, 4). -define(IP_MIN_HDR_LEN, 5). DgramSize = size(Dgram), case Dgram of <<?IP_VERSION:4, HLen:4, SrvcType:8, TotLen:16, ID:16, Flgs:3, FragOff:13, TTL:8, Proto:8, HdrChkSum:16, SrcIP:32, DestIP:32, RestDgram/binary>> when HLen>=5, 4*HLen=<DgramSize -> OptsLen = 4*(HLen - ?IP_MIN_HDR_LEN), <<Opts:OptsLen/binary,Data/binary>> = RestDgram, ... end.
Here the segment corresponding to the Opts
variable
has a type modifier specifying that Opts
should
bind to a binary. All other variables have the default type
equal to unsigned integer.
An IP datagram header is of variable length, and its length -
measured in the number of 32-bit words - is given in
the segment corresponding to HLen
, the minimum value of
which is 5. It is the segment corresponding to Opts
that is variable: if HLen
is equal to 5, Opts
will be an empty binary.
The tail variables RestDgram
and Data
bind to
binaries, as all tail variables do. Both may bind to empty
binaries.
If the first 4-bits segment of Dgram
is not equal to
4, or if HLen
is less than 5, or if the size of
Dgram
is less than 4*HLen
, the match of
Dgram
fails.
Note that "B=<<1>>
" will be interpreted as
"B =< ;<1>>
", which is a syntax error.
The correct way to write the expression is
"B = <<1>>
".
Each segment has the following general syntax:
Value:Size/TypeSpecifierList
Both the Size
and the TypeSpecifier
or both may be
omitted; thus the following variations are allowed:
Value
Value:Size
Value/TypeSpecifierList
Default values will be used for missing specifications. The default values are described in the section "Defaults" below.
Used in binary construction, the Value
part is any
expression. Used in binary matching, the Value
part must
be a literal or variable. You can read more about
the Value
part in the sections about constructing
binaries and matching binaries.
The Size
part of the segment multiplied by the unit in
the TypeSpecifierList
(described below) gives the number
of bits for the segment. In construction, Size
is any
expression that evaluates to an integer. In matching,
Size
must be a constant expression or a variable.
The TypeSpecifierList
is a list of type specifiers
separated by hyphens.
integer
, float
, or
binary
.
signed
or unsigned
. Note that signedness only matters for
matching.
big
,
little
, or native
. Native-endian means that
the endian will be resolved at load time to be either
big-endian or little-endian, depending on what is "native"
for the CPU that the Erlang machine is run on.
unit:IntegerLiteral
.
The allowed range is 1-256. It will be multiplied by
the Size
specifier to give the effective size of
the segment.
Example:
X:4/little-signed-integer-unit:8
This element has a total size of 4*8 = 32 bits, and it contains a signed integer in little-endian order.
The default type for a segment is integer. The default
type does not depend on the value, even if the value is a
literal. For instance, the default type in '<<3.14>>
' is
integer, not float.
The default Size
depends on the type. For integer it is
8. For float it is 64. For binary it is all of the binary. In
matching, this default value is only valid for the very last
element. All other binary elements in matching must have a size
specification.
The default unit depends on the the type. For integer and float it is 1. For binary it is 8.
The default signedness is unsigned
.
The default endianness is big
.
This section describes the rules for constructing binaries using
the bit syntax. Unlike when constructing lists or tuples,
the construction of a binary can fail with a badarg
exception.
There can be zero or more segments in a binary to be
constructed. The expression '<<>>
' constructs a zero
length binary.
Each segment in a binary can consist of zero or more bits.
There are no alignment rules for individual segments, but
the total number of bits in all segments must be evenly
divisible by 8, or in other words, the resulting binary must
consist of a whole number of bytes. An badarg
exception
will be thrown if the resulting binary is not byte-aligned.
Example:
<<X:1,Y:6>>
The total number of bits is 7, which is not evenly divisible by
8; thus, there will be badarg
exception (and a compiler
warning as well). The following example
<<X:1,Y:6,Z:1>>
will successfully construct a binary of 8 bits, or one byte. (Provided that all of X, Y and Z are integers.)
As noted earlier, segments have the following general syntax:
Value:Size/TypeSpecifierList
When constructing binaries, Value
and Size
can be
any Erlang expression. However, for syntactical reasons, both
Value
and Size
must be enclosed in parenthesis if
the expression consists of anything more than a single literal
or variable. The following gives a compiler syntax error:
<<X+1:8>>
This expression must be rewritten to
<<(X+1):8>>
in order to be accepted by the compiler.
As syntactic sugar, an literal string may be written instead of a element.
<<"hello">>
which is syntactic sugar for
<<$h,$e,$l,$l,$o>>
This section describes the rules for matching binaries using the bit syntax.
There can be zero or more segments in a binary binary pattern. A binary pattern can occur in every place patterns are allowed, also inside other patterns. Binary patterns cannot be nested.
The pattern '<<>>
' matches a zero length binary.
Each segment in a binary can consist of zero or more bits.
A segment of type binary
must have a size evenly
divisible by 8.
This means that the following head will never match:
foo(<<X:7/binary-unit:1,Y:1/binary-unit:1>>) ->
As noted earlier, segments have the following general syntax:
Value:Size/TypeSpecifierList
When matching Value
value must be either a variable or
an integer or floating point literal. Expressions are not
allowed.
Size
must be an integer literal, or a previously bound
variable. Note that the following is not allowed:
foo(N, <<X:N,T/binary>>) -> {X,T}.
The two occurrences of N
are not related. The compiler
will complain that the N
in the size field is unbound.
The correct way to write this example is like this:
foo(N, Bin) -> <<X:N,T/binary>> = Bin, {X,T}.
To match out the rest of binary, specify a binary field without size:
foo(<<A:8,Rest/binary>>) ->
As always, the size of the tail must be evenly divisible by 8.
Assume that we need a function that creates a binary out of a list of triples of integers. A first (inefficient) version of such a function could look like this:
triples_to_bin(T) -> triples_to_bin(T, <<>>). triples_to_bin([{X,Y,Z} | T], Acc) -> triples_to_bin(T, <<Acc/binary, X:32, Y:32, Z:32>>); % inefficient triples_to_bin([], Acc) -> Acc.
The reason for the inefficiency of this function is that for
each triple, the binary constructed so far (Acc
) is
copied. (Note: The original bit syntax prototype avoided
the copy operation by using segmented binaries, which are not
implemented in R7.)
The efficient way to write this function in R7 is:
triples_to_bin(T) -> triples_to_bin(T, []). triples_to_bin([{X,Y,Z} | T], Acc) -> triples_to_bin(T, [<<X:32, Y:32, Z:32>> | Acc]); triples_to_bin([], Acc) -> list_to_binary(lists:reverse(Acc)).
Note that list_to_binary/1
handles deep lists of binaries
and small integers. (This fact was previously undocumented.)