Binding and wrapper generator for C/C++ libraries
Alternatives To Bindgen
Project NameStarsDownloadsRepos Using ThisPackages Using ThisMost Recent CommitTotal ReleasesLatest ReleaseOpen IssuesLicenseLanguage
Tfgo2,268172 months ago6February 04, 202117apache-2.0Go
Tensorflow + Go, the gopher way
384 days ago9November 21, 202015lgpl-3.0Python
Interactive viewer for graphs written in Graphviz's dot language.
Go Graphviz466496 months ago12March 19, 202221mitGo
Go bindings for Graphviz
2 years ago2mitC++
Automatic differentiation with weighted finite-state transducers.
Tensorflow Ocaml267
4 years ago4apache-2.0OCaml
OCaml bindings for TensorFlow
3 years ago30C++
Python binding of SLAM graph optimization framework g2o
2 years ago3June 06, 20214mitRust
Graph-based Approximate Nearest Neighbor Search
4 years ago24mitC
Erlang binding for 0MQ (v2)
2 years ago26gpl-3.0Crystal
Binding and wrapper generator for C/C++ libraries
4 years ago1May 21, 20182apache-2.0Dart
Dart bindings for Tensorflow.
Alternatives To Bindgen
Select To Compare

Alternative Project Comparisons


Standalone C, C++, and/or Qt binding and wrapper generator.

Logo Build Status


Add the dependency to shard.yml:

    github: Papierkorb/bindgen
    version: ~> 0.7.0

Table of Contents

How To

When you have a Crystal project and want to bind to C, C++, or Qt libraries with the help of bindgen, do as follows:

  1. Add bindgen to your project's shard.yml as instructed above under "Installation" and then run shards
  2. Copy lib/bindgen/assets/bindgen_helper.hpp into your ext/ subdirectory, creating it if missing
  3. Copy lib/bindgen/TEMPLATE.yml into your_template.yml (adjust the name to your linking) and customize it for the library you want to bind to
  4. Run lib/bindgen/ your_template.yml. This will generate the bindings, and by default place the outputs in the ext/ subdirectory
  5. Develop your Crystal application as usual

Note: If you ship the output produced by bindgen along with your application, then bindgen will not be not required to compile it. In that case, you can move its entry in shard.yml from dependencies to development_dependencies.

The .yml file that you copy from TEMPLATE.yml will contain the complete configuration template along with accompanying documentation embedded in the comments. If you prefer working with shorter files, you can simply remove all the comments.

Projects using bindgen

You can use the following projects' .yml files as a source of ideas or syntax for your own bindings:

Have you created and published a usable binding with bindgen? Want to see it here? Send a PR!

Mapping behaviour

The following rules are automatically applied to all bindings:

  • Method names get underscored: addWidget() -> #add_widget
    • Setter methods are rewritten: setWindowTitle() -> #window_title=
    • Getter methods are rewritten: getWindowTitle() -> #window_title
    • Bool getters are rewritten: getAwesome() -> #awesome?
    • is getters are rewritten: isEmpty() -> #empty?
    • has getters are rewritten: hasSpace() -> #has_space?
  • On signal methods (For Qt signals):
    • Keep their name for the emit version: pressed() -> #pressed
    • Get an on_ prefix for the connect version: #on_pressed do .. end
  • Enum fields get title-cased if not already: color0 -> Color0


Feature Support
Automatic Crystal binding generation YES
Automatic Crystal wrapper generation YES
Mapping C++ classes
+- Member methods YES
+- Static methods YES
+- Getters and setters for instance variables YES
+- Getters and setters for static variables YES
+- Constructors YES
+- Overloaded operators Partial
+- Conversion functions TBD
Mapping C/C++ global functions
+- Mapping global functions YES
+- Wrapping as Crystal class YES
Overloaded methods (Also default arguments) YES
Copying default argument values
+- Integer, float, boolean types YES
+- String YES
Enumerations YES
Copying structures YES
Custom type conversions between C/++ and Crystal YES
Automatic type wrapping and conversion YES
Integration with Crystals GC YES
C++ Template instantiation for containers types YES
Virtual methods YES
Override virtual methods from Crystal YES
Abstract classes YES
Multiple inheritance wrapping YES
Qt integration
+- QObject signals YES
+- QFlags types YES
+- QMetaObject generation (mimic moc) TBD
#define macro support
+- Mapping as enumeration YES
+- Mapping as constant (Including strings) YES
Copying in-source docs TBD
Platform specific type binding rules YES
Portable path finding for headers, libs, etc. YES

Architecture of bindgen

Bindgen employs a pipeline-inspired code architecture, which is strikingly similar to what most compilers use.

The code flow is basically Parser::Runner to Graph::Builder to Processor::Runner to Generator::Runner.

Architecture flow diagram

The Graph

An important data structure used throughout the program is the graph. Code-wise, it's represented by Graph::Node and its sub-classes. The nodes can contain child nodes, making it a hierarchical structure.

This allows to represent (almost) arbitrary structures as defined by the user configuration.

Say we're wrapping GreetLib. As any library, it comes with a bunch of classes (Greeter and Listener), enums (Greetings, Type) and other stuff like constants (PORT). The configuration file could look like this:

module: GreetLib
classes: # We copy the structure of classes
  Greeter: Greeter
  Listener: Listener
enums: # But map the enums differently
  Type: Greeter::Type
  Greeter::Greetings: Greetings

Which will generate a graph looking like this:

Graph example

Note: The concept is really similar to ASTs used by compilers.

Parser step

This is the beginning of the actual execution pipeline. It calls out to the clang-based parser tool () to read the C/C++ source code and write a JSON-formatted "database" onto standard output. This is directly read by bindgen and subsequently parsed as Parser::Document.

Graph::Builder step

The second step takes the Parser::Document and transforms it into a Graph::Namespace. This step is where the user configuration mapping is used.

Processor step

The third step runs all configured processors in order. These work with the Graph and mostly add methods and Calls so they can be bound later. But they're allowed to do whatever they want really, which makes it a good place to add more complex rewriting rules if desired.

Processors are responsible for many core features of bindgen. The TEMPLATE.yml has an already set-up example pipeline.

Generator step

The final step now takes the finalized graph and writes the result into an output of one or more files. Generators do not change the graph in any way, and also don't build anything on their own. They only write to output.


The processor pipeline can be configured through the processors: array. Its elements are run in the order they're defined, starting at the first element.

Note: Don't worry: The TEMPLATE.yml file already comes with the recommended pipeline pre-configured.

There are three kinds of processors:

  1. Refining ones modify the graph in some way, without a dependency to a later generator.
  2. Generation processors add data to the graph so that the generators run later have all data they need to work.
  3. Information processors don't modify the graph, but do checks or print data onto the screen for debugging purposes.

The order in the configured pipeline is to have Refining processors first, Generation processors second. Information processors can be run at any time.

The following processors are available, in alphabetical order:


  • Kind: Refining
  • Run after: No specific dependency
  • Run before: InstantiateContainers

When encountering a known container class on an instantiation that is not registered yet, registers it.

Container classes still need to be declared in the configuration, but don't require an explicit instantiations attribute anymore:

containers: # At the top-level of the config
  - class: QList # Set the class name
    type: Sequential # And its type
    # instantiations: # Can be added, but doesn't need to be.


  • Kind: Refining, but ran after generation processors!
  • Run after: CrystalWrapper, Qt
  • Run before: No specific dependency

Adds type parameters to ambiguous Crystal methods that take a single block argument, so that these methods can be overloaded by passing the parameter types of that argument to the method. Qt needs it for several signal connection methods.

cb =
cb.on_activated(Int32) do |index| # Type argument added by this processor
  puts "Int32 overload selected: #{index}"
cb.on_activated(String) do |text| # Type argument added by this processor
  puts "String overload selected: #{text}"


  • Kind: Refining
  • Run after: No specific dependency
  • Run before: No specific dependency

Copies structures of those types, that have copy_structure: true set in the configuration. A wrapper class of a copy_structure type will host the structure directly (instead of a pointer) to it.


  • Kind: Generation
  • Run after: Refining processors
  • Run before: CrystalBinding

Generates the C++ wrapper method Calls.


  • Kind: Generation
  • Run after: CppWrapper, VirtualOverride and CrystalWrapper
  • Run before: No specific dependency

Generates the lib Binding funs.


  • Kind: Generation
  • Run after: Refining processors
  • Run before: CrystalBinding and VirtualOverride

Generates the Crystal methods in the wrapper classes.


  • Kind: Refining
  • Run after: No specific dependency
  • Run before: No specific dependency

Clang doesn't expose default constructors methods for implicit default constructors. This processor finds these cases and adds an explicit constructor. Also, generates constructors for aggregate types.


  • Kind: Information
  • Run after: Any time
  • Run before: Any time

Debugging processor dumping the current graph onto STDERR.


  • Kind: Refining
  • Run after: FunctionClass
  • Run before: No specific dependency

Adds the copied enums to the graph. Should be run after other processors adding classes, so that enums can be added into classes.


  • Kind: Refining
  • Run after: Functions and FunctionClass
  • Run before: No specific dependency

Checks if a method require a C/C++ wrapper. If not, marks the method to bind directly to the target method instead of writing a "trampoline" wrapper in C++.

Note: This processor is required for variadic functions to work. A variadic function looks like this: void func(int c, ...);

A method can be bound directly if all of these are true:

  1. It uses the C ABI (extern "C")
  2. No argument uses a to_cpp converter
  3. The return type doesn't use a from_cpp converter

Note: If all methods can be bound to directly, you can remove the cpp generator completely from your configuration.


  • Kind: Refining
  • Run after: No specific dependency
  • Run before: No specific dependency

Removes all methods using an argument, or returning something, which is configured as ignore: true. Also removes methods that show up in the ignore_methods: list.

This processor can be run at any time in theory, but should be run as first part of the pipeline.


  • Kind: Refining
  • Run after: FunctionClass and ExternC
  • Run before: No specific dependency

Maps C functions, configured through the functions: map in the configuration.


  • Kind: Refining
  • Run after: ExternC
  • Run before: Inheritance and Functions

Generates wrapper classes from OOP-like C APIs, using guidance from the user through configuration in the functions: map.


  • Kind: Refining
  • Run after: FunctionClass
  • Run before: FilterMethods and VirtualOverride

Implements Crystal wrapper inheritance and adds #as_X conversion methods. Also handles abstract classes in that it adds an Impl class, so code can return instances to the (otherwise) abstract class.


  • Kind: Refining
  • Run after: No specific dependency
  • Run before: No specific dependency

Generates getter and setter methods for static and instance members.


  • Kind: Refining
  • Run after: AutoContainerInstantiation if used
  • Run before: No specific dependency

Adds the container instantiation classes and wrappers.


  • Kind: Refining
  • Run after: No specific dependency
  • Run before: No specific dependency

Maps #define macros into the graph. The mapping is configured by the user in the macros: list. Only value-macros ("object-like macros") are supported, function-like macros are silently skipped.

// Okay:
#define SOME_INT 1
#define SOME_STRING "Hello"
#define SOME_BOOL true

// Not mapped:
#define SOME_FUNCTION(x) (x + 1)


  • Kind: Refining
  • Run after: No specific dependency
  • Run before: No specific dependency

Performs special handling for operator methods.


  • Kind: Refining
  • Run after: No specific dependency
  • Run before: BlockOverloads

Adds Qt specific behaviour:

  1. Removes the qt_check_for_QGADGET_macro fake method.
  2. Provides #on_SIGNAL signal connection method.
  3. Removes #meta_object, #qt_metacast, and #qt_metacall from superclass wrappers, as these shouldn't be overridden by the user.
btn =
btn.on_clicked do |checked| # Generated by this processor
  puts "Checked: #{checked}"


  • Kind: Information
  • Run after: Any time, as very last pipeline element is ideal.
  • Run before: Any time

Does sanity checks on the graph, focusing on Crystal bindings and wrappers.

Checks are as follows:

  • Name of enums, libs, structures, classes, modules and aliases are valid
  • Name of constants are valid
  • Name of methods are valid
  • Enumerations have at least one constant
  • Flag-enumerations don't have All nor None constants
  • Crystal method overloads are unambiguous
  • Method arguments and result types are reachable
  • Variadic methods are directly bound
  • Alias targets are reachable
  • Class base-classes are reachable


  • Kind: Refining, but ran after generation processors!
  • Run after: CrystalWrapper!
  • Run before: CrystalBinding and CppWrapper

Adds C++ and Crystal wrapper code to allow overriding C++ virtual methods from within Crystal. Requires the Inheritance processor.

Important Note: Make sure to run this processor after CrystalWrapper but before CrystalBinding.

It needs to modify the #initialize methods, and generate lib structures, bindings, and C++ code too.

This is the recommended processor order:

  # ...
  - crystal_wrapper
  - block_overloads
  - virtual_override
  - cpp_wrapper
  - crystal_binding

After this, usage is the same as with any method:

class MyAdder < VirtualCalculator
  # In C++: virtual int calculate(int a, int b) = 0;
  # In Crystal:
  def calculate(a, b) : Int32
    a + b

Do NOT call super in the body of a Crystal method that overrides a concrete C++ virtual method! Due to Bindgen's limitations, doing so will result in a stack overflow immediately. Instead, Bindgen provides a private #superclass method in every concrete abstract class; it wraps the calling instance so that the original C++ methods can be called, bypassing Crystal's overrides.

class MyLogger < Calculator
  # In C++:
  # virtual void clear_memory();
  # virtual void add_memory(int m);

  # In Crystal:
  def clear_memory : Nil
    puts "M = 0"

  def add_memory(m) : Nil
    puts "M += #{m}"
    # unlike `super`, all arguments are mandatory

Advanced configuration features

Bindgen's YAML configuration files support conditional definitions as well as loading external dependency files.

Apart from that extra logic, the configuration file is still valid YAML.

Note: Conditionals and dependencies are only supported in YAML mappings (data structures equivalent to Hashes in Crystal). Any such syntax encountered in something other than a mapping will not trigger special behaviour.


YAML documents can define conditional parts in mappings by having a conditional key with mapping value. If the condition matches, the mapping value will be transparently embedded. If it does not match, the value will be transparently skipped.

Condition keys look like if_X or elsif_X or else. X is the condition, and it looks like Y_is_Z or Y_match_Z. You can also use (one or more) spaces () instead of exactly one underscore (_) to separate the words.

Available conditions:

  • Y_is_Z: true if the variable Y equals Z case-sensitively.
  • Y_isnt_Z: true if the variable Y doesn't equal Z case-sensitively.
  • Y_match_Z: true if the variable Y is matched by the regular expression in Z. The regular expression is created case-sensitively.
  • Y_newer_or_Z: true when variable Y is newer or equals (>=) to Z. Variables are treated as versions.
  • Y_older_or_Z: true when variable Y is older or equals (=<) to Z. Variables are treated as versions.

A condition block is opened by the first if. Later condition keys can use elsif or else (or if to open a new condition block).

Note: elsif or else without an if will raise an exception.

Their behaviour is like in Crystal: if starts a condition block, elsif starts an alternative condition block, and else is used if none of if or elsif matched. It's possible to mix condition key-values with normal key-values.

Note: Conditions can be used in every mapping, even in mappings of a conditional. Each mapping acts as its own scope.


Variables are set by the user of the class (probably through ConfigReader.from_yaml). All variable values are strings.

Variable names are case-sensitive. A missing variable will be treated as having an empty value ("").


foo: # A normal mapping
  bar: 1

# A condition: Matches if `platform` equals "arm".
if_platform_is_arm: # In Crystal: `if platform == "arm"`
  company: ARM et al

# You can mix in values between conditionals.  It won't "break" following
# elsif or else blocks.
not_a_condition: Hello

# An elsif: It matches if
# 1) the previous conditions didn't match, and
# 2) its own condition matches.
elsif_platform_match_x86: # In Crystal: `elsif platform =~ /x86/`
  company: Many different

# An else: Matches if all previous conditions didn't match.
  company: No idea

# At any time, you can start a new if sequence.
"if today is friday": # You can use spaces instead of underscores too
  hooray: true


To modularize the configuration, you can require ("merge") external yaml files from within your configuration.

This is triggered by using a key named <<, and writing the file name as value: <<: my_dependency.yml. The file-extension can also be omitted: <<: my_dependency in which case an .yml extension is assumed.

The dependency path is relative to the currently processed YAML file.

You can also require multiple dependencies into the same mapping:

  Something: true # You can mix dependencies with normal fields.
  <<: simple_types.yml
  <<: complex_types.yml
  <<: ignores.yml

The dependency will be embedded into the open mapping: It is transparent to the client code.

It's perfectly possible to mix conditionals with dependencies:

  <<: windows-specific.yml


An exception will be raised if any of the following occur:

  • The maximum dependency depth of 10 (MAX_DEPTH) is exceeded.
  • The dependency name contains a dot: ../foo.yml won't work.
  • The dependency name is absolute: /foo/bar.yml won't work.

Platform support

Arch System CI Clang version
x86_64 ArchLinux Travis Rolling
x86_64 Debian 9 Travis 6.0, 7.0
x86_64 Debian 7 Travis 4.0, 5.0
x86_64 Ubuntu 17.04 None 5.0
x86_64 Ubuntu 16.04 Travis 4.0, 5.0
Other systems Help wanted ?

You require the LLVM and Clang development libraries and headers. If you don't have them already installed, bindgen will tell you. These packages are usually named after the following pattern on Debian-based systems: clang-7 libclang-7-dev llvm-7 llvm-7-dev.


  1. Open a new issue on the project to discuss what you're going to do and possibly receive comments
  2. Read the for some tips.
  3. Then do the rest, PR and all. You know the drill :)



This project (bindgen) and all of its sources, except those otherwise noted, all fall under the GPLv3 license. You can find a copy of its complete license text in the LICENSE file.

The configuration used to generate code, and all code generated by this project, fall under the full copyright of the user of bindgen. bindgen does not claim any copyright, legal or otherwise, on your work. Established projects should define a license they want to use for the generated code and configuration.

Popular Bindings Projects
Popular Graph Projects
Popular Libraries Categories
Related Searches

Get A Weekly Email With Trending Projects For These Categories
No Spam. Unsubscribe easily at any time.
C Plus Plus