git clone ''

(ql:quickload :packet)


PACKET is a simple library for defining C-style structures and packing/unpacking them into Common Lisp arrays.

It is typically used for handling UDP packets, but could also be used for unpacking e.g. mmap'ed data files.

Packet type definitions

Packet comes with some pre-defined intrinsic data types: * 8, 16, 32 and 64 bit signed/unsigned integers (:uint8, :uint16, :uint32, :uint64 …) * 32/64-bit floats (encoding/decoding provided by IEEE-FLOATS package) * characters and wide characters * arrays of primitives, such as strings

Users define their packet type and associated CLOS class using:

(defpacket name
  ((slot-name slot-type &rest slot-options)
  &rest options)

This expands to a defclass for the structure and code for defining the new packet type.

The slot-type can either be a symbol referring to a previously defined type (either primitive or a previous defpacket) or it can be a form (slot-type length) which means an array of length of slot-type objects.

The slot-options are passed into the defclass slot specifier.

Options can include:

(:packing <integer packing>) ;; sets the packing width for the slots
(:size <integer size>)       ;; sets the total packet buffer size

All other options are passed as options to defclass.


Make a packet buffer using: (pack object type) This returns the buffer filled in with information.

Extract an object from a buffer using: (unpack buffer type)


Along with the serialization functions, there are also several other utilities which provide commonly required functionality:

Both the flags and enums expand to eval-when forms so that they can be computed at compile time e.g. like: (defun test () (list #.(enum :a *example-enum*)))


We are trying to send packets to a UDP server (written in C) expecting something like ```C struct person_s { char name[20]; uint32_t flags; };

struct people_s { uint32_t magic; int32_t npeople; struct person_s people[20]; uint32_t flags; }; ```

We define our packet type using: ``` (defconstant +magic-number+ #x1E2B3A4D)

(defpacket person-s ((name (:string 20) :initform "“ :initarg :name) (flags :uint32 :initform 0 :initarg :flags)) (:documentation ”Person structure."))

(defpacket people-s ((magic :uint32 :initform +magic-number+) (npeople :int32 :initform 0 :initarg :npeople) (people (person-s 20) :initform nil :initarg :people) (flags :uint32 :initform 0 :initarg :flags)) (:documentation “Collection of people.”))

;; pack an instance into a buffer (pack (make-instance 'people-s :npeople 2 :people (list (make-instance 'person-s :name “frank” :flags 123) (make-instance 'person-s :name “james” :flags 321)) :flags 456) 'people-s) → #(77 58 43 30 2 0 0 0 102 114 97 110 107 … )

;; unpack a buffer into an instance (unpack buffer 'people-s) → #<PEOPLE-S {24CB5061}> ```

See example.lisp for more simple usages.


Frank James March 2014