ANTLR: Buyer beware

May 13, 2009

The author of ANTLR, Terence Parr, is a professor at the University of San Francisco and is the inventor of the LL(*) parsing strategy.

This might make you think that ANTLR rests on the same academic foundations as many other tools created in universities and given scary names like “LL(*) Parsing Strategy.” Not true.

From “The Definitive ANTLR Reference”:

In particular, Part III provides the only thorough explanation available anywhere of ANTLR’s LL(*) parsing strategy.

Read: There are few academic publications on ANTLR and seemingly none on its underlying technology.

This isn’t normally a problem. Most useful software is not built on academic foundations. However, ANTLR is positioned more than most to look “academic”. It’s not.

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2 Responses to “ANTLR: Buyer beware”

  1. Terence Parr Says:

    Actually, I’ve just not gotten around to writing up the academic paper. I am working on another book and then need to fix a bunch of stuff in the software. You’ll note that ANTLR provides the foundation for most of the latest work in parsing such as PEG (parser expression grammar).

  2. aran Says:

    @Terence: That’s good news—I’m looking forward to the paper!


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