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YAML Parser in C#

, 17 Feb 2011 CPOL
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An almost feature complete YAML parser.


YAML is a human-friendly, cross language, Unicode based data serialization language designed around the common native data types of agile programming languages. It is broadly useful for programming needs ranging from configuration files to Internet messaging to object persistence to data auditing.

Visit the official YAML website for more information.

YAML Basics

A YAML file may contain zero or more YAML documents, separated by document markers. A YAML document contains one root DataItem. There are three types of DataItems: Scalar, Sequence, and Mapping. DataItems may be nested to form structured data.

Each DataItem type has several formatting styles for good human readability.


Some rules:

  • A block style item can be nested to a block style item but not a flow style item.
  • A flow style item can be nested to either a block style or a flow style item.
  • Block structure is denoted by indentation.
  • All indentations only use space char, tab is not allowed.

Here are some examples:

Block Scalar

Literal Text
The text using
literal style.
The text using
literal style.
"The text using\nliteral style.\n" "The text using\nliteral style."
Folded Text
The text using
folded style.
The text using
folded style.
"The text using folded style.\n" "The text using folded style."
Flow Scalar
Plain Text
  • Can not start with ,[]{}#&*!|>'\"%@`
  • Can start with -?: followed by non space char
  • ": " and " #" cannot appear in between
'Single Quoted Text'
  • Line breaks are folded
  • "'" is escaped with "''"
"Double Quoted Text"
  • Line breaks are folded
  • Escape sequences can be used
Block Sequence
- Item one
- Item two
- Item three
Flow Sequence
[Item one, Item two,
Item three]
Block Mapping
Key1: Item one
Key2: Item two
? Key3
: Item three 
Flow Mapping
{Key1: Item one, Key2: Item two, 
Key3: Item three} 


Anchor and Alias
Key1: &items
  A: Item A
  B: Item B
Key2: *items
  A: Item A
  B: Item B
  A: Item A
  B: Item B
# whole line comment
Data Item # inline comment


There is already a Yaml Library for .NET project, but the features supported are limited.

Using the Code

The parser code is generated using a homemade tool based on grammar specified in the YAML.PEG.txt file. This grammar is not completely equal to the official YAML specification. Here are some differences:

A separator “,” is not allowed following the last entry of Sequence or Mapping in this parser. The 32-bit Unicode escape sequence “U” (ns-hex-digit × 8) is not supported.

The parser can be used like this:

YamlParser parser = new YamlParser();
TextInput input = new TextInput(File.ReadAllText(yamlFilePath));
bool success;
YamlStream yamlStream = parser.ParseYamlStream(input, out success);
if (success)
    foreach (YamlDocument doc in yamlStream.Documents)
        // access DataItem by doc.Root


YamlStream yamlStream = YamlParser.Load(yamlFilePath);

Points of Interest

The main shortcoming of this parser is that error messages are not intuitive. You are welcome to give suggestions.


  • 2008-08-21: Article submitted.
  • 2011-02-16: Redesigned the UI, fixed some parser bugs.


This article, along with any associated source code and files, is licensed under The Code Project Open License (CPOL)


About the Author

Liu Junfeng
Software Developer (Senior) Beyondsoft SH
China China
No Biography provided

Comments and Discussions

GeneralRe: Doesn't work with non-indent list Pinmemberiamcharliemouse23-May-11 6:55 
GeneralThe mapping for YAML should be a dictionary instead of a List Pinmembersgwong29-Jun-09 2:19 
GeneralRe: The mapping for YAML should be a dictionary instead of a List PinmemberLiu Junfeng2-Jul-09 19:13 
GeneralRe: The mapping for YAML should be a dictionary instead of a List Pinmembersgwong15-Jul-09 18:41 
GeneralAccessing Data Items Pinmemberanandamd3-Jun-09 21:21 
GeneralRe: Accessing Data Items PinmemberLiu Junfeng7-Jun-09 20:27 
QuestionVery Nice PinmemberDuddy9-Mar-09 18:45 
GeneralYaml for .Net Pinmemberbriviere25-Nov-08 10:50 
GeneralGreat Job Pinmemberdaaharper20-Sep-08 23:34 
RantI hate recursive acronyms Pinmemberlogan133725-Aug-08 13:52 
GeneralGreat work.. Pinmemberbreakthrough622-Aug-08 13:23 
GeneralRe: Great work.. PinmemberLiu Junfeng24-Aug-08 21:27 
GeneralVery nice PinmemberJonathan C Dickinson21-Aug-08 2:29 

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