What Is A Parser

Definition

Just like breaking down a sentence in English into nouns, verbs, adverbs, etc, Parsers take code and break its syntax into different parts ready to be converted into instructions the computer will understand.

Parsers are a part of a bigger system that converts code to instructions the computer can understand known either as an interpreter or a compiler.

Use Cases and Examples

Let's assume you have this expression to parse find customers with age equals 32. The parser breaks down the expression into:

  • find as the main command
  • customers and age as the field names
  • with equals as the conditional search
  • 32 as the search data

    With this extra context, the compiler or interpreter knows which instruction set to send over to the computer to find customers who are 32 years of age.

Parsers are used all over the place in computing from converting "HTML and CSS" to something the rendering engine can understand in other to output something useful to the browser. Also to convert one programming language to another like TypeScript to Javascript.

Summary

For machines to function, a human-readable instruction need to be converted into machine language. This job is done by the compiler or interpreter. The parser acts as a component of the compiler or interpreter that organizes the data for easier interpretation.

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