Table of Contents

This edition of the Cfpeek User Manual, last updated 26 May 2011, documents Cfpeek Version 1.0.

1. Introduction

Many programs keep their configurations in files with hierarchical structure. Such files normally define sections, which keep logically separated blocks of statements. These statements may in turn contain subsections, and so on. On the lowest level of hierarchy are simple statements, which normally define some basic configuration settings.

Quite often a need arises to parse such files outside of their owner program. For example, one may need to retrieve some configuration settings to use them in a start-up script for that program, to produce a similar configuration file with some settings changed in order to use it on another machine, or to convert entire file into another format for interaction with some other utility.

Cfpeek is a utility designed to handle any of these tasks.

2. Overview of this Manual

This book consists of the three main parts. The first part is a tutorial, which provides a gentle (as far as possible) introduction for those who are new to cfpeek. The tutorial should help the reader to familiarize himself with the program and to start using it. It does not, however, cover some of the less frequently used features of cfpeek.

The chapters that follow complement the tutorial. They describe various input file formats understood by the program and summarize command line syntax and options available to it. These two chapters can be used as a reference by both beginners and for users familiar with the package.

3. Tutorial

The following typographic conventions are used throughout this tutorial.

In the examples, ‘$’ represents a typical shell prompt. It precedes lines you should type. Both command line and lines which represent the program output are shown in ‘this font’.

The Scheme code is shown as follows:

(do it)

In examples, the ⇒ symbol indicates the value of a variable or result of a function invocation, as in:

x ⇒ 2

3.1 Basic Notions

A structured configuration file contains entities of two basic types. First of them is simple statement. A simple statement conceptually consists of an identifier (or keyword) and a value. Depending on the syntactic requirements, some special token may be required between them (such as an equals sign, for example), or at the end of the statement. The value, though we use the term in singular, is not necessarily a single scalar value, it may as well be a list of values (the exact form of that list depends on the particular syntax of the configuration file).

Another basic entity is compound statement, also known as block statement or section. Compound statement is used for logical grouping of other statements. It consists of identifier, an optional tag and a list of statements. The tag, if present, is similar to the value in simple statements. The same notes that we made about values apply to tags as well. Tags serve to discern between the statements having the same identifier. The list of statements may include statements of both kinds: simple as well as compound ones. Thus, compound statements form a tree-like structure of arbitrary depth, with simple statements as leaf nodes.

Each compound statement can have any number of subordinate statements, which are called its child statements. Each statement (no matter simple or compound) has only one parent statement, i.e. a compound statement of which it is a child.

A special implicit statement, called root statement, serves as the parent for the statements at the topmost level of hierarchy.

3.2 Pathnames

Given this hierarchical structure, each statement can be identified by the list of keywords and values (when present) of all compound statements that must be traversed in order to reach that statement. Such a list, written according to a set of conventions, is called a full pathname of the statement. The conventions are:

  1. Pathname is written from top down.
  2. An untagged statement is represented by its identifier.
  3. A tagged statement is represented by its identifier, immediately followed by an equals sign, followed by the tag.
  4. Identifiers and values which contain whitespace, double quotes or dots are enclosed in double quotes.
  5. Within double quotes, a double quote is represented as ‘\"’ and a backslash is represented as ‘\\’.
  6. Pathname components are separated by dots.

A pathname which begins with a component separator (‘.’) is called absolute pathname and identifies the statement with relation to the topmost level of hierarchy.

A pathname beginning with an identifier is called relative and identifies the statement in relation to the statement represented by that identifier.

Examples of absolute pathnames are:


Examples of relative pathnames are:


3.3 Example Configuration

The following configuration file will assist us in further discussion. Its syntax is fairly straightforward:

A simple statement is written as identifier followed value. The two parts are separated by any amount of whitespace. Simple statements are terminated by semicolon.

A compound statement is written as identifier followed by a list of subordinate statements in curly braces. A tag (if present) is put between the identifier and the opening curly brace.

These syntax conventions roughly correspond to the Grecs configuration format, which cfpeek assumes by default (see section Grecs Configuration File).

user smith;
group mail;
pidfile "/var/run/example";

logging {
    facility daemon;
    tag example;

program a {
    command "a.out";
    logging {
        facility local0;
        tag a;

program b {
    command "b.out";
    wait yes;
    pidfile /var/run/;

Example 3.1: Sample configuration file

3.4 Listing the Entire File

The only argument cfpeek requires is the name of the file to parse. If no other arguments are given, it produces on the standard output a listing of that file in pathname-value form. Each simple statement in the input file is represented by a single line in the output listing. The line consists of two main parts: the full pathname of that statement and its value. The two parts are separated by a colon and space character. For example:

$ cfpeek sample.conf
.user: smith
.group: mail
.pidfile: /var/run/example
.logging.facility: daemon
.logging.tag: example
.program="a".command: a.out
.program="a".logging.facility: local0
.program="a".logging.tag: a
.program="b".command: b.out
.program="b".wait: yes
.program="b".pidfile: /var/run/

This output can be customized via the ‘--format’ (‘-H’) command line option. This option takes a list of output flags, each of which modifies some aspect of the output. Most output flags are boolean, i.e. they enable or disable the given feature. To disable the feature, the flag must be prefixed with ‘no’.

To list only the pathnames, use

$ cfpeek --format=path sample.conf

The default output is equivalent to ‘--format=path,value,descend’.

The flags ‘path’ and ‘value’ mean to print the pathname of the statement and its value. The ‘descend’ flag affects the output of compound nodes. If this flag is set and a node matching the key is a compound node, cfpeek will output this node and all nodes below it (i.e. its descendant nodes). The ‘descend’ flag is meaningful only if at least one lookup key is supplied.

You can also use ‘--format’ to change the default component delimiter. For example, to use slash to delimit components:

$ cfpeek --format=delim=/ sample.conf
/user: smith
/group: mail
/pidfile: /var/run/example
/logging/facility: daemon
/logging/tag: example
/program="a"/command: a.out
/program="a"/logging/facility: local0
/program="a"/logging/tag: a
/program="b"/command: b.out
/program="b"/wait: yes
/program="b"/pidfile: /var/run/

3.5 Statement Lookups

When given more than one argument, cfpeek treats the rest of arguments as search keys. It then searches for statements with pathnames matching each of the keys and outputs them. A key can be either a pathname, or a pattern.

The following command looks for the ‘pidfile’ statement at the topmost level of hierarchy and prints it:

$ cfpeek sample.conf .pidfile
.pidfile: /var/run/example

As you see, it uses the same output format as with full listings. If you wish to change it, use the ‘--format’ option, introduced in the previous section. For example, to retrieve only the value:

$ cfpeek --format=value sample.conf .pidfile

This approach is quite common when cfpeek is used in shell scripts. It will be illustrated in more detail below.

If a key is not found, cfpeek prints a message on the standard error and starts searching for the next key (if any). When all keys are exhausted, the program exits with status 1 to indicate that some of them have not been found. To suppress the diagnostics output, use the ‘--quiet’ (‘-q’) option.

To illustrate all this, the following example shows how to use cfpeek in a start-up script to check whether a program has already been started and to bring it down, if requested:

#! /bin/sh
pidfile=`cfpeek -q --format=value sample.conf .pidfile`

if test -f $pidfile; then
  pid=`head -1 $pidfile`

case $1 in
start)  if test -n "$pid"; then
          echo >&2 "the program is already running"
          # start the program
status) if test -n "$pid"; then
          echo "program is running at pid $pid"
          echo "program is not running"
stop)   test -n "$pid" && kill -TERM $pid

3.6 Pattern Lookups

Apart from literal pathname, a pathname pattern is allowed as a key. A pattern can contain wildcards in place of path components. Two wildcards are defined: ‘*’ and ‘%’. A ‘%’ matches any single keyword:

$ cfpeek sample.conf .%.pidfile
.program="b".pidfile: /var/run/

A ‘*’ wildcard matches zero or more keywords appearing in its place:

$ cfpeek sample.conf .*.pidfile
.pidfile: /var/run/example
.program="b".pidfile: /var/run/

In addition to these wildcards, tags in a pattern can contain traditional globbing patterns, as described in

$ cfpeek sample.conf '.program=[ab].pidfile'
.program="b".pidfile: /var/run/

Pattern lookups can be disabled using the ‘--literal’ (‘-L’) command line option. There may be two reasons for doing so. First, literal lookups are somewhat faster, so if you don't need pattern matching using ‘--literal’ can save you a couple of CPU cycles. Secondly, if any of your identifiers contain ‘*’ or ‘%’ characters, you will have to use ‘--literal’ to prevent them from being treated as wildcards.

3.7 Using Various Parsers

Cfpeek can handle input files in various formats. The default one is ‘Grecs’ format, introduced in previous sections. To process input files of another format, specify the parser to use via the ‘--parser’ (‘-p’) command line option. The argument to this option is one of: ‘grecs’, ‘bind’, ‘path’, ‘meta1’ or ‘git’. See section Supported Configuration File Formats, for a detailed description of each of these formats.

For example, to select zone statements from the ‘/etc/named.conf’ file:

$ cfpeek --parser=bind /etc/named.conf '.*.zone'

3.8 Specifying Nodes to Output

Sometimes you may need to see not the node which matched the search key, but its parent or other ancestor node. Consider, for example, the following task: select from the ‘/etc/named.conf’ file the names of all zones for which this nameserver is a master. To do so, you will need to find all ‘zone.type’ statements with the value ‘master’, ascend to the parent node and print its value.

Cfpeek provides two special formatting flags to that effect: up and parent. Both flags are used with the ‘--format’ option.

The up flag requires an integer number as its argument. It instructs cfpeek to ascend that many parent nodes before actually printing the node. For example, ‘--format=up=1’ means “ascend to the parent of the matched node and print it”. This is exactly what we need to solve the above task, since the ‘type’ statement is a child of a ‘zone’ statement. Thus, the solution is:

./cfpeek --format=up=1,nodescend,value --parser=bind \
         /etc/named.conf .*.type=master

The value flag indicates that we want on output only values, without the corresponding pathnames. The nodescend flag tells cfpeek to not descend into compound statements when outputting them. It is necessary since we want only values of all relevant ‘zone’ statements, no their subordinate statements.

The parent flag act in the similar manner, but it identifies the ancestor by its keyword, instead of the relative nesting level. The statement


tells cfpeek, after finding a matching node, to ascend until a node with the identifier ‘zone’ is found, and then print this node.

3.9 Using Scripts

Cfpeek offers a scripting facility, which can be used to easily extend its functionality beyond the basic operations, described in previous chapters. Scripts must be written in Scheme, using ‘Guile’, the GNU's Ubiquitous Intelligent Language for Extensions. For information about the language, refer to (r5rs)Top section `Top' in Revised(5) Report on the Algorithmic Language Scheme. For a detailed description of Guile and its features, see (guile)Top section `Overview' in The Guile Reference Manual.

This section assumes that the reader has sufficient knowledge about this programming language.

The scripting facility is enabled by the use of the ‘--expression’ (‘-e’) of ‘--file’ (‘-f’ command line options. The ‘--expression’ (‘-e’) option takes as its argument a Scheme expression, which will be executed for each statement matching the supplied keys (or for each statement in the tree, if no keys were supplied). The expression can obtain information about the statement from the global variable node, which represents a node in the parse tree describing this statement. The node contains complete information about the statement, including its location in the source file, its type and neighbor nodes, etc. A number of functions is provided to retrieve that information from the node. These functions are discussed in detail in Scripting.

Let's start from the simplest example. The following command prints all nodes in the file:

$ cfpeek --expression='(display node)(newline)' sample.conf
#<node .user: "smith">
#<node .group: "mail">
#<node .pidfile: "/var/run/example">
#<node .logging.facility: "daemon">
#<node .logging.tag: "example">
#<node .program="a".command: "a.out">
#<node .program="a".logging.facility: "local0">
#<node .program="a".logging.tag: "a">
#<node .program="b".command: "b.out">
#<node .program="b".wait: "yes">
#<node .program="b".pidfile: "/var/run/">

The format shown in this example is the default Scheme representation for nodes. You can use accessor functions to format the output to your liking. For instance, the function ‘grecs-node-locus’ returns the location of the node in the input file. The returned value is a cons, with the file name as its car and the line number as its cdr. Thus, you can print statement locations with the following command:

cfpeek --expr='(let ((loc grecs-node-locus)) 
                 (format #t "~A:~A~%"
                  (car loc) (cdr loc)))' \

Complex expressions are cumbersome to type in the command line, therefore the ‘--file’ (‘-f’) option is provided. This option takes the name of the script file as its argument. This file must define the function named cfpeek which takes a node as its argument. The script file is then loaded and the cfpeek function is called for each matching node.

Now, if we put the expression used in the previous example in a script file (e.g. ‘locus.scm’):

(define (cfpeek node)
  (let ((loc grecs-node-locus))
    (format #t "~A:~A~%" (car loc) (cdr loc))))

then the example can be rewritten as:

$ cfpeek -f locus.scm sample.conf

When both ‘--file’ and ‘--expression’ options are used in the same invocation, the cfpeek function is not invoked by default. In fact, it even does not need to be defined. When used this way, cfpeek first loads the requested script file, and then applies the expression to each matching node, the same way it always does when ‘--expression’ is supplied. It is the responsibility of the expression itself to call any function or functions defined in the file. This way of invoking ‘cfpeek’ is useful for supplying additional parameters to the script. For example:

$ cfpeek -f script.scm -e '(process-node node #t)' input.conf

It is supposed that the function process-node is defined somewhere in ‘script.scm’ and takes two arguments: a node and a boolean.

3.9.1 Example: Converter to GIT Configuration Format

Here is a more practical example of Scheme scripting. This script converts entire parse tree into a GIT configuration file format. The format itself is described in GIT Configuration File.

The script traverses entire tree itself, so it must be called only once, for the root node of the parse tree. The root node is denoted by a single dot, so the invocation syntax is:

cfpeek -f togit.scm sample.conf .

Traversal is performed by the main function, cfpeek, using the grecs-node-next and grecs-node-down functions. The grecs-node-next function returns a node which follows its argument at the same nesting level. For example, if n is the very first node in our sample parse tree, then:

n ⇒ #<node .user: "smith">
(grecs-node-next n) ⇒ #<node .group: "mail">

Similarly, the grecs-node-down function returns the first subordinate node of its argument. For example:

n ⇒ #<node .logging>
(grecs-node-down n) ⇒ #<node .logging.facility: "daemon">

Both functions return ‘#f’ if there are no next or subordinate node, correspondingly.

The grecs-node-type function is used to determine how to handle that particular node. It returns a type of the node given to it as argument. The type is an integer constant, with the following possible values:

Type The node is
grecs-node-root the root (topmost) node
grecs-node-stmt a simple statement
grecs-node-block a compound (block) statement

The print-section function prints a GIT section header corresponding to its node. It ascends the parent node chain to find the topmost node and prints the traversed nodes in the correct order.

To summarize, here is the listing of the ‘togit.scm’ script:

(define (print-section node delim)
  "Print a Git section header for the given node.
End it with delim.

The function recursively calls itself until the topmost
node is reached.
   ((grecs-node-up? node)
    ;; Ascend to the parent node
    (print-section (grecs-node-up node) #\space)
    ;; Print its identifier, ...
    (display (grecs-node-ident node))
    (if (grecs-node-has-value? node)
        ;; ... value,
          (display " ")
          (display (grecs-node-value node))))
    ;; ... and delimiter
    (display delim))
   (else              ;; mark the root node
    (display "["))))  ;;  with a [

(define (cfpeek node)
  "Main entry point.  Calls itself recursively to descend
into subordinate nodes and to iterate over nodes on the
same nesting level (tail recursion)."
  (let loop ((node node))
    (if node
        (let ((type (grecs-node-type node)))
           ((= type grecs-node-root)
            (let ((dn (grecs-node-down node)))
              ;; Each statement in a Git config file must
              ;; belong to a section.  If the first node
              ;; is not a block statement, provide the
              ;; default [core] section:
              (if (not (= (grecs-node-type dn)
                  (display "[core]\n"))
              ;; Continue from the first node
              (loop dn)))
           ((= type grecs-node-block)
            ;; print the section header
            (print-section node #\])
            ;; descend into subnodes
            (loop (grecs-node-down node))
            ;; continue from the next node
            (loop (grecs-node-next node)))
           ((= type grecs-node-stmt)
            ;; print the simple statement
            (display #\tab)
            (display (grecs-node-ident node))
            (display " = ")
            (display (grecs-node-value node))
            ;; continue from the next node
            (loop (grecs-node-next node))))))))

If run on our sample configuration file, it produces:

$ cfpeek -f togit.scm sample.conf .
        user = smith
        group = mail
        pidfile = /var/run/example
        facility = daemon
        tag = example
[program a]
        command = a.out
[program a logging]
        facility = local0
        tag = a
[program b]
        command = b.out
        wait = yes
        pidfile = /var/run/

4. Supported Configuration File Formats

Cfpeek is able to handle input files in several formats. The supported formats differ mostly in syntax. This chapter describes them in detail. If you know of any free software which uses a structured configuration file not understood by cfpeek, please let us know (see section How to Report a Bug).

4.1 Grecs Configuration File

This is the default input format. It is used, e.g., by GNU Dico(1), GNU Mailutils(2), GNU Radius(3), Mailfromd(4) and others.

The configuration file consists of statements and comments.

There are three classes of lexical tokens: keywords, values, and separators. Blanks, tabs, newlines and comments, collectively called white space are ignored except as they serve to separate tokens. Some white space is required to separate otherwise adjacent keywords and values.


Comments may appear anywhere where white space may appear in the configuration file. There are two kinds of comments: single-line and multi-line comments. Single-line comments start with ‘#’ or ‘//’ and continue to the end of the line:

# This is a comment
// This too is a comment

Multi-line or C-style comments start with the two characters ‘/*’ (slash, star) and continue until the first occurrence of ‘*/’ (star, slash).

Multi-line comments cannot be nested. However, single-line comments may well appear within multi-line ones.

4.1.2 Pragmatic Comments

Pragmatic comments are similar to usual single-line comments, except that they cause some changes in the way the configuration is parsed. Pragmatic comments begin with a ‘#’ sign and end with the next physical newline character.

#include <file>
#include file

Include the contents of the file file. If file is an absolute file name, both forms are equivalent. Otherwise, the form with angle brackets searches for the file in the include search path, while the second one looks for it in the current working directory first, and, if not found there, in the include search path.

The default include search path is:

  1. prefix/share/program-name/1.0/include
  2. prefix/share/program-name/include

where prefix is the installation prefix.

#include_once <file>
#include_once file

Same as #include, except that, if the file has already been included, it will not be included again.

#line num
#line num "file"

This line causes the parser to believe, for purposes of error diagnostics, that the line number of the next source line is given by num and the current input file is named by file. If the latter is absent, the remembered file name does not change.

# num "file"

This is a special form of #line statement, understood for compatibility with the C preprocessor.

In fact, these statements provide a rudimentary preprocessing features. For more sophisticated ways to modify configuration before parsing, see Preprocessor.

4.1.3 Statements

A simple statement consists of a keyword and value separated by any amount of whitespace. Simple statement is terminated with a semicolon (‘;’).

The following is a simple statement:

standalone yes;
pidfile /var/run/;

A keyword begins with a letter and may contain letters, decimal digits, underscores (‘_’) and dashes (‘-’). Examples of keywords are: ‘expression’, ‘output-file’.

A value can be one of the following:


A number is a sequence of decimal digits.


A boolean value is one of the following: ‘yes’, ‘true’, ‘t’ or ‘1’, meaning true, and ‘no’, ‘false’, ‘nil’, ‘0’ meaning false.

unquoted string

An unquoted string may contain letters, digits, and any of the following characters: ‘_’, ‘-’, ‘.’, ‘/’, ‘@’, ‘*’, ‘:’.

quoted string

A quoted string is any sequence of characters enclosed in double-quotes (‘"’). A backslash appearing within a quoted string introduces an escape sequence, which is replaced with a single character according to the following rules:

Sequence Replaced with
\a Audible bell character (ASCII 7)
\b Backspace character (ASCII 8)
\f Form-feed character (ASCII 12)
\n Newline character (ASCII 10)
\r Carriage return character (ASCII 13)
\t Horizontal tabulation character (ASCII 9)
\v Vertical tabulation character (ASCII 11)
\\ A single backslash (‘\’)
\" A double-quote.

Table 4.1: Backslash escapes

In addition, the sequence ‘\newline’ is removed from the string. This allows to split long strings over several physical lines, e.g.:

"a long string may be\
 split over several lines"

If the character following a backslash is not one of those specified above, the backslash is ignored and a warning is issued.

Two or more adjacent quoted strings are concatenated, which gives another way to split long strings over several lines to improve readability. The following fragment produces the same result as the example above:

"a long string may be"
" split over several lines"


A here-document is a special construct that allows to introduce strings of text containing embedded newlines.

The <<word construct instructs the parser to read all the following lines up to the line containing only word, with possible trailing blanks. Any lines thus read are concatenated together into a single string. For example:

A multiline

The body of a here-document is interpreted the same way as a double-quoted string, unless word is preceded by a backslash (e.g. ‘<<\EOT’) or enclosed in double-quotes, in which case the text is read as is, without interpretation of escape sequences.

If word is prefixed with - (a dash), then all leading tab characters are stripped from input lines and the line containing word. Furthermore, if - is followed by a single space, all leading whitespace is stripped from them. This allows to indent here-documents in a natural fashion. For example:

<<- TEXT
    The leading whitespace will be
    ignored when reading these lines.

It is important that the terminating delimiter be the only token on its line. The only exception to this rule is allowed if a here-document appears as the last element of a statement. In this case a semicolon can be placed on the same line with its terminating delimiter, as in:

help-text <<-EOT
        A sample help text.

A list is a comma-separated list of values. Lists are enclosed in parentheses. The following example shows a statement whose value is a list of strings:

alias (test,null);

In any case where a list is appropriate, a single value is allowed without being a member of a list: it is equivalent to a list with a single member. This means that, e.g.

alias test;

is equivalent to

alias (test);

A block statement introduces a logical group of statements. It consists of a keyword, followed by an optional value, and a sequence of statements enclosed in curly braces, as shown in the example below:

server srv1 {
  community "foo";

The closing curly brace may be followed by a semicolon, although this is not required.

4.1.4 Preprocessor

Before actual parsing, the configuration file is preprocessed. The built-in preprocessor handles only file inclusion and #line statements (see section Pragmatic Comments), while the rest of traditional preprocessing facilities, such as macro expansion, is supported via m4, which serves as external preprocessor.

The detailed description of m4 facilities lies far beyond the scope of this document. You will find a complete user manual in For the rest of this subsection we assume the reader is sufficiently acquainted with m4 macro processor.

The external preprocessor is invoked with ‘-s’ flag, which instructs it to include line synchronization information in its output. This information is then used by the parser to display meaningful diagnostic.

An initial set of macro definitions is supplied by the ‘pp-setup’ file, located in ‘prefix/share/program-name/1.0/include’ directory.

The default ‘pp-setup’ file renames all m4 built-in macro names so they all start with the prefix ‘m4_’. This is similar to GNU m4 ‘--prefix-builtin’ option, but has an advantage that it works with non-GNU m4 implementations as well.

4.2 Path Configuration File

A pathname configuration file format corresponds exactly to the default output format of cfpeek, i.e. it lists each terminal keyword as its full pathname, followed by a semicolon, a single space and its value, as in the example below:

.user: "smith"
.group: "mail"
.pidfile: "/var/run/example"
.logging.facility: "daemon"
.logging.tag: "example"
.program="a".command: "a.out"
.program="a".logging.facility: "local0"
.program="a".logging.tag: "a"
.program="b".command: "b.out"
.program="b".wait: "yes"
.program="b".pidfile: "/var/run/"

This format is similar to the one used in X-resources.

4.3 BIND Configuration File

This is the format used by the ISC BIND configuration files. In general, it is pretty similar to the ‘Grecs’, except that it does not support neither here-documents, not list values. Some of its features, such as ‘acls’ and ‘allow-*’ lists do resemble lists, but are not them in reality. Such “suspicious” statements are represented as simple statements. For example, the following statement in ‘named.conf’:

allow-transfer {
.allow-transfer.!: ""

Another exception is the ‘controls’ statement, which doesn't fall well into the general syntax of BIND configuration file. Therefore a special rule is applied to handle it. In the effect, the following statement:

controls {
    inet port 953
        allow {;; } keys { "rndc-key"; };


.controls: (inet,, port, 953, allow, \
              (,, keys, (rndc-key))

4.4 MeTA1 Configuration File

This type of configuration file is used by MeTA1, an advanced MTA program. See for details about the program and its configuration.

The syntax is similar to both ‘Grecs’ and ‘Bind’ in that it uses curly braces to delimit subordinate statements. The syntax for strings is similar to ‘Grecs’ (see section quoted string). As in ‘Grecs’, adjacent quoted strings are concatenated to produce a single string.

The principal syntactic differences are:

4.5 GIT Configuration File

This is the format used by Git ( It is described in detail in

The syntax is line-oriented. Comments are introduced by ‘#’ or ‘;’ character and extend up to the next physical newline. Statements are delimited by newlines.

The syntax for simple statement is:

ident = value

Compound statements or sections begin with a section header, i.e. a full pathname of that section using single space as a separator and enclosed in a pair of square brackets. Any identifier in the path which contains whitespace characters must be quoted using double quotes. Double quotes and backslashes appearing in a section name must be escaped as ‘\"’ and ‘\\’ correspondingly. For example:

[section "subsection name" subsubsection]

An alternative syntax for section headers is a full pathname of the section using single dot as a separator and enclosed in a pair of square brackets. When this syntax is used, whitespace is not allowed in section names:


A section begins with the section headers and continues until the start of next section or end of file, whichever occurs first.

Simple statements must occur only within a section. In other words, each non-empty configuration file must contain at least one section.

String values may be entirely or partially enclosed in double quotes, similarly to shell syntax. The following escape sequences are recognized within a value:

Sequence Stands for
\b Backspace (ASCII 8)
\t Horizontal tab (ASCII 9)
\n Newline (ASCII 10)

A backslash immediately preceding a newline indicates line continuation. Both characters are removed and the remaining characters are joined with line that follows.

5. Cfpeek Command Line Syntax

The format of cfpeek invocation is:

cfpeek options file [keys]

where options are command line options, file is the configuration file to operate upon, and optional keys are pathnames of the keywords to locate in that configuration file.

If keys are supplied, cfpeek, for each key, looks up in the parse tree for any nodes matching the key and prints them on the standard output. An error message is displayed for any key which has no matching statements in the input file. In this case, program continues iterating over the rest of keys. When the list is exhausted, cfpeek will exit with the status 1 (see section Exit Codes).

If either ‘-f’ (‘--file’) or ‘-e’ (‘--expression’) has been given, a Scheme expression or the default cfpeek function is evaluated for each matching node. If ‘-e’ (‘--expression’) is given, the node is passed to it in the global ‘node’ variable. Otherwise, if ‘-f’ (‘--file’) is given, the node is passed as argument to cfpeek function.

If both ‘--file=script’ and ‘--expression=expression’ options are given, the script file script is loaded first, and the expression is evaluated for each matching node. The expression can then refer to any variables and call any functions defined in the script.

If no keys are supplied, the program operates as if given a single ‘.*’ key (see section Patterns), which matches any node in the parse tree (i.e., it iterates over the entire parse tree).

5.1 Patterns

By default cfpeek treats keys as wildcard patterns. When matching statement identifiers (keywords), two characters have special meaning: ‘%’ and ‘*’.

A ‘%’ character in place of an identifier matches any single keyword. Thus, e.g.:

cfpeek file.conf

will match ‘’, ‘’, but will not match ‘.bar.baz’ or ‘’.

A single ‘*’ character in place of a keyword matches zero or more keywords appearing in its place, so that:

cfpeek file.conf .*.bar.baz

The tags in block statement are matched using the traditional globbing patterns. See

For example, this:

cfpeek file.conf .*.program="mh-*"

will match any ‘program’ block statement whose tag begins with ‘mh-’.

5.2 Output Control

-H flags

Set output format flags. The argument is a comma-separated list of format flags. The following flags control which nodes are printed:


For each matching node, look for its parent node with the given keyword and print it instead.


For each matching node, ascend n parent nodes and print the node at which the ascent stopped.

The delim flag controls how keyword paths is printed:


Sets path component delimiter, instead of the default ‘.’.

The following flags control the amount of information printed for each node. These are boolean flags: when prefixed with ‘no’ they have the meaning opposite to the described.


Print source location of each configuration statement. A location is printed as the file name, followed by a semicolon, followed by the line number and another semicolon. Locations are separated from the rest of output by a single space character.


Print statement paths.


Print statement values.


Always quote string values.


Never quote string values.


Print non-printable characters as C hex escapes. This option is ignored if ‘noquote’ is set.


Descend into subnodes. Set default options.

The default format options are: ‘path,value,quote,descend’.


Suppress error diagnostics. See section quiet.

5.3 Modifiers

The following options modify the way cfpeek processes the parse tree and search keys.


Use literal matching, instead of pattern matching. See literal.


Before further processing, sort parse tree lexicographically in ascending order.


Output at most number matches for each key.


Set parser type for the input file. The argument is one of: ‘grecs’, ‘path’, ‘meta1’, ‘bind’ and ‘git’ (case-insensitive). See section Supported Configuration File Formats, for a description of each type.


Reduce the parse tree, so that each keyword occurs no more than once at each tree level.

-s path=val

Set a keyword path to value. The produced parse tree node will be processed as usual.

5.4 Scripting Options

The following options control the scripting facility of cfpeek.

-e expression

Apply this expression to each node found. The global variable node is set to the node being processed before evaluating. When used together with ‘--file=script’, the expression can refer to any variables and call any functions defined in the script file.

-f file

Load the script file. Unless ‘--expression’ is also given, the script must define the function named ‘cfpeek’ which takes a node as its only argument. This function will be called for each matching node.

If ‘--expression’ is given, this behavior is suppressed. It is then the responsibility of the expression to call any functions defined in this file.

-l script-language

Select scripting language to use. This option is reserved for further use. As of version 1.0, the only possible value for script-language is ‘scheme’.

5.5 Preprocessor Control Options

The options described below control the preprocessor facility. They are meaningful only for ‘GRECS’ and ‘BIND’ configuration files. Preprocessor is not used for another configuration file formats.


Define the preprocessor symbol name as having value, or empty. See section Preprocessor.

-I dir

Add dir to include search path.

See section #include.


Disable preprocessor. see section Preprocessor.

-P command

Use command instead of the default preprocessor. see section Preprocessor.

5.6 Debugging Options

The options below enable trace output which helps understand how configuration parser works. They are mainly useful for cfpeek developers.


Trace configuration file lexer.


Trace configuration file parser.

5.7 Informational Options


Print a concise usage summary and exit.


Print a summary of command line syntax and exit.


Print the program version and exit.

6. Exit Codes

When cfpeek terminates, it reports the result of its invocation via its exit code. Exit code of 0 indicates normal termination. Exit code 1 indicates that not all search keys has been found. Exit codes greater than 1 indicate various error conditions. The exact cause of failure is reported on the standard error.

The exit codes are as follows:


Error parsing the input file.


Script failure.


The command was used incorrectly, e.g., with the wrong number of arguments, a bad option, a bad syntax in a parameter, or whatever.


The requested script file does not exist, contains syntax errors, or cannot be parsed for whatever other reason.


An internal software error has occurred. Please, report it, along with any error diagnostics produced by the program, if you ever stumble upon this error code. See section How to Report a Bug, for detailed instructions.


The script file parses correctly, but does not define all the symbols required by cfpeek.

7. Scripting

This chapter describes the Scheme functions available for use in cfpeek scripts. For an introduction to cfpeek scripting facility, see Using Scripts.

Scheme Procedure: grecs-node? obj

Returns ‘#t’ if obj is a valid tree node.

Scheme Procedure: grecs-node-root node

Returns the topmost node that can be traced up from node.

Scheme Procedure: grecs-node-head node

Returns the first node having the same parent and located on the same nesting level as node. I.e. the following always holds true:

(let ((head (grecs-node-head node)))
    (eq? (grecs-node-up node) (grecs-node-up head))
    (not (grecs-node-prev? head))))
Scheme Procedure: grecs-node-tail node

Returns the last node having the same parent and located on the same nesting level as node. In other words, the following relation is always ‘#t’:

(let ((tail (grecs-node-tail node)))
    (eq? (grecs-node-up node) (grecs-node-up tail))
         (not (grecs-node-next? tail))))
Scheme Procedure: grecs-node-up? node

Return true if node has a parent node.

Scheme Procedure: grecs-node-up node

Return parent node of node.

Scheme Procedure: grecs-node-down? node

Returns ‘#t’ if node has child nodes.

Scheme Procedure: grecs-node-down node

Returns the first child node of node.

Scheme Procedure: grecs-node-next? node

Returns ‘#t’ if node is followed by another node on the same nesting level.

Scheme Procedure: grecs-node-next node

Returns the node following node on the same nesting level.

Scheme Procedure: grecs-node-prev? node

Returns ‘#t’ if node is preceded by another node on the same nesting level.

Scheme Procedure: grecs-node-prev node

Returns the node preceding node on the same nesting level.

Scheme Procedure: grecs-node-ident node

Returns identifier of the node node.

Scheme Procedure: grecs-node-path-list node

Returns the full path to the node, converted to a list. Each list element corresponds to a subnode identifier. A subnode which has a tag is represented by a cons, whose car contains the subnode identifier, and cdr its value. For example, the following path:

is represented as

'("foo" ("bar" . "x") "baz")
Scheme Procedure: grecs-node-path node [delim]

Returns the full path to the node (a string).

Scheme Procedure: grecs-node-type node

Returns the type of the node. The following constants are defined:


The node is a root node. The following is always ‘#t’:

(and (= (grecs-node-type node) grecs-node-root)
     (not (grecs-node-up? node))
     (not (grecs-node-prev? node)))

The node is a simple statement. The following is always ‘#t’:

(and (= (grecs-node-type node) grecs-node-stmt)
     (not (grecs-node-down? node)))

The node is a block statement.

Scheme Procedure: grecs-node-has-value? node

Returns ‘#t’ if node has a value.

Scheme Procedure: grecs-node-value node

Returns the value of node.

Scheme Procedure: grecs-node-locus node

Returns source location of the node. Returned value is a cons:

(file-name . line-number)
Scheme Procedure: grecs-find-node node path

Returns the first node whose path is path. Starts search from node.

Scheme Procedure: grecs-match-first node pattern

Returns the first node whose path matches pattern. The search is started from node.

Scheme Procedure: grecs-match-next node

Node must be a node returned by a previous call to grecs-match-first or ‘grecs-match-next’. The function returns next node matching the initial pattern, or ‘#f’ if no more matches are found. For example, the following code iterates over all nodes matching pattern:

(define (iterate-nodes root pattern thunk)
  (do ((node (grecs-match-first root pattern)
             (grecs-match-next node)))
      ((not node))
     (thunk node)))

8. How to Report a Bug

Please, report bugs and suggestions to

You hit a bug if at least one of the conditions below is met:

If you think you've found a bug, please be sure to include maximum information available to reliably reproduce it, or at least to analyze it. The information needed is:

Any errors, typos or omissions found in this manual also qualify as bugs. Please report them, if you happen to find any.

A. GNU Free Documentation License

Version 1.2, November 2002

Copyright © 2000,2001,2002 Free Software Foundation, Inc.
59 Temple Place, Suite 330, Boston, MA  02111-1307, USA

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A.1 ADDENDUM: How to use this License for your documents

To use this License in a document you have written, include a copy of the License in the document and put the following copyright and license notices just after the title page:

  Copyright (C)  year  your name.
  Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document
  under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2
  or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation;
  with no Invariant Sections, no Front-Cover Texts, and no Back-Cover
  Texts.  A copy of the license is included in the section entitled ``GNU
  Free Documentation License''.

If you have Invariant Sections, Front-Cover Texts and Back-Cover Texts, replace the “with...Texts.” line with this:

    with the Invariant Sections being list their titles, with
    the Front-Cover Texts being list, and with the Back-Cover Texts
    being list.

If you have Invariant Sections without Cover Texts, or some other combination of the three, merge those two alternatives to suit the situation.

If your document contains nontrivial examples of program code, we recommend releasing these examples in parallel under your choice of free software license, such as the GNU General Public License, to permit their use in free software.

Concept Index

This is a general index of all issues discussed in this manual

Jump to:   #   %   *   -  
A   B   C   D   E   F   G   H   I   K   L   M   N   P   Q   R   S   T   U   V   W   X  
Index Entry Section
#include4.1.2 Pragmatic Comments
#include_once4.1.2 Pragmatic Comments
#line4.1.2 Pragmatic Comments
%, a wildcard5.1 Patterns
*, a wildcard5.1 Patterns
--file’ and ‘--expression’ used together3.9 Using Scripts
--file’ and ‘--expression’ used together5. Cfpeek Command Line Syntax
absolute pathname3.2 Pathnames
bind configuration format4.3 BIND Configuration File
block statement3.1 Basic Notions
block statement4.1.3 Statements
boolean value4.1.3 Statements
cfpeek, Scheme function5.4 Scripting Options
child statement3.1 Basic Notions
Comments in a configuration file4.1.1 Comments
comments, pragmatic4.1.2 Pragmatic Comments
compound statement3.1 Basic Notions
configuration file statements4.1.3 Statements
D, -D short option, summary5.5 Preprocessor Control Options
debug-lexer, --debug-lexer option, summary5.6 Debugging Options
debug-parser, --debug-parser option, summary5.6 Debugging Options
default5.2 Output Control
define, --define option, summary5.5 Preprocessor Control Options
delim5.2 Output Control
delim, format flag3.4 Listing the Entire File
descend3.4 Listing the Entire File
descend5.2 Output Control
e, -e short option, introduced3.9 Using Scripts
e, -e short option, summary5.4 Scripting Options
escape sequence4.1.3 Statements
exit code6. Exit Codes
expression, --expression option, introduced3.9 Using Scripts
expression, --expression option, summary5.4 Scripting Options
f, -f short option, introduced3.9 Using Scripts
f, -f short option, summary5.4 Scripting Options
FDL, GNU Free Documentation LicenseA. GNU Free Documentation License
file, --file option, introduced3.9 Using Scripts
file, --file option, summary5.4 Scripting Options
format, --format option, in statement look-ups3.5 Statement Lookups
format, --format option, introduced3.4 Listing the Entire File
format, --format option, summary5.2 Output Control
format, input4. Supported Configuration File Formats
GIT Configuration Converter3.9.1 Example: Converter to GIT Configuration Format
git configuration format4.5 GIT Configuration File
globbing pattern3.6 Pattern Lookups
globbing patterns5.1 Patterns
grecs configuration format4.1 Grecs Configuration File
grecs-find-node7. Scripting
grecs-match-first7. Scripting
grecs-match-next7. Scripting
grecs-node-block7. Scripting
grecs-node-down7. Scripting
grecs-node-down?7. Scripting
grecs-node-has-value?7. Scripting
grecs-node-head7. Scripting
grecs-node-ident7. Scripting
grecs-node-locus7. Scripting
grecs-node-next7. Scripting
grecs-node-next?7. Scripting
grecs-node-path7. Scripting
grecs-node-path-list7. Scripting
grecs-node-prev7. Scripting
grecs-node-prev?7. Scripting
grecs-node-root7. Scripting
grecs-node-stmt7. Scripting
grecs-node-tail7. Scripting
grecs-node-type7. Scripting
grecs-node-up7. Scripting
grecs-node-up?7. Scripting
grecs-node-value7. Scripting
grecs-node?7. Scripting
Guile3.9 Using Scripts
H, -H short option, in statement look-ups3.5 Statement Lookups
H, -H short option, introduced3.4 Listing the Entire File
H, -H short option, summary5.2 Output Control
h, -h short option, summary5.7 Informational Options
help, --help option, summary5.7 Informational Options
here-document4.1.3 Statements
I, -I short option, summary5.5 Preprocessor Control Options
identifier3.1 Basic Notions
include-directory, --include-directory option, summary5.5 Preprocessor Control Options
input formats3.7 Using Various Parsers
input formats4. Supported Configuration File Formats
input parsers3.7 Using Various Parsers
keyword3.1 Basic Notions
L, -L short option, described3.6 Pattern Lookups
l, -l short option, summary5.4 Scripting Options
L, -L short option, summary5.3 Modifiers
lang, --lang option, summary5.4 Scripting Options
list4.1.3 Statements
literal, --literal option, described3.6 Pattern Lookups
literal, --literal option, summary5.3 Modifiers
locus5.2 Output Control
look-up key3.5 Statement Lookups
m, -m short option, summary5.3 Modifiers
m44.1.4 Preprocessor
matches, --matches option, summary5.3 Modifiers
MeTA1 configuration format4.4 MeTA1 Configuration File
multi-line comments4.1.1 Comments
N, -N short option, summary5.5 Preprocessor Control Options
never-quote5.2 Output Control
no-preprocessor, --no-preprocessor option, summary5.5 Preprocessor Control Options
node5.4 Scripting Options
node, Guile variable3.9 Using Scripts
nodefault5.2 Output Control
nodescend5.2 Output Control
nolocus5.2 Output Control
nonever-quote5.2 Output Control
nopath5.2 Output Control
noquote5.2 Output Control
noquote-hex5.2 Output Control
novalue5.2 Output Control
p, -p short option, described3.7 Using Various Parsers
P, -P short option, summary5.5 Preprocessor Control Options
p, -p short option, summary5.3 Modifiers
parent3.8 Specifying Nodes to Output
parent5.2 Output Control
parent statement3.1 Basic Notions
parser, --parser option, described3.7 Using Various Parsers
parser, --parser option, summary5.3 Modifiers
path5.2 Output Control
path configuration format4.2 Path Configuration File
path, format flag3.4 Listing the Entire File
pathname3.2 Pathnames
pathname, absolute3.2 Pathnames
pathname, relative3.2 Pathnames
pathname-value listing3.4 Listing the Entire File
pattern3.6 Pattern Lookups
pattern5.1 Patterns
pp-setup4.1.4 Preprocessor
pragmatic comments4.1.2 Pragmatic Comments
preprocessor4.1.4 Preprocessor
preprocessor control5.5 Preprocessor Control Options
preprocessor, --preprocessor option, summary5.5 Preprocessor Control Options
q, -q short option, described3.5 Statement Lookups
q, -q short option, summary5.2 Output Control
quiet, --quiet option, described3.5 Statement Lookups
quiet, --quiet option, summary5.2 Output Control
quote5.2 Output Control
quote-hex5.2 Output Control
quoted string4.1.3 Statements
r, -r short option, summary5.3 Modifiers
reduce, --reduce option, summary5.3 Modifiers
relative pathname3.2 Pathnames
root statement3.1 Basic Notions
S, -S short option, summary5.3 Modifiers
s, -s short option, summary5.3 Modifiers
Scheme3.9 Using Scripts
scripts3.9 Using Scripts
search key3.5 Statement Lookups
section3.1 Basic Notions
set, --set option, summary5.3 Modifiers
simple statement3.1 Basic Notions
simple statements1. Introduction
simple statements4.1.3 Statements
single-line comments4.1.1 Comments
sort, --sort option, summary5.3 Modifiers
start-up scripts3.5 Statement Lookups
statement look-up3.5 Statement Lookups
statement, block4.1.3 Statements
statement, simple4.1.3 Statements
statement, subordinate3.1 Basic Notions
statements, configuration file4.1.3 Statements
string, quoted4.1.3 Statements
string, unquoted4.1.3 Statements
structured configuration file1. Introduction
subordinate statement3.1 Basic Notions
substatement3.1 Basic Notions
tag, in a compound statement3.1 Basic Notions
up3.8 Specifying Nodes to Output
up5.2 Output Control
usage, --usage option, summary5.7 Informational Options
V, -V short option, summary5.7 Informational Options
value3.4 Listing the Entire File
value5.2 Output Control
version, --version option, summary5.7 Informational Options
wildcards5.1 Patterns
x, -x short option, summary5.6 Debugging Options
X, -X short option, summary5.6 Debugging Options
X-resources4.2 Path Configuration File
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See GNU Mailutils: (mailutils)Top section `Top' in GNU Mailutils Manual.


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