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Compilation and Descriptors

This document describes the sequence of steps employed by a compiler for the Protobuf language. The job of a compiler is to process Protobuf IDL sources and generate source code in a specific target language. The final code generation step is not discussed here, but everything leading up to it is.

A core concept in compilation is a set of descriptors. Descriptors are the commonly used "language model" for Protocol Buffers. They are used as an intermediate artifact to support code generation, and they are also used in runtime libraries to implement support for reflection and dynamic types.

Compilation Process

A Protobuf compiler implementation will generally have the following phases. The first two steps are described in detail in the Language Specification.

  1. Lexical Analysis: This step breaks up the bytes in a source file into a stream of lexical elements called tokens.

  2. Syntactic Analysis: This step processes the stream of tokens into an abstract syntax tree (AST).

  3. Producing a Descriptor: The functional output of parsing a source file is a "file descriptor". It is itself a protobuf message that resembles an AST. In fact, this step can be combined with the syntactic analysis step above, such that the AST produced is a file descriptor. However, a file descriptor is "lossy", meaning that it does not have enough information to perfectly recover the original source contents. Some tools, like formatters, will prefer to operate on a non-lossy AST. A non-lossy AST can also provide better error messages when interpreting options.

    The file descriptor is described by the message google.protobuf.FileDescriptorProto, defined in google/protobuf/descriptor.proto included in the official Protobuf distribution.

  4. Linking: This stage verifies that all type references in the source file are valid. So when a field or RPC method refers to another message type, this step verifies that the referenced message type exists.

    More details can be found in the Relative References section of the spec, for how identifiers in the source file get resolved into references to messages, enums, and extensions.

    The act of linking, in addition to validating all symbol references, produces a data structure for mapping a symbol to its definition. This allows efficient look-up of type definitions for the next step. This stage is also where symbol conflicts (two elements with the same fully-qualified name) are detected and reported, as a natural consequence of building this data structure.

  5. Interpreting Options: Once linked, it is possible to interpret options. This is the most complicated step and generally relies on data structures computed during linking. This stage is described more fully in the language spec with some additional content below.

  6. Semantic Validation: After the above steps are complete, the descriptor with interpreted options can be validated. Syntax errors, invalid type references, and type errors in option values are caught in the above steps. But there are other rules in the IDL which are most easily verified at this point, after options are interpreted. For example, enforcing rules related to message set wire format requires that the message_set_wire_format option be interpreted.

  7. Computing Source Code Info: Optionally, the file descriptor's "source code info" can be computed. This is a field of the descriptor that includes locations of the various elements in the original source file and also includes comments that were in the source file.

    Source code info can also be computed while parsing, during the syntactic analysis phase. But this can be a challenge when using many parser-generator tools. If source code info is computed that early in the process, it must then be updated after options are interpreted in order for the source code info of options to be represented correctly.

    Source code info representation is described reasonably well in the comments for the google.protobuf.SourceCodeInfo message. But more details can be found below in the Source Code Info section, especially for aspects that are not well specified in those comments.

  8. Code Generation: The final, optional step in a compilation process is to use the descriptors created in the above steps to generate code for a target language and runtime. This involves the invocation of compiler plugins. You can read more details about this process here and here.

    In lieu of or in addition to code generation, a compiler may also choose to produce a file that contains a serialized google.protobuf.FileDescriptorSet.

Resolving Import Locations

The process of resolving import locations is not part of the language, but is left to the parser/compiler. A typical approach, including the one used by the protoc compiler, is to allow the user to provide search paths as command-line flags. The import path is appended to each search path until the named file is found. If an import file cannot be located, the source file cannot be compiled.

The buf command-line tool (also called the "Buf CLI") provides a more streamlined experience for providing search paths: users define a buf.yaml configuration file in their project (or "module" in Buf parlance). This file indicates the root directory where the Protobuf sources reside. It can also indicate dependencies: other Buf modules that the current module uses. Source files can import local files in the module, using a path relative to the module root (where buf.yaml resides). And they can also import remote files that are located inside those other Buf modules, using a path relative to the root of that remote module.

Some tools may not even care to resolve and load imports. For example, formatters will usually operate one file at a time, without needing to resolve symbol references or understand the relationships between files.

Standard Imports

There are a handful of source files that are generally included as part of a Protobuf compiler. These standard imports define the well-known types as well as the descriptor model (see next section).

The Protobuf distribution includes all the following files, as does the Buf CLI:

These files can be imported without having to tell the compiler where to find them. For example, with protoc these files can be imported even if they do not appear under any of the search locations. When using the Buf CLI, these files can be imported without having to declare any dependency and without needing copies of these files in your module.

Overriding Descriptor Protos

The descriptor model (in google/protobuf/descriptor.proto) is a special standard import because not only can it be imported and referenced in user sources (like for defining custom options), but it is also linked into the compiler itself. That means that the compiler includes a snapshot of the descriptor protos that have been compiled into the compiler's implementation language. So protoc links in generated C++ code for this snapshot of the descriptors; the Buf CLI links in generated Go code.

Compilers may support overriding the contents of this file. In other words, it would be possible for the user to supply their own version of google/protobuf/descriptor.proto, like to add new fields to descriptors or to options messages. Or the user might supply a file that contains an alternate definition for one of the types, such as a google.protobuf.FieldOptions.

The compilation proceeds as normal; but when interpreting options, if an options message is overridden, that override definition is used when resolving option names and type checking option values. (This is usually accomplished using a dynamic message backed by a descriptor that is built from the override definition.) If a compiler supports this, any fields that are present in the override definition but that are not present in the linked in snapshot are considered unknown fields. When the descriptor is serialized, unknown fields may be encoded differently than known fields. (See Encoding Options for more details.)

caution

Forking the descriptor sources this way is heavily discouraged. It is generally only done by a user that uses a fork of the entire protobuf runtime and/or the compiler, too.

Descriptor Production

The sections below also describe aspects of descriptor production. All types referenced below are in the google.protobuf package (so a reference to DescriptorProto is shorthand for the google.protobuf.DescriptorProto message type).

They are all defined in the google/protobuf/descriptor.proto file that is included in the Protobuf distribution. This file contains comments as to how the elements of the grammar map to various fields and structures in the descriptor. And for many attributes of the descriptor, the way they correspond to elements in the grammar is self-explanatory. The descriptor.proto file uses the proto2 syntax, which means that all optional fields have explicit presence, so it is possible to detect when a field is absent. So if an optional element in the grammar is absent, the corresponding field in a descriptor will also be absent (except where otherwise noted below).

The content below refers to elements of the grammar using italics. For example, EmptyDecl refers to the production of the same name found in the description of the language syntax.

The examples below show both proto source code alongside the resulting descriptor protos. The example descriptor protos are shown in JSON form, for readability.

Type References

Type references are found in various fields in descriptors, all mapping to a TypeName production in the grammar. The value stored in the descriptors may initially be a relative reference, as that may be what appears in the source file. But a properly compiled file descriptor will undergo a link step, wherein all relative references are resolved.

At the end of this process, all relative references in a descriptor should be replaced with fully-qualified references, which include a leading dot (.).

Descriptor Kinds

Each kind of named element in the language, other than packages, have a corresponding kind of descriptor. Source files also have a kind of descriptor that describes them.

Each kind of descriptor is represented by a proto message in descriptor.proto:

Named element kindDescriptor proto
File *FileDescriptorProto
MessageDescriptorProto
Field, ExtensionFieldDescriptorProto
OneofOneofDescriptorProto
EnumEnumDescriptorProto
Enum ValueEnumValueDescriptorProto
ServiceServiceDescriptorProto
MethodMethodDescriptorProto

* Despite the column heading, file is not a kind of named element. The file descriptor resembles an AST for the file, modeling all the declarations therein. Each named element declared in the file is represented by the other types of descriptor protos and accessible via fields on the FileDescriptorProto.

Options

When constructing a descriptor, each descriptor type has a field named options (as does the DescriptorProto.ExtensionRange type). If any options are defined for an element, this field will be present. The table below indicates the concrete type of this field.

Enclosing elementOptions type
FileDescriptorProtoFileOptions
DescriptorProtoMessageOptions
FieldDescriptorProtoFieldOptions
OneofDescriptorProtoOneofOptions
DescriptorProto.ExtensionRangeExtensionRangeOptions
EnumDescriptorProtoEnumOptions
EnumValueDescriptorProtoEnumValueOptions
ServiceDescriptorProtoServiceOptions
MethodDescriptorProtoMethodOptions

Each of these concrete option types has a field named uninterpreted_options (with field number 999). The compiler may use this field to store the options when they are initially parsed. Later, when options are interpreted, this field will be cleared and the interpreted options will be stored in other fields of the option type.

The structure of this field, whose type is UninterpretedOption, closely mirrors the OptionDecl production. It has numerous fields for storing the value, only one of which can be set (though the definition in descriptor.proto does not use a oneof):

ProductionConditionField
StringLiteralstring_value
FloatLiteraldouble_value
SpecialFloatLiteral *double_value
IntLiteralint_literal in the range [0, 2^64)positive_int_value
int_literal in the range [0, 2^63] preceded by minusnegative_int_value
otherwisedouble_value
identifieridentifier_value
MessageLiteralWithBracesaggregate_value

* For special float literals, the value is stored as the floating point representation of infinity, -infinity, or not-a-number. If the source contained a value of -nan, the leading minus sign is ignored. The stored value for nan is an unsigned (sign bit clear) quiet not-a-number value. The exact bit pattern is not specified.

For message literals, the entire source text, excluding the enclosing braces ({ and }), is stored as a string. But all whitespace and comments are removed and each token is separated by a single space ( ).

The following shows an example of how the uninterpreted_option can be populated from a given source file. It also shows what the descriptor might look like after interpreting options.

example.proto
import "foo/bar/options.proto"
option java_package = "foo.bar.baz";
option (foo.bar.baz).settings.(foo.bar.buzz).add = 256;
File descriptor before interpreting options
{
"name": "example.proto",
"dependency": [
"foo/bar/options.proto"
],
"options": {
"uninterpreted_option": [
{
"name": [
{
"name_part": "java_package"
}
],
"string_value": "foo.bar.baz"
},
{
"name": [
{
"name_part": "foo.bar.baz",
"is_extension": true,
},
{
"name_part": "settings",
},
{
"name_part": "foo.bar.buzz",
"is_extension": true,
},
{
"name_part": "add",
}
],
"positive_int_val": "256"
},
]
}
}
File descriptor after interpreting options
{
"name": "example.proto",
"dependency": [
"foo/bar/options.proto"
],
"options": {
"java_package": "foo.bar.baz",
"[foo.bar.baz]": {
"settings": {
"[foo.bar.buzz]": {
"add": 256
}
}
}
}
}

Encoding Options

One interesting implementation detail of protoc is the way it stores unknown options in the resulting descriptor, in a manner that preserves the order of options and their de-structuring. When serializing an options message, regular known options are emitted first, in field number order. But unknown options (which includes all custom options/extensions), each single option declaration is encoded to bytes as if it were by itself. The resulting binary form relies heavily on the fact that the binary encoding will merge data. So the bytes for each custom option are unmarshalled, such that the bytes from a later option get merged into the results from unmarshalling earlier ones. The result is that the two examples below are encoded to bytes very differently, but the resulting options messages after unmarshalling either are semantically equivalent.

destructured.proto
// This example de-structures the option across multiple declarations:
option (google.api.http).custom.kind = "FETCH";
option (google.api.http).custom.path = "/foo/bar/baz/{id}";
option (google.api.http).additional_bindings = {
get: "/foo/bar/baz/{id}"
};
option (google.api.http).additional_bindings = {
post: "/foo/bar/baz/"
body: "*"
};
single-option.proto
// This example does not de-structure and instead includes the entire
// option value as a message literal. It is semantically identical to
// the above example.
option (google.api.http) = {
custom: {
kind: "FETCH"
path: "/foo/bar/baz/{id}"
}
additional_bindings: [
{
get: "/foo/bar/baz/{id}"
},
{
post: "/foo/bar/baz/"
body: "*"
}
]
};

To demonstrate this encoding, let's look at the raw descriptor output for the de-structured example above. The content below is the result of using protoc --decode_raw, along with comments to annotate how this content corresponds to the example above.

de-structured method options
4 {                           // MethodDescriptorProto, field `options`
72295728 { // MethodOptions, extension `google.api.http`
8 { // HttpRule, field `custom`
1: "FETCH" // CustomHttpPattern, field `kind`
} //
} //
72295728 { // MethodOptions, extension `google.api.http`
8 { // HttpRule, field `custom`
2: "/foo/bar/baz/{id}" // CustomHttpPattern, field `path`
} //
} //
72295728 { // MethodOptions, extension `google.api.http`
11 { // HttpRule, field `additional_bindings`
2: "/foo/bar/baz/{id}" // HttpRule, field `get`
} //
} //
72295728 { // MethodOptions, extension `google.api.http`
11 { // HttpRule, field `additional_bindings`
4: "/foo/bar/baz/" // HttpRule, field `post`
7: "*" // HttpRule, field `body`
} //
} //
} //

For contrast, below is the raw descriptor output for the latter example, that uses a single option declaration instead of de-structuring:

single method option
4 {
72295728 {
8 {
1: "FETCH"
2: "/foo/bar/baz/{id}"
}
11 {
2: "/foo/bar/baz/{id}"
}
11 {
4: "/foo/bar/baz/"
7: "*"
}
}
}

File Descriptors

The File production in the grammar corresponds to a FileDescriptorProto.

The name field is the only piece of data in a descriptor that does not come from the file contents. Instead, it is defined by the parser, and it should be set to the path from which the file contents are loaded. This field must not be an absolute path; it must be relative. (Also see Resolving Import Locations.)

If a SyntaxDecl production is present, uses the "syntax" keyword, and indicates a value of "proto2", the resulting syntax field of the file descriptor will be left absent: "proto2" is considered the default value when the field is not present. A compiler may choose to issue a warning for files that have no syntax declaration.

The edition fields is only present if the SyntaxDecl uses the "edition" keyword. In that case, it is set to the Edition value, and the syntax field is set to the string "editions".

The package field is only present if the file includes a PackageDecl production.

Import statements in the file, across all ImportDecl productions, populate three different fields:

  • dependency: This field contains all of the imported file names, in the order in which they appear in the source file.
  • public_dependency: This field is a list of integer indexes. Each index refers to an element in the dependency field that used the public keyword.
  • weak_dependency: This field is a list of integer indexes. Each index refers to an element in the dependency field that used the weak keyword.

The various named elements defined in FileElement productions correspond to a repeated field:

ProductionCorresponding field of FileDescriptorProto
MessageDeclmessage_type
EnumDeclenum_type
ExtensionDeclextension
ServiceDeclservice

These lists have the elements in the order in which they appeared in the file. So the first element of message_type is the first message declared in the file.

The source_code_info field can be populated via a post-process (after options are interpreted). See Source Code Info for more details.

example.proto
syntax = "proto3";

package foo.bar;

import "another/file.proto";

message Foo {
some.OtherMessage message = 1;
}
File descriptor
{
"name": "example.proto",
"syntax": "proto3",
"package": "foo.bar",
"dependency": [
"another/file.proto"
],
"message_type": [
{
"name": "Foo",
"field": [
{
"name": "message",
"number": 1,
"label": "LABEL_OPTIONAL",
"type": "TYPE_MESSAGE",
"type_name": ".some.OtherMessage",
"json_name": "message"
}
]
}
]
}

Message Descriptors

The MessageDecl production corresponds to a DescriptorProto.

Like in a file descriptor, the various named elements defined in MessageElement productions correspond to a repeated field:

ProductionCorresponding field of DescriptorProto
FieldDeclfield
MapFieldDecl *field, nested_type
GroupDecl *field, nested_type
OneofDecloneof_decl
MessageDeclnested_type
EnumDeclenum_type
ExtensionDeclextension

* Both MapFieldDecl and GroupDecl result in both a FieldDescriptorProto stored in field and a DescriptorProto stored in nested_type. See Map Fields and Groups for more details.

In addition to these elements, fields and groups defined inside of any oneofs are also stored in the DescriptorProto's set of fields and nested messages. See Oneof Descriptors for more details.

example.proto
message Foo {
option deprecated = true;

optional string name = 1;
optional uint64 id = 2;
}
File descriptor
{
"name": "example.proto",
"message_type": [
{
"name": "Foo",
"options": {
"deprecated": true
},
"field": [
{
"name": "name",
"number": 1,
"label": "LABEL_OPTIONAL",
"type": "TYPE_STRING",
"json_name": "name"
},
{
"name": "id",
"number": 2,
"label": "LABEL_OPTIONAL",
"type": "TYPE_UINT64"
"json_name": "id"
}
]
}
]
}

Extension Ranges

Within an ExtensionRangeDecl production, all TagRange elements are accumulated into a list of DescriptorProto.ExtensionRange values and stored in the message's extension_range field.

In a DescriptorProto.ExtensionRange, the range end is "open", or exclusive. But the end tag in the source file is inclusive. So the logic must add one to the number in the source file and then store that in the end field.

In a TagRange production, if no end was specified (e.g. just a single number, not actually a range) then the DescriptorProto.ExtensionRange is stored as a range where the start and end are equal to the specified number. Since the range end is exclusive in the proto, that means the range is stored as "number" for the start and "number+1" for the end.

The options, if any, apply to all ranges in the declaration. An ExtensionRangeOptions value is constructed from the options and then is copied to each DescriptorProto.ExtensionRange that was constructed from the ExtensionRangeDecl production.

example.proto
syntax = "proto2";

import "foo/bar/extension_range_options.proto";

message Foo {
extensions 42, 100 to 200, 1000 to max [(foo.bar.ext) = true];
}
File descriptor
{
"name": "example.proto",
"dependency": [
"foo/bar/extension_range_options.proto"
],
"message_type": [
{
"name": "Foo",
"extension_range": [
{
"start": 42,
"end": 43,
"options": {
"[foo.bar.ext]": true
}
},
{
"start": 100,
"end": 201,
"options": {
"[foo.bar.ext]": true
}
},
{
"start": 1000,
"end": 536870912,
"options": {
"[foo.bar.ext]": true
}
}
]
}
]
}

Reserved Ranges and Names

Within a MessageReservedDecl production, all TagRange elements are accumulated into a list of DescriptorProto.ReservedRange values and stored in the message's reserved_range field. All Names and NameStrings are accumulated into a list of strings and stored in the message's reserved_name field.

As with extension ranges, in a DescriptorProto.ReservedRange, the range end is exclusive, but the end tag in the source file is inclusive. So the logic must add one to the number in the source file and then store that in the end field.

Also like extension ranges, if the TagRange production did not include an end number, it acts as if the start and end are the same as the single number specified. Since the range end is exclusive in DescriptorProto.ReservedRange, that means the range is stored as "number" for the start and "number+1" for the end.

example.proto
syntax = "proto2";

message Foo {
reserved 1, 2, 5-8;
reserved "foo", "bar", "baz";
}
File descriptor
{
"name": "example.proto",
"message_type": [
{
"name": "Foo",
"reserved_range": [
{
"start": 1,
"end": 2,
},
{
"start": 2,
"end": 3,
},
{
"start": 5,
"end": 9,
}
],
"reserved_name": [
"foo",
"bar",
"baz"
]
}
]
}

Field Descriptors

The FieldDecl and OneofFieldDecl productions correspond to a FieldDescriptorProto. Additionally, map fields and groups also correspond to this type.

Both normal and extension fields use this type. For extensions (fields and groups in an ExtensionDecl production), their extendee field is set to the name of the message indicated by the TypeName part of the enclosing ExtensionDecl. For normal field declarations, the extendee field is absent.

The label field will always be present, even if the cardinality is omitted in the source file When absent in source, the value is LABEL_OPTIONAL. (So this default will be set for all OneofFieldDecl productions, which never have an explicit cardinality in source.)

If the cardinality is not omitted in source and is optional, and the file containing the field uses the proto3 syntax, the proto3_optional field will also be set. See Synthetic Oneofs for more details on representing proto3 optional fields in the descriptor.

If this field is enclosed in a oneof then the oneof_index field will be present. See Oneof Descriptors for more details on representing oneofs.

There are two fields, default_value and json_name, that are actually populated by options present in the field declaration. The spec refers to these as "pseudo-options" because they aren't aren't actually fields on the FieldOptions proto. The pseudo-option default will populate the default_value field on the descriptor. The pseudo-option json_name populates the descriptor's field of the same name.

If a json_name pseudo-option is not present on a normal field, the json_name field of the descriptor will be set to the field's default JSON name. Extensions will not have a json_name value set.

example.proto
syntax = "proto2";

package foo.bar;

message Foo {
optional string foo = 1 [json_name="FOO"];
repeated int32 bar = 2;
optional float baz = 3 [deprecated = true, default=3.14159];
extensions 100 to 200;
}

extend Foo {
optional bytes buzz = 101;
}
File descriptor
{
"name": "example.proto",
"package": "foo.bar",
"message_type": [
{
"name": "Foo",
"field": [
{
"name": "foo",
"number": 1,
"label": "LABEL_OPTIONAL",
"type": "TYPE_STRING",
"json_name": "FOO"
},
{
"name": "bar",
"number": 2,
"label": "LABEL_REPEATED",
"type": "TYPE_INT32",
"json_name": "bar"
},
{
"name": "baz",
"number": 3,
"label": "LABEL_OPTIONAL",
"type": "TYPE_FLOAT",
"options": {
"deprecated": true
},
"default_value": "3.14159",
"json_name": "baz"
}
],
"extension_range": [
{
"start": 100,
"end": 201
}
]
}
],
"extension": [
{
"name": "buzz",
"number": 101,
"label": "OPTIONAL_LABEL",
"type": "TYPE_BYTES",
"extendee": ".foo.bar.Foo"
}
]
}

Encoding Default Values

As mentioned above, the default_value field on the FieldDescriptorProto is populated via a pseudo-option named default (proto2 syntax only).

This default_value field's type is string. But the actual type of the value in source depends on the type of the field on which the option is defined. So these values of various types must be converted/encoded to a string. Only scalar, non-repeated fields can have a default specified. Values are encoded as follows:

TypeEncoding
Integer numeric typesString representation in base 10.
Floating-point numeric typesMinimal string representation to uniquely identify the value in base 10, using lower-case e for exponent if scientific notation is shorter.
boolThe string true or false.
stringThe value, unmodified.
bytesThe value interpreted as if a UTF-8-encoded string, with certain bytes replaced with escape sequences. Quotes (both single ' and double ") and backslashes (\) are escaped by prefixing with a backslash. Newlines (0x0A), carriage returns (0x0D), and tabs (0x09) use common escape sequences \n, \r, and \t respectively. All other characters outside the range [0x20, 0x7F) are replaced with a three-digit octal escape. For example, a DEL (0x7F) character is replaced with \177.
An enum typeThe simple (unqualified) name of the enum value.

Field Types

The type and type_name fields of FieldDescriptorProto are both set based on the TypeName that is set in the FieldDecl production.

The type field indicates the kind. Each predefined scalar type has a corresponding entry in the FieldDescriptorProto.Type enum. If the type name refers to an enum, the type is set to TYPE_ENUM. If the type name refers to a message, the type is set to TYPE_MESSAGE.

The type_name field is only set when the type name references a message or enum type. In these cases, it indicates the fully-qualified name (with leading dot .) of the referenced type.

example.proto
syntax = "proto3";

import "google/protobuf/any.proto";
import "google/protobuf/wrappers.proto";

message Foo {
google.protobuf.StringValue maybe_name = 1;
repeated google.protobuf.Any extras = 2;
bool is_new = 3;
}
File descriptor
{
"name": "example.proto",
"syntax": "proto3",
"dependency": [
"google/protobuf/any.proto",
"google/protobuf/wrappers.proto"
],
"message_type": [
{
"name": "Foo",
"field": [
{
"name": "maybe_name",
"number": 1,
"label": "LABEL_OPTIONAL",
"type": "TYPE_MESSAGE",
"type_name": ".google.protobuf.StringValue",
"json_name": "maybeName"
},
{
"name": "extras",
"number": 2,
"label": "LABEL_REPEATED",
"type": "TYPE_MESSAGE",
"type_name": ".google.protobuf.Any",
"json_name": "extras"
},
{
"name": "is_new",
"number": 3,
"label": "LABEL_OPTIONAL",
"type": "TYPE_BOOL",
"json_name": "isNew"
}
]
}
]
}

Synthetic Oneofs

info

The content below applies only to files that use proto3 syntax.

When a proto3 field explicitly indicates optional, the proto3_optional field will be set to true. Furthermore, a OneofDescriptor will be synthesized that contains only the one optional field. That means that both of these messages are functionally the same:

// Explicit optional keyword:
message Foo {
optional string bar = 1;
}

// Behaves as if:
message Foo {
oneof _bar {
string bar = 1;
}
}

The name of the synthetic oneof is computed using the logic below.

  • candidate name = field's name
  • If the candidate name does not already start with an underscore (_), add it as a prefix: candidate name = "_" + candidate name
  • While candidate name conflicts with another element in the message:
    • Prefix the name with an X: candidate name = "X" + candidate name

At the end of this logic, candidate name is a distinct element name that won't conflict with anything the user defined in the message. This is the name used for the synthetic oneof.

The other elements that could conflict with the synthetic oneof's name are:

  • Other fields in the message, including fields in other oneofs
  • Other oneofs in the message, including synthetic oneofs already created
  • Other messages defined inside the message
  • Extensions defined inside the message
  • Enums defined inside the message
example.proto
syntax = "proto3";

message Foo {
optional string bar = 1;
optional double baz = 2;
}
File descriptor
{
"name": "example.proto",
"syntax": "proto3",
"message_type": [
{
"name": "Foo",
"field": [
{
"name": "bar",
"number": 1,
"type": "TYPE_STRING",
"json_name": "bar",
"label": "LABEL_OPTIONAL",
"proto3_optional": true,
"oneof_index": 0,
},
{
"name": "baz",
"number": 2,
"type": "TYPE_DOUBLE",
"json_name": "baz"
"label": "LABEL_OPTIONAL",
"proto3_optional": true,
"oneof_index": 1,
}
],
"oneof_decl": [
{
"name": "_bar",
},
{
"name": "_baz",
}
]
}
]
}

Map Fields

The MapFieldDecl production results in both a FieldDescriptorProto and a DescriptorProto.

The spec describes how map fields behave as if they were defined as a repeated field whose type is a map entry message. The message has two fields: a key and a value. The spec includes an example that demonstrates exactly how the field is represented in the descriptor: as a repeated field and a nested message. Here's that example again:

// Map type:
message Foo {
map<string, FooSettings> settings_by_name = 1;
}

// Behaves as if:
message Foo {
message SettingsByNameEntry {
option map_entry = true;

string key = 1;
FooSettings value = 2;
}
repeated SettingsByNameEntry settings_by_name = 1;
}

The synthetic message is stored in the enclosing message's nested_type list in the order that the field appears in source. In other words, if there are nested messages declared before the map field, they will be in the nested_type list before the synthetic map entry message. If there are nested messages declared after the map field, they appear in the nested_type list after the synthetic message.

example.proto
syntax = "proto3";

message Foo {
string name = 1;
map<uint32, Foo> children_by_id = 2;
}
File descriptor
{
"name": "example.proto",
"syntax": "proto3",
"message_type": [
{
"name": "Foo",
"field": [
{
"name": "name",
"number": 1,
"label": "LABEL_OPTIONAL",
"type": "TYPE_STRING",
"json_name": "name"
},
{
"name": "children_by_id",
"number": 2,
"label": "LABEL_REPEATED",
"type": "TYPE_MESSAGE",
"type_name": ".Foo.ChildrenByIdEntry",
"json_name": "childrenById"
}
],
"nested_type": [
{
"name": "ChildrenByIdEntry",
"field": [
{
"name": "key",
"number": 1,
"label": "LABEL_OPTIONAL",
"type": "TYPE_UINT32",
"json_name": "key"
},
{
"name": "value",
"number": 2,
"label": "LABEL_OPTIONAL",
"type": "TYPE_MESSAGE",
"type_name": ".Foo",
"json_name": "value"
}
],
"options": {
"map_entry": true
}
}
]
}
]
}

Groups

The GroupDecl and OneofGroupDecl productions result in both a FieldDescriptorProto and a DescriptorProto.

The spec describes how groups behave as if they were defined as both a field and a nested message. The spec includes an example that demonstrates exactly how the group is represented in the descriptor: as both a field and a nested message. However, there is one small exception: when the group keyword is used, the type of the field will be TYPE_GROUP (not TYPE_MESSAGE). Here's that example again:

// Group:
message Foo {
optional group Bar = 1 [json_name = 'bbarr'] {
option deprecated = true;

optional uint32 id = 1;
optional string name = 2;
}
}

// Behaves as if:
message Foo {
message Bar {
option deprecated = true;

optional uint32 id = 1;
optional string name = 2;
}
optional Bar bar = 1 [json_name = 'bbarr'];
}

The associated message is stored in the enclosing message's nested_type list in the order that the group appears in source. In other words, if there are nested messages declared before the group, they will be in the nested_type list before the group's associated message. If there are nested messages declared after the group, they appear in the nested_type list after the group's associated message. The same goes regarding the order of the associated field in the enclosing message's field list.

example.proto
syntax = "proto2";

message Foo {
optional group Bar = 1 {
optional uint32 id = 1;
optional string name = 2;
}
}
File descriptor
{
"name": "example.proto",
"message_type": [
{
"name": "Foo",
"field": [
{
"name": "bar",
"number": 1,
"label": "LABEL_OPTIONAL",
"type": "TYPE_GROUP",
"type_name": ".Foo.Bar",
"json_name": "bar"
}
],
"nested_type": [
{
"name": "Bar",
"field": [
{
"name": "id",
"number": 1,
"label": "LABEL_OPTIONAL",
"type": "TYPE_UINT32",
"json_name": "id"
},
{
"name": "name",
"number": 2,
"label": "LABEL_OPTIONAL",
"type": "TYPE_STRING",
"json_name": "name"
}
]
}
]
}
]
}

Oneof Descriptors

The OneofDecl production corresponds to a OneofDescriptorProto.

The child elements, in OneofFieldDecl and OneofGroupDecl productions, are actually stored in the descriptor of the enclosing message:

ProductionCorresponding field of DescriptorProto
OneofFieldDeclfield
OneofGroupDecl *field, nested_type

* OneofGroupDecl results in both a FieldDescriptorProto stored in field and a DescriptorProto, stored in nested_type. See Groups for more details.

The OneofDescriptor is mostly just a placeholder with a name. Its index in the enclosing message's oneof_decl field. The relationship between the oneof and the fields declared inside it is the oneof_index field of the enclosing DescriptorProto. This index, if present, indicates the index into the oneof_decl list for the field's enclosing OneofDescriptorProto. If the index is not present, the field was defined inside a oneof.

The elements in the oneof_decl list are in the order they are declared in source. So the first oneof in a message will be the element at index zero of the list. All the fields therein will indicate zero in their oneof_index field.

For more details about how the descriptors for enclosed fields are created, see Field Descriptors.

example.proto
syntax = "proto2";

message Foo {
oneof id {
string email = 1;
uint64 uid = 2;
int64 ssn = 3;
group FullName = 4 {
optional string first_name = 1;
optional string middle_initial = 2;
optional string last_name = 3;
}
string phone = 5;
}
}
File descriptor
{
"name": "example.proto",
"message_type": [
{
"name": "Foo",
"field": [
{
"name": "email",
"number": 1,
"label": "LABEL_OPTIONAL",
"type": "TYPE_STRING",
"json_name": "email",
"oneof_index": 0
},
{
"name": "uid",
"number": 2,
"label": "LABEL_OPTIONAL",
"type": "TYPE_UINT64",
"json_name": "uid",
"oneof_index": 0
},
{
"name": "ssn",
"number": 3,
"label": "LABEL_OPTIONAL",
"type": "TYPE_INT64",
"json_name": "ssn",
"oneof_index": 0
},
{
"name": "fullname",
"number": 4,
"label": "LABEL_OPTIONAL",
"type": "TYPE_GROUP",
"type_name": ".Foo.FullName",
"json_name": "fullname",
"oneof_index": 0
}
{
"name": "phone",
"number": 5,
"label": "LABEL_OPTIONAL",
"type": "TYPE_STRING",
"json_name": "phone",
"oneof_index": 0
},
],
"nested_type": [
{
"name": "FullName",
"field": [
{
"name": "first_name",
"number": 1,
"label": "LABEL_OPTIONAL",
"type": "TYPE_STRING",
"json_name": "firstName"
},
{
"name": "middle_initial",
"number": 2,
"label": "LABEL_OPTIONAL",
"type": "TYPE_STRING",
"json_name": "middleInitial"
},
{
"name": "last_name",
"number": 3,
"label": "LABEL_OPTIONAL",
"type": "TYPE_STRING",
"json_name": "lastName"
}
]
}
],
"oneof_decl": [
{
"name": "id"
}
]
}
]
}

Enum Descriptors

The EnumDecl production corresponds to an EnumDescriptorProto.

The child elements, in EnumValueDecl productions, are stored in the value field of the descriptor.

The EnumValueDecl production corresponds to an EnumValueDescriptorProto.

example.proto
enum Foo {
option allow_alias = true;
NULL = 0;
ZED = 0 [deprecated = true];
UNO = 1;
DOS = 2;
}
File descriptor
{
"name": "example.proto",
"enum_type": [
{
"name": "Foo",
"options": {
"allow_alias": true
},
"value": [
{
"name": "NULL",
"number": 0
},
{
"name": "ZED",
"number": 0,
"options": {
"deprecated": true
}
},
{
"name": "UNO",
"number": 1
},
{
"name": "DOS",
"number": 2
}
]
}
]
}

Reserved Ranges and Names

Within an EnumReservedDecl production, all EnumValueRange elements are accumulated into a list of EnumDescriptorProto.EnumReservedRange values and stored in the enum's reserved_range field. All Names and NameStrings are accumulated into a list of strings and stored in the enum's reserved_name field.

Unlike message reserved ranges, in an EnumDescriptorProto.EnumReservedRange, the range is closed, or inclusive of both start and end. So the number stored in the start and end fields will exactly match the range numbers as they appear in source.

In an EnumValueRange production, if no end was specified (e.g. just a single number, not actually a range) then the EnumDescriptorProto.EnumReservedRange is stored as a range where the start and end are equal to the specified number.

example.proto
enum Stat {
UNKNOWN = 0;
PENDING = 1;
RUNNING = 2;
FAILED = 6;
COMPLETE = 7;

reserved 3 to 5, 8, 100 to max;
reserved "QUEUED", "IN_PROGRESS", "CANCELLED";
}
File descriptor
{
"name": "example.proto",
"enum_type": [
{
"name": "Stat",
"value": [
{
"name": "UNKNOWN",
"number": 0
},
{
"name": "PENDING",
"number": 1
},
{
"name": "RUNNING",
"number": 2
},
{
"name": "FAILED",
"number": 6
},
{
"name": "COMPLETE",
"number": 7
}
],
"reserved_range": [
{
"start": 3,
"end": 5
},
{
"start": 8,
"end": 8
},
{
"start": 100,
"end": 2147483647
}
],
"reserved_name": [
"QUEUED",
"IN_PROGRESS",
"CANCELLED"
]
}
]
}

Service Descriptors

The ServiceDecl production corresponds to a ServiceDescriptorProto.

The child elements, in MethodDecl productions, are stored in the method field of the descriptor.

The MethodDecl production corresponds to a MethodDescriptorProto.

If the method declaration includes a body (inside of { and } braces), then the options field will be present, even if the body is empty and no options are actually defined. If the declaration does not include a body and just terminates with a semicolon (;) then the options field will be absent.

The input_type is the fully-qualified name in the InputType production, with leading dot (.). If the stream keyword was present on the input type, then the client_streaming field will be set to true.

Similarly, the output_type is the fully-qualified name in the OutputType production, with leading dot (.). If the stream keyword was present on the output type, then the server_streaming field will be set to true.

example.proto
package foo.bar;

import "custom/service/options.proto";

message Foo {}
message Empty {}

service FooService {
option (custom.service.foo) = "abcdefg";

rpc Unary(Foo) returns (Empty);

rpc ClientStream(stream Foo) returns (Empty) {
}

rpc ServerStream(Empty) returns (stream Foo);

rpc BidiStream(stream Foo) returns (stream Foo) {
option deprecated = true;
}
}
File descriptor
{
"name": "example.proto",
"package": "foo.bar",
"dependency": [
"custom/service/options.proto"
],
"message_type": [
{
"name": "Foo",
},
{
"name": "Empty",
}
],
"service": [
{
"name": "FooService",
"options": {
"[custom.service.foo]": "abcdefg"
},
"method": [
{
"name": "Unary",
"input_type": ".foo.bar.Foo",
"output_type": ".foo.bar.Empty"
},
{
"name": "ClientStream",
"input_type": ".foo.bar.Foo",
"output_type": ".foo.bar.Empty",
"client_streaming": true,
"options": {
}
},
{
"name": "ServerStream",
"input_type": ".foo.bar.Empty",
"output_type": ".foo.bar.Foo",
"server_streaming": true
},
{
"name": "ClientStream",
"input_type": ".foo.bar.Foo",
"output_type": ".foo.bar.Foo",
"client_streaming": true,
"server_streaming": true,
"options": {
"deprecated": true
}
}
]
}
]
}

Source Code Info

A file descriptor can optionally include source code info, which contains details about locations of elements in the file as well as comments. In the reference implementation, protoc, one must pass a flag --include_source_info or else the resulting descriptors will not include this information.

The documentation comments for the SourceCodeInfo message are reasonably thorough and clear. Before reading the content below, you should familiarize yourself with those comments first, particularly those for the location field of SourceCodeInfo and for the path field of SourceCodeInfo.Location.

The sections below attempt to describe nuance in computing source code info that is missing or unclear in those source comments.

Position Book-Keeping

When keeping track of line and column numbers for the location spans, the reference implementation in protoc does the following:

  • Start line and column at zero

  • If the file begins with a UTF byte order mark, skip past it and ignore it.

  • As each UTF-8 character in the file is read, the position of that character is at the current values for the line and column.

  • If an invalid UTF-8 character is encountered, treat each individual byte as its own character (with a codepoint potentially greater than 127).

  • Before proceeding to the next character, adjust the line and column values:

    Last characterModification
    Newline (\n)line += 1; column = 0
    Tab (\t)column += 8 - (column % 8)
    Anything elsecolumn += 1

As can be seen from the table above, protoc uses a tab-stop size of 8. All characters other than tab or newline (including all other whitespace and control characters) are treated as if they were normal printable characters.

Handling Comments

Trailing Comments for Block Elements

The doc comments for the leading_comments field of SourceCodeInfo.Location describe how comments are attributed to elements as either detached, leading, or trailing comments. But one key thing is missing, both from the description and the examples: how trailing comments for block elements are handled.

What it fails to describe is that the trailing comment for a block comment is not one that trails the closing brace (}), after the end of the element declaration. Instead, it is a comment that trails the opening brace ({), before any of the declarations in the element's body.

syntax = "proto3";

// This, as expected, is a leading comment for Foo.
message Foo {
// This is the TRAILING comment for Foo. (It is NOT
// a detached comment for baz.)

// leading comment for baz
string baz = 1;
// trailing comment for baz
}
// This is NOT a trailing comment. It's also not considered
// a detached comment for Bar. It is discarded.

// This IS a detached comment for Bar.

// A leading comment for Bar.
message Bar {
}

Algorithm for Categorizing Comments

The doc comments in the proto source do have good examples to demonstrate how to categorize comments -- whether they are trailing comments, leading comments, or detached comments. But the text doesn't specify a process or precise rules for accomplishing this.

So this section describes a technique that a parser can use for this. This is a general technique that works at the level of the AST, even before a descriptor is produced. This technique can also be used to categorize comments that are not included in a descriptor. In particular, the doc comments state that comments in the source are only retained for locations that "represent a complete declaration". But this technique can also be used to categorize (and retain) comments that may appear within a declaration.

For each AST node, we also store an array of comments. This array has the complete text of the comment, including any enclosing /* and */ sequences or leading // sequence. This array is populated during lexical analysis: when scanning for the next token, we accumulate all comment productions encountered. Instead of ignoring them, we store them as an array on the next token (which will be a leaf node in the AST).

In addition to the list of leading comments, each AST node also has a trailing comment. This will initially be empty.

With this shape, computing the detached, leading, and trailing comments for any node in the tree is trivial, even if it is a non-leaf node. Detached and leading comments are those associated with the right-most leaf descendant. Trailing comments are those associated with the left-most leaf descendant. (For leaf nodes, these leaf descendants are the same node as the leaf itself.) In the array of leading comments, if the last element ends on the same line as the token or the previous line, it is a leading comment (attached). Otherwise it is detached. Any other comments in the array are also detached.

// This is a leading comment for the "option" keyword token. But it's
// also a leading comment for the entire option declaration.
option java_package = "foo.bar.baz";
// This is a trailing comment for the ";" puncutation token. But it's
// also a trailing comment for the entire option declaration.

The lexer maintains several pieces of state. For example, it must track its current place in the input, since it scans for tokens from beginning to end. If computing source code info, it must also track the current line and column (even if not computing source code info, this is useful for good error messages, so they can indicate the exact location in the input where an error occurred). One extra piece of state it should track is the previous token identified. This will be a sentinel null value until after the lexer is first invoked and the first token is identified.

When the lexer reaches the end of the source file, it will synthesize an EOF token. The array of comments for this token will include any trailing comments in the file, that appear after the last lexical element. This is mainly so that the process below can be executed for this EOF token, and potentially associate one of these trailing comments with the previous token.

When a new token is identified, the lexer performs the following steps:

  1. Transform the array of comments into an array of groups. A block comment is always in a group by itself. Adjacent line comments (those that appear sequentially, with no blank lines in between) get combined into a group, with newlines (\n) separating them. However, a line comment that is on the same line as the previous token is automatically considered in a group by itself, even if there is another line comment on the next line. This last point is for cases like this:

    string name = 1; // trailing comment for name
    // leading comment for id
    uint64 id = 2;

    In the above case, even though the two line comments are on adjacent lines, we don't want to collapse them into a single group.

    Given the rules for grouping above, let's look at a more involved example:

    example.proto
    previousToken // this comment// won't get merged into a// group with these two lines/* block comments */ /* are always their own groups */ // line comments// can usually get joined into// groups with adjacent lines   // empty lines separate groups// indentation does not impact grouping/* a single block * comment can span lines */currentToken

    The above is represented initially as an array of comments:

    comments array
    [
    { "start_line": 1, "end_line": 1, "comment": "// this comment" },
    { "start_line": 2, "end_line": 2, "comment": "// won't get merged into a" },
    { "start_line": 3, "end_line": 3, "comment": "// group with these two lines" },
    { "start_line": 4, "end_line": 4, "comment": "/* block comments */" },
    { "start_line": 4, "end_line": 4, "comment": "/* are always their own groups */" },
    { "start_line": 4, "end_line": 4, "comment": "// line comments" },
    { "start_line": 5, "end_line": 5, "comment": "// can usually get joined into" },
    { "start_line": 6, "end_line": 6, "comment": "// groups with adjacent lines" },
    { "start_line": 8, "end_line": 8, "comment": "// empty lines separate groups" },
    { "start_line": 9, "end_line": 9, "comment": "// indentation does not impact grouping" },
    { "start_line": 10, "end_line": 12, "comment": "/* a single block\n * comment can span lines\n */" }
    ]

    It then gets converted into the following array of groups:

    comment groups
    [
    { "start_line": 1, "end_line": 1, "comment": "// this comment" },
    { "start_line": 2, "end_line": 3, "comment": "// won't get merged into a\n// group with these two lines" },
    { "start_line": 4, "end_line": 4, "comment": "/* block comments */" },
    { "start_line": 4, "end_line": 4, "comment": "/* are always their own groups */" },
    { "start_line": 4, "end_line": 6, "comment": "// line comments\n// can usually get joined into\n// groups with adjacent lines" },
    { "start_line": 8, "end_line": 9, "comment": "// empty lines separate groups\n// indentation does not impact grouping" },
    { "start_line": 10, "end_line": 12, "comment": "/* a single block\n * comment can span lines\n */" }
    ]
  2. Store the transformed array. Overwrite the array of comments for the token with the newly computed array of groups.

  3. Discard comments if they cannot be attributed. If both the previous and current token are on the same line, it is ambiguous to which token any comments between should be attributed. So they are attributed to neither and ignored.

    Similarly, if there is one comment between the tokens which starts on the same line as the previous token and ends on the same line as the current token, it is unclear to which token it should be attributed, so it is ignored.

  4. Optionally donate the first comment to the previous token. If this is the first token identified by the lexer, there is no previous token, so this step is skipped. The first comment in the array should be attributed as a trailing comment for the previous token if all the following criteria are met:

    • The first comment starts on the same line as the previous token or the line immediately after it. In other words, the start line of the first comment minus the line of the previous token is less than or equal to one.
    • Any of the following is true:
      • The comment array for the current token has more than one element.
      • The first comment starts on the same line as the previous token.
      • There is at least one empty line between the first comment and the current token. In other words, the line of the current token minus the end line of the first comment is greater than one.
      • The new token is a punctuation or operator token that closes a scope or grouping: one of ), ], or }.

    "Donating" the comment means removing it from the current token's array of comments and storing it as the trailing comment for the previous token.

    The last criteria above allows a leading comment for punctuation to be donated. An example will help illustrate why:

    message Foo {
    /* Foo is a funny name */
    }

    When the above is scanned by the lexer, it will see a single block comment as a leading comment on the r_brace token (}). We instead want to attribute the comment as a trailing comment on the l_brace token ({) so it can be considered a trailing comment for the message Foo. (See above for why.)

At the end of this process, the lexer's "previous token" can be updated to be the current token, for use in this process when the subsequent token is found.

When source code info is later produced for the file, the comment punctuation (like enclosing /* and */ or leading //) must be removed, as described in the doc comments.

Imports

Source code info for imports is mostly straight-forward: the locations will include paths that point to elements in the FileDescriptorProto's dependency field. But less obvious is how public and weak imports are handled.

For these kinds of imports, a location is created with a path that points to an element in the public_dependency or weak_dependency field. The span for this location points at the actual public or weak keyword in the import declaration.

example.proto
import public "foo.proto";import weak "google/protobuf/descriptor.proto";
File descriptor
{
"name": "example.proto",
"dependency": ["foo.proto", "google/protobuf/descriptor.proto"],
"source_code_info": {
"location": [
{
"path": [], // entire file
"span": [0, 0, 1, 47]
},
{
"path": [
3, // FileDescriptorProto, field `dependency`
0 // Index (first import)
],
"span": [0, 0, 26]
},
{
"path": [
10, // FileDescriptorProto, field `public_dependency`
0 // Index (first public import)
],
"span": [0, 7, 13]
},
{
"path": [
3, // FileDescriptorProto, field `dependency`
1 // Index (second import)
],
"span": [1, 0, 47]
},
{
"path": [
11, // FileDescriptorProto, field `weak_dependency`
0 // Index (first weak import)
],
"span": [1, 7, 11]
}
]
}
}

Extension Blocks

Sometimes, there will be multiple locations in the source code info that all have the same path. One of the cases when this happens is when a scope contains multiple blocks that define extension fields. (The other is when an element has multiple option declarations; read more about that below.)

In this case, each block is assigned a location whose path indicates the extension field of FileDescriptorProto or DescriptorProto (depending on whether the block is top-level or inside a message, respectively). For example, all blocks of top-level extensions have the same path: [7] (seven is the number for the extension field in FileDescriptorProto).

Any comments for the block are associated with this location. If one wanted to ascertain which individual extensions were declared inside a block, one must examine the spans of the extensions and compare to spans of the blocks. The span for an extension will be wholly enclosed within the span of its block.

example.proto
syntax = "proto3";import "google/protobuf/descriptor.proto";// Here's a leading comment for FileOptionsextend google.protobuf.FileOptions {    string file_foo = 1001;    string file_bar = 1002;    string file_baz = 1003;}extend google.protobuf.FieldOptions {    // Here's a trailing comment for FieldOptions    string field_ext1 = 1001;    string field_ext2 = 1002;}
File descriptor
{
"name": "example.proto",
// other content elided
"source_code_info": {
"location": [
// First block:
{
// whole block
"path": [
7 // FileDescriptorProto, field `extension`
],
"span": [5, 0, 9, 1],
"leading_comments": " Here's a leading comment for FileOptions\n"
},
{
"path": [
7, // FileDescriptorProto, field `extension`
0 // Index (first extension in the file)
],
"span": [6, 4, 27]
},
{
"path": [
7, // FileDescriptorProto, field `extension`
1 // Index (second extension in the file)
],
"span": [7, 4, 27]
},
{
"path": [
7, // FileDescriptorProto, field `extension`
2 // Index (third extension in the file)
],
"span": [8, 4, 27]
},
// other locations with more field details elided
// Second block:
{
// whole block
"path": [
7 // FileDescriptorProto, field `extension`
],
"span": [11, 0, 16, 1],
"trailing_comments": " Here's a trailing comment for FieldOptions\n"
},
{
"path": [
7, // FileDescriptorProto, field `extension`
3 // Index (fourth extension in the file)
],
"span": [14, 4, 29]
},
{
"path": [
7, // FileDescriptorProto, field `extension`
4 // Index (fifth & final extension in the file)
],
"span": [15, 4, 29]
}
// other locations elided
]
]
}

Extension Ranges

Another case where there will be multiple locations in the source code info that all have the same path is when a message includes multiple ExtensionRangeDecl declarations (proto2 and editions syntax only).

The corresponding field, extension_range is repeated. But, unlike with fields and nested messages, a single element in this repeated field does not correspond to a single declaration in the source file. A single declaration can indicate multiple ranges. So a path to the field, but no particular index, will be used for locations that represent a full declaration (and will include comments). And then additional paths will be used for the various ranges therein.

Since the options, if any, apply to all ranges in the declaration, there will be separate locations for each range, with paths that indicate the relevant index in the extension_range field. The spans for each range will be the same, since the same options apply to each range.

Within a single range, if the source indicated a single tag instead of start and end tags (for example 101 instead of 101 to 200), there will still be a location whose path corresponds to the end field, and its span will point to this single value.

example.proto
syntax = "proto2";import "google/protobuf/descriptor.proto";extend google.protobuf.ExtensionRangeOptions {  optional string category = 1234;}message Foo {  // this range is for options related to Kafka messages  extensions 100 to 200, 300 to 1000, 1003 [(category) = "kafka"];  // this range is for options related to Zookeeper data  extensions 201 to 299 [(category) = "zookeeper"];}
File descriptor
{
"name": "example.proto",
// other content elided
"source_code_info": {
"location": [
// First declaration:
{
// whole block
"path": [
4, // FileDescriptorProto, field `message_type`
0, // Index (first message in the file)
5 // DescriptorProto, field `extension_range`
],
"span": [7, 2, 66],
"leading_comments": " this range is for options related to Kafka messages\n"
},
{
// first single range
"path": [
4, // FileDescriptorProto, field `message_type`
0, // Index (first message in the file)
5, // DescriptorProto, field `extension_range`
0 // Index
],
"span": [7, 13, 23]
},
{
"path": [
4, // FileDescriptorProto, field `message_type`
0, // Index (first message in the file)
5, // DescriptorProto, field `extension_range`
0, // Index
1 // DescriptorProto.ExtensionRange, field `start`
],
"span": [7, 13, 16]
},
{
"path": [
4, // FileDescriptorProto, field `message_type`
0, // Index (first message in the file)
5, // DescriptorProto, field `extension_range`
0, // Index
2 // DescriptorProto.ExtensionRange, field `end`
],
"span": [7, 20, 23]
},
{
// second single range
"path": [
4, // FileDescriptorProto, field `message_type`
0, // Index (first message in the file)
5, // DescriptorProto, field `extension_range`
1 // Index
],
"span": [7, 25, 36]
},
{
"path": [
4, // FileDescriptorProto, field `message_type`
0, // Index (first message in the file)
5, // DescriptorProto, field `extension_range`
1, // Index
1 // DescriptorProto.ExtensionRange, field `start`
],
"span": [7, 25, 28]
},
{
"path": [
4, // FileDescriptorProto, field `message_type`
0, // Index (first message in the file)
5, // DescriptorProto, field `extension_range`
1, // Index
2 // DescriptorProto.ExtensionRange, field `end`
],
"span": [7, 32, 36]
},
{
// third single range (no explicit range end)
"path": [
4, // FileDescriptorProto, field `message_type`
0, // Index (first message in the file)
5, // DescriptorProto, field `extension_range`
2 // Index
],
"span": [7, 38, 42]
},
{
"path": [
4, // FileDescriptorProto, field `message_type`
0, // Index (first message in the file)
5, // DescriptorProto, field `extension_range`
2, // Index
1 // DescriptorProto.ExtensionRange, field `start`
],
"span": [7, 38, 42]
},
{
"path": [
4, // FileDescriptorProto, field `message_type`
0, // Index (first message in the file)
5, // DescriptorProto, field `extension_range`
2, // Index
2 // DescriptorProto.ExtensionRange, field `end`
],
"span": [7, 38, 42] // same span as `start`
},
{
// options for the first single range
"path": [
4, // FileDescriptorProto, field `message_type`
0, // Index (first message in the file)
5, // DescriptorProto, field `extension_range`
0, // Index
3, // DescriptorProto.ExtensionRange, field `options`
],
"span": [7, 43, 65]
},
{
"path": [
4, // FileDescriptorProto, field `message_type`
0, // Index (first message in the file)
5, // DescriptorProto, field `extension_range`
0, // Index
3, // DescriptorProto.ExtensionRange, field `options`
1234, // ExtensionRangeOptions, extension `(category)`
],
"span": [7, 44, 64]
},
{
// options for the second single range (identical to previous range)
"path": [
4, // FileDescriptorProto, field `message_type`
0, // Index (first message in the file)
5, // DescriptorProto, field `extension_range`
1, // Index
3, // DescriptorProto.ExtensionRange, field `options`
],
"span": [7, 43, 65]
},
{
"path": [
4, // FileDescriptorProto, field `message_type`
0, // Index (first message in the file)
5, // DescriptorProto, field `extension_range`
1, // Index
3, // DescriptorProto.ExtensionRange, field `options`
1234, // ExtensionRangeOptions, extension `(category)`
],
"span": [7, 44, 64]
},
{
// options for the third single range (identical to previous ranges)
"path": [
4, // FileDescriptorProto, field `message_type`
0, // Index (first message in the file)
5, // DescriptorProto, field `extension_range`
2, // Index
3, // DescriptorProto.ExtensionRange, field `options`
],
"span": [7, 43, 65]
},
{
"path": [
4, // FileDescriptorProto, field `message_type`
0, // Index (first message in the file)
5, // DescriptorProto, field `extension_range`
2, // Index
3, // DescriptorProto.ExtensionRange, field `options`
1234, // ExtensionRangeOptions, extension `(category)`
],
"span": [7, 44, 64]
},
// Second declaration:
{
// whole block
"path": [
4, // FileDescriptorProto, field `message_type`
0, // Index (first message in the file)
5 // DescriptorProto, field `extension_range`
],
"span": [9, 2, 51],
"leading_comments": " this range is for options related to Zookeeper data\n"
},
{
// first single range in declaration, but fourth overall
"path": [
4, // FileDescriptorProto, field `message_type`
0, // Index (first message in the file)
5, // DescriptorProto, field `extension_range`
3 // Index
],
"span": [9, 13, 23]
},
{
"path": [
4, // FileDescriptorProto, field `message_type`
0, // Index (first message in the file)
5, // DescriptorProto, field `extension_range`
3, // Index
1 // DescriptorProto.ExtensionRange, field `start`
],
"span": [9, 13, 16]
},
{
"path": [
4, // FileDescriptorProto, field `message_type`
0, // Index (first message in the file)
5, // DescriptorProto, field `extension_range`
3, // Index
2 // DescriptorProto.ExtensionRange, field `end`
],
"span": [9, 20, 23]
},
{
// options for the first single range
"path": [
4, // FileDescriptorProto, field `message_type`
0, // Index (first message in the file)
5, // DescriptorProto, field `extension_range`
3, // Index
3, // DescriptorProto.ExtensionRange, field `options`
],
"span": [9, 24, 50]
},
{
"path": [
4, // FileDescriptorProto, field `message_type`
0, // Index (first message in the file)
5, // DescriptorProto, field `extension_range`
0, // Index
3, // DescriptorProto.ExtensionRange, field `options`
1234, // ExtensionRangeOptions, extension `(category)`
],
"span": [9, 25, 49]
}
// other locations elided
]
}
}

Reserved Ranges and Names

Another case where there will be multiple locations in the source code info that all have the same path is when a message includes multiple MessageReservedDecl declarations or an enum includes multiple EnumReservedDecl declarations.

Like extension ranges above, these declarations correspond to repeated fields in the message and enum descriptors (named reserved_range and reserved_name). But a single declaration can correspond to multiple elements in these repeated fields. So a location will be created for each complete declaration, with a path that indicates the relevant field, and it will include comments. Then additional locations will be created for each individual range therein.

Also like extension ranges, if the source for a single range does not include an end number (for example 11 instead of 11 to 13), the span corresponding to the range end will point to that single value in the source.

example.proto
syntax = "proto3";message Foo {  // comment for message reserved ranges  reserved 1, 5000 to max;  // comment for message reserved names  reserved "bar", "baz", "buzz";}enum Bar {  BAZ = 0;  // comment for enum reserved ranges  reserved 1 to 5;  // comment for enum reserved names  reserved "BUZZ";}
File descriptor
{
"name": "example.proto",
// other content elided
"source_code_info": {
"location": [
// Message, first declaration:
{
// whole block
"path": [
4, // FileDescriptorProto, field `message_type`
0, // Index (first message in the file)
9 // DescriptorProto, field `reserved_range`
],
"span": [3, 2, 26],
"leading_comments": " comment for message reserved ranges\n"
},
{
// first single range (no explicit range end)
"path": [
4, // FileDescriptorProto, field `message_type`
0, // Index (first message in the file)
9, // DescriptorProto, field `reserved_range`
0 // Index
],
"span": [3, 11, 12]
},
{
"path": [
4, // FileDescriptorProto, field `message_type`
0, // Index (first message in the file)
9, // DescriptorProto, field `reserved_range`
0, // Index
1 // DescriptorProto.ReservedRange, field `start`
],
"span": [3, 11, 12]
},
{
"path": [
4, // FileDescriptorProto, field `message_type`
0, // Index (first message in the file)
9, // DescriptorProto, field `reserved_range`
0, // Index
2 // DescriptorProto.ReservedRange, field `end`
],
"span": [3, 11, 12]
},
{
// second single range
"path": [
4, // FileDescriptorProto, field `message_type`
0, // Index (first message in the file)
9, // DescriptorProto, field `reserved_range`
1 // Index
],
"span": [3, 14, 25]
},
{
"path": [
4, // FileDescriptorProto, field `message_type`
0, // Index (first message in the file)
9, // DescriptorProto, field `reserved_range`
1, // Index
1 // DescriptorProto.ReservedRange, field `start`
],
"span": [3, 14, 18]
},
{
"path": [
4, // FileDescriptorProto, field `message_type`
0, // Index (first message in the file)
9, // DescriptorProto, field `reserved_range`
1, // Index
2 // DescriptorProto.ReservedRange, field `end`
],
"span": [3, 22, 25]
},
// Message, second declaration:
{
// whole block
"path": [
4, // FileDescriptorProto, field `message_type`
0, // Index (first message in the file)
10 // DescriptorProto, field `reserved_name`
],
"span": [5, 2, 32],
"leading_comments": " comment for message reserved names\n"
},
{
// first element
"path": [
4, // FileDescriptorProto, field `message_type`
0, // Index (first message in the file)
10, // DescriptorProto, field `reserved_name`
0 // Index
],
"span": [5, 11, 16]
},
{
// second element
"path": [
4, // FileDescriptorProto, field `message_type`
0, // Index (first message in the file)
10, // DescriptorProto, field `reserved_name`
1 // Index
],
"span": [5, 18, 23]
},
{
// third element
"path": [
4, // FileDescriptorProto, field `message_type`
0, // Index (first message in the file)
10, // DescriptorProto, field `reserved_name`
2 // Index
],
"span": [5, 25, 31]
},
// Enum, first declaration:
{
// whole block
"path": [
5, // FileDescriptorProto, field `emum_type`
0, // Index (first enum in the file)
4 // EnumDescriptorProto, field `reserved_range`
],
"span": [10, 2, 18],
"leading_comments": " comment for enum reserved ranges\n"
},
{
// sole single range
"path": [
5, // FileDescriptorProto, field `emum_type`
0, // Index (first enum in the file)
4 // EnumDescriptorProto, field `reserved_range`
0 // Index
],
"span": [10, 11, 17]
},
{
"path": [
5, // FileDescriptorProto, field `emum_type`
0, // Index (first enum in the file)
4 // EnumDescriptorProto, field `reserved_range`
0, // Index
1 // EnumDescriptorProto.ReservedRange, field `start`
],
"span": [10, 11, 12]
},
{
"path": [
5, // FileDescriptorProto, field `emum_type`
0, // Index (first enum in the file)
4 // EnumDescriptorProto, field `reserved_range`
0, // Index
2 // EnumDescriptorProto.ReservedRange, field `end`
],
"span": [10, 16, 17]
},
// Enum, second declaration:
{
// whole block
"path": [
5, // FileDescriptorProto, field `emum_type`
0, // Index (first enum in the file)
5 // EnumDescriptorProto, field `reserved_name`
],
"span": [12, 2, 18],
"leading_comments": " comment for enum reserved names\n"
},
{
// sole element
"path": [
5, // FileDescriptorProto, field `emum_type`
0, // Index (first enum in the file)
5 // EnumDescriptorProto, field `reserved_name`
0 // Index
],
"span": [12, 11, 17]
}
// other locations elided
]
}
}

Options

A source code info location is created for each option declaration. The path for that location indicates the path to the field specified by the option name. This path includes all components of the option name, resolved to field numbers. The span for that location will be the entire option declaration (starting with the option keyword and ending with the semicolon ;).

A field declaration has two pseudo-options: values that are declared as if they were options, but are not fields inside of a FieldOptions message.

  1. default: When a default option is present (proto2 and editions syntax only), the path for the corresponding location will indicate the default_value field of FieldDescriptorProto.
  2. json_name: When a json_name option is present, the path for the corresponding location will indicate the json_name field of FieldDescriptorProto.

The source code info will also contain one or more locations whose path indicates the options field itself. This will be a prefix of the path that corresponds to a particular field specified by an option name.

When the compact syntax is used for options (for fields, enum values, and extension ranges), the span for this path indicates the entire set of options, including the enclosing brackets ([ and ]).

For non-compact option declarations, the span for the path indicates the entire declaration, from the option keyword to the trailing semicolon (;). If an element has multiple options, there will be a separate location for each option, but each with the same path.

Here's an example file and below are the corresponding source code info entries:

example.proto
syntax = "proto3";import "google/api/annotation.proto";message Foo {    repeated uint32 bar = 1 [        json_name = "BAR",        packed = false    ];}service ExampleService {    rpc Baz(Foo) returns (Foo) {        option (google.api.http).post = "/foo/bar/baz/";        option (google.api.http).body = "*";    }}
File descriptor
{
"name": "example.proto",
// other content elided
"source_code_info": {
"location": [
// Field options:
{
// (path for `options` field; span encompasses all compact options)
"path": [
4, // FileDescriptorProto, field `message_type`
0, // Index (first message in the file)
2, // DescriptorProto, field `field`
0, // Index (first field in message)
8 // FieldDescriptorProto, field `options`
],
"span": [5, 28, 8, 5]
},
{
"path": [
4, // FileDescriptorProto, field `message_type`
0, // Index (first message in the file)
2, // DescriptorProto, field `field`
0, // Index (first field in message)
10 // FieldDescriptorProto, field `json_name`
],
"span": [6, 8, 25]
},
{
"path": [
4, // FileDescriptorProto, field `message_type`
0, // Index (first message in the file)
2, // DescriptorProto, field `field`
0, // Index (first field in message)
8, // FieldDescriptorProto, field `options`
2 // FieldOptions, field `packed`
],
"span": [7, 8, 22]
},
// Method options:
{
// (path for `options` field; repeated for each option)
"path": [
6, // FileDescriptorProto, field `service`
0, // Index (first service in the file)
2, // ServiceDescriptorProto, field `method`
0, // Index (first method in service)
4 // MethodDescriptorProto, field `options`
],
"span": [13, 8, 56]
},
{
"path": [
6, // FileDescriptorProto, field `service`
0, // Index (first service in the file)
2, // ServiceDescriptorProto, field `method`
0, // Index (first method in service)
4, // MethodDescriptorProto, field `options`
72295728, // MethodOptions, extension `google.api.http`
4 // HttpRule, field `post`
],
"span": [13, 8, 56]
},
{
// (path for `options` field; here it is again)
"path": [
6, // FileDescriptorProto, field `service`
0, // Index (first service in the file)
2, // ServiceDescriptorProto, field `method`
0, // Index (first method in service)
4, // MethodDescriptorProto, field `options`
],
"span": [14, 8, 44]
},
{
"path": [
6, // FileDescriptorProto, field `service`
0, // Index (first service in the file)
2, // ServiceDescriptorProto, field `method`
0, // Index (first method in service)
4, // MethodDescriptorProto, field `options`
72295728, // MethodOptions, extension `google.api.http`
7 // HttpRule, field `body`
],
"span": [14, 8, 44]
}
// other locations elided
]
}
}