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DFM Parser - Felix John COLIBRI.

  • abstract : This project parses the content of a .DFM text and builds an in-memory tree of its content
  • key words : .DFM, parser, BNF, EBNF, IEBNF, scanner
  • software used : Windows XP, Delphi 6
  • hardware used : Pentium 1.400Mhz, 256 M memory, 140 G hard disc
  • scope : Delphi 1 to 2005 for Windows, Kylix
  • level : Delphi developer
  • plan :


1 - Introduction

When we download open source Delphi projects, it sometimes happens that all the components are not included with the project. Therefore we have created a utility which reconstitutes the components, simply analyzing the client code.

This utility examines the .Dfm and the .Pas, finding all the Class fields and methods to rebuild a "shadow" component which then can be included in the project.

The first step of this utility is to analyze the .Dfm. The analysis is performed by parsing the .Dfm and storing the content in a tree-like structure. The parser and the structure are presented in this paper.




2 - The Delphi Dfm Parser

2.1 - Binary and Textual .DFM

Our parser only analyses textual .Dfm files. If the .Dfm you wish to analyze is in binary format, we use CONVERT.EXE which is a binary to text conversion utility located in the BIN folder of Delphi (since Delphi 1). In fact we use a utility which converts all the binary .Dfms in a path to their textual form. This is simple to do and will not be shown here.



2.2 - The Structure of a .DFM

A .Dfm is organized in a hierarchical way, showing each component placed on the tForm and the properties whose values are not the default values initialized by the CONSTRUCTOR.



Here is a simple Delphi Form:

If we select "View as Text" in the contextual menu of the Form Designer, we see the following .Dfm content:

 
object Form1: TForm1
  Left = 192
  Top = 107
  Width = 463
  Height = 224
  Cursor = crHourGlass
  Caption = 'Form1'
  Color = clBtnFace
  Font.Charset = DEFAULT_CHARSET
  Font.Color = clWindowText
  Font.Height = -11
  Font.Name = 'MS Sans Serif'
  Font.Style = []
  OldCreateOrder = False
  PixelsPerInch = 96
  TextHeight = 13
  object ListBox1: TListBox
    Left = 8
    Top = 8
    Width = 217
    Height = 73
    Color = 8454143
    ItemHeight = 13
    Items.Strings = (
      'Felix COLIBRI Delphi Training Sessions:'
      ' + UML and Design Patterns'
      ' + Interbase Applications'
      ' + Object Oriented Programming'
      ' + Client Server Database')
    TabOrder = 1
  end
  object DBGrid1: TDBGrid
    Left = 240
    Top = 8
    Width = 209
    Height = 89
    Options = [dgTitles, dgIndicator, dgColumnResize, dgColLines, dgRowLines, dgTabs, dgRowSelect, dgConfirmDelete, dgCancelOnExit]
    TabOrder = 0
    TitleFont.Charset = DEFAULT_CHARSET
    TitleFont.Color = clWindowText
    TitleFont.Height = -11
    TitleFont.Name = 'MS Sans Serif'
    TitleFont.Style = []
    Columns = <
      item
        Expanded = False
        Visible = True
      end
      item
        Expanded = False
        Visible = True
      end>
  end
  object Panel1: TPanel
    Left = 8
    Top = 104
    Width = 145
    Height = 57
    TabOrder = 2
    object CheckBox1: TCheckBox
      Left = 8
      Top = 8
      Width = 97
      Height = 17
      Caption = 'CheckBox1'
      TabOrder = 0
    end
    object CheckBox2: TCheckBox
      Left = 8
      Top = 32
      Width = 97
      Height = 17
      Caption = 'CheckBox2'
      TabOrder = 1
    end
  end
  object Image1: TImage
    Left = 240
    Top = 104
    Width = 97
    Height = 89
    Picture.Data = {
      07544269746D617036550000424D365500000000000036000000280000005500
      000055000000010018000000000000550000C40E0000C40E0000000000000000
// -- removed
      FFBBFFFFBBFFFFBBFFFFBBFFFFBBFFFFBBFFFFBBFFFFBBFFFFBBFFFFBBFFFFBB
      FF16}
  end
end



The coding conventions of the .Dfm file are as follows:

  • for simple types (Integer, Boolean, String, ), the value is simply saved after "="

     
    object Form1TForm1
      Left = 192
      Cursor = crHourGlass
      Caption = 'Form1'
      Color = clBtnFace
      OldCreateOrder = False
      ...
    end

  • for sets, the values are stored between "[" and "]"

     
      object DBGrid1TDBGrid
        ...
        Options = [dgTitlesdgIndicatordgColumnResizedgColLines
            dgRowLinesdgTabsdgRowSelectdgConfirmDeletedgCancelOnExit]
        ...
        TitleFont.Style = []
        ...
      end 

  • for tStrings and tList, the values are between "(" and ")":

     
      object ListBox1TListBox
        ...
        Items.Strings = (
          'Felix COLIBRI Delphi Training Sessions:'
          '    +  UML and Design Patterns'
          '    +  Interbase Applications'
          '    +  Object Oriented Programming'
          '    +  Client Server Database')
        ...
      end

  • for binary values (bitmaps for glyphs etc), the hexadecimal content is saved between "{" and "}"

     
      object Image1TImage
        ...
        Picture.Data = {
          07544269746D617036550000424D365500000000000036000000280000005500
          000055000000010018000000000000550000C40E0000C40E0000000000000000
          ... 
          FF16}
        ... 
      end

  • for collections, the delimiters are "<" and ">", with each item in between. And for each item, between the item name and "end", we have the property name and value

     
      object DBGrid1TDBGrid
        ...
        Columns = <
          item
            Expanded = False
            Visible = True
          end
          item
            Expanded = False
            Visible = True
          end>
        ...
      end

  • for sub properties (like Font), the property name is composed with the property name and the sub-property name:

     
    object Form1TForm1
      ...
      Font.Charset = DEFAULT_CHARSET
      Font.Color = clWindowText
      Font.Height = -11
      Font.Name = 'MS Sans Serif'
      Font.Style = []
      ...
    end

  • components dropped on a container are nested within the container definition:

     
    object Form1TForm1
      ...
      object Panel1TPanel
        ...
        object CheckBox1TCheckBox
          Left = 8
          ...
        end
      end
      ...
    end



We did not find other cases, but did not check the Delphi Sources, which would determine all the possibilities.



2.3 - .Dfm Grammar

In order to parse the .Dfm content, we first started to build a grammar. We are using recursive descent parsing since 1980, as explained by Niklaus WIRTH, and have automated the parsing process, like so many other programmers have done (Yacc: Yet Another Compiler's Compiler).

Let us present a simple example here. A simple arithmetic expression like:

 
value:= amount * ( 1+ rate / 100.0 );

can be analyzed by the following grammar:

 
assignmentNAME ':=expression ';.
expression= [ '+' | '-' ] term { ( '+' | '-' ) term }  .
termfactor { ( '*' | '/' ) factor }  .
factorNUMBER | NAME | '(expression ').

This grammar is recursive, since expression calls term, which calls factor, which calls expression. However the "entry point" is always expression, and never "factor". Therefore, a possible Pascal structure for a parser could be:

PROCEDURE parse_assignment;

  PROCEDURE parse_expression;
    
    PROCEDURE parse_term;
      
      PROCEDURE parse_factor;
        BEGIN
          CASE f_symbol_type OF
            e_string_litteral_symbol : read_symbol;
            e_integer_litteral_symbol:
                read_symbol;
            e_IDENTIFIER_symbol :
                read_symbol;
            e_opening_parenthesis_symbol : 
                BEGIN
                  read_symbol;
                  parse_expression;
                  check(e_closing_parenthesis_symbol);
                  read_symbol;
                END// n
            ELSE display_error('NUMBER, NAME, (');
          END// case   
        END// parse_factor
    
      BEGIN // parse_term
        parse_factor;

        WHILE f_symbol_type IN [e_times_symbole_divide_symbolDO
        BEGIN
          IF f_symbol_type IN [e_times_symbole_divide_symbol]
            THEN read_symbol
            ELSE display_error('*, /');
          parse_factor;
        END// WHILE 
      END// parse_term
  
    BEGIN // parse_expression
      parse_term;

      WHILE f_symbol_type IN [e_plus_symbole_minus_symbolDO
      BEGIN
        IF f_symbol_type IN [e_plus_symbole_minus_symbol]
          THEN read_symbol
          ELSE display_error('+, -');
        parse_term;
      END// WHILE 
    END// parse_expression

  BEGIN // parse_assignment
    // -- skip the lhs
    read_symbol;
    check(e_assign_symbol);
    // -- skip ":="
    read_symbol;

    parse_expression;

    check(e_semi_colon_symbol);
    read_symbol;
  END// parse_assignment

Notice that the parse_factor procedure is nested in the parse_term procedure, which is nested in the parse_expression procedure, which is nested in the parse_assignment procedure.



Therefore we are using the Indented Extended Backus Naur Formalism to specify a grammar. In our case, the grammar would be:

 
assignmentNAME ':=expression ';.
  expression= [ '+' | '-' ] term { ( '+' | '-' ) term }  .
    termfactor { ( '*' | '/' ) factor }  .
      factorNUMBER | NAME | '(expression ').

The indentation has the same benefit as indentation in a programming language, or the chapter in a book: it helps structure the program, the book, or the specification in our case. In addition we use a "folding editor" when we build the grammar (the same technique that Delphi added to Delphi 2005 editor: we can edit "by level").

I am fully aware that this nesting is not politically correct. In our days of object programming, we are supposed to put all the procedures in the CLASS, and this will yield smaller procedures, and also give other a chance to reuse these procedures. The data is transfered from call to call either thru parameters, or by using CLASS "mailbox" attributes: the caller saves the values there, and the callee grabs them from the attributes. So finding today nesting beyond level 1 is quite rare. Wirth went down to the level 8 in the P4 compiler, and if it was good enough for Wirth, is certainly is good enough for me. Therefore I am not afraid to nest whenever I can. And if you have deep recursive programs, you will get used to nest local data and combine value or variable parameters to avoid the declarations of over-parametrized procedures only called from one place, and of those mailbox attributes. In fact, locality is the name of the game: if you understand local variables, then you should understand the benefit of nesting procedures. For our little expression grammar, or even for the .Dfm grammar below, it does not make any difference whether you nest or not. But when the grammar increases in size (Pure Pascal: 100 lines, Delphi: 300, Sql: 500 for Interbase, beyond 3.000 for Sql 92) then structuring becomes important.

We are using this IEBNF since a long time. And we have grammars for nearly everything: for Delphi, for C, Java, C++, for HTML, Oberon, Sql, Interbase eSql, Pdf, Zip etc. Just give us a name and we have a grammar for it. Some of my friends call me a grammar junkie. Whenever I have to spelunk into some kind of structured information, I build the grammar first, launch the parser generator and start programming from there.



In the case of the .Dfm grammar, the structure is the following:

 
dfmobject .
  objectOBJECT NAME ':TYPE_NAME
      property { property } { object } END .
    propertyNAME [ '.NAME ] '=value .
      valueINTEGER | DOUBLE | TRUE | FALSE | STRING
          | NAME [ '.NAME ]
          | '[' [ value { ',value } ] ']'
          | '(value  { [ '+' ] value }  ')'
          | '{value { value } '}'
          | '<collection_item { collection_item } '>.
        collection_itemNAME property { property } END .



2.4 - The Scanner

The scanner is quite easy to write. The definition is the following:

 t_dfm_symbol_type= (e_unknown_symbol,
                      e_integer_symbole_double_symbole_string_litteral_symbol,

                      e_colon_symbole_equal_symbole_point_symbol,
                      e_comma_symbole_plus_symbol,
                      e_opening_parenthesis_symbole_closing_parenthesis_symbol,
                      e_opening_bracket_symbole_closing_bracket_symbol,
                      e_opening_brace_symbole_closing_brace_symbol,
                      e_lower_symbole_greater_symbol,

                      e_identifier_symbol,
                      e_object_symbole_end_symbol,
                      e_TRUE_symbole_FALSE_symbol,

                      e_end_of_parse_symbol,
                   );

 c_dfm_scannerclass(c_text_file)
                  m_dfm_symbol_typet_dfm_symbol_type;
                  m_blank_stringm_symbol_stringString;
                  // -- accept as number values starting with A..Z
                  m_in_braceBoolean;

                  constructor create_dfm_scanner(p_namep_file_nameString);
                  function f_initializedBoolean;
                  function f_read_symbolBoolean;
                  destructor DestroyOverride;
                end// c_dfm_scanner



The main routine which isolates one symbol is (not all methods shown):

function c_dfm_scanner.f_read_symbolBoolean;

  procedure get_identifier;
    var l_startInteger;
    begin
      m_dfm_symbol_type:= e_identifier_symbol;
      l_start:= m_buffer_index;
      while (m_buffer_indexm_buffer_sizeand (m_pt_buffer[m_buffer_indexin k_identifierdo
        inc(m_buffer_index);

      m_symbol_string:= f_extract_string_start_end(l_startm_buffer_index- 1);

      if m_symbol_string'object'
        then m_dfm_symbol_type:= e_object_symbol else
      if m_symbol_string'end'
        then m_dfm_symbol_type:= e_end_symbol else
      if LowerCase(m_symbol_string)= 'true'
        then m_dfm_symbol_type:= e_true_symbol else
      if LowerCase(m_symbol_string)= 'false'
        then m_dfm_symbol_type:= e_false_symbol else
    end// get_identifier

  // -- ... the other extraction procedure here

  begin // f_read_symbol
    m_symbol_string:= '';
    m_dfm_symbol_type:= e_unknown_symbol;

    if f_end_of_text
      then begin
          Result:= False;
          m_dfm_symbol_type:= e_end_of_parse_symbol;
        end
      else begin
          get_blanks;

          if m_buffer_indexm_buffer_size
            then begin
                case m_pt_buffer[m_buffer_indexof
                  'a'..'z''A'..'Z' :
                      if m_in_brace and (m_pt_buffer[m_buffer_indexin k_hex_digits)
                        then get_number
                        else get_identifier;
                  '-''0'..'9' : get_number;
                  ':' : get_one_operator(e_colon_symbol);
                  '.' : get_one_operator(e_point_symbol);
                  '=' : get_one_operator(e_equal_symbol);
                  ',' : get_one_operator(e_comma_symbol);
                  '+' : get_one_operator(e_plus_symbol);
                  ''''get_string_litteral;
                  '(' : get_one_operator(e_opening_parenthesis_symbol);
                  ')' : get_one_operator(e_closing_parenthesis_symbol);
                  '[' : get_one_operator(e_opening_bracket_symbol);
                  ']' : get_one_operator(e_closing_bracket_symbol);
                  '{' : begin
                          m_in_brace:= True;
                          get_one_operator(e_opening_brace_symbol);
                        end;
                  '}' : begin
                          get_one_operator(e_closing_brace_symbol);
                          m_in_brace:= False;
                        end;
                  '<' : get_one_operator(e_lower_symbol);
                  '>' : get_one_operator(e_greater_symbol);
                  else
                    display_bug_stop('unknown_char_in_dfm 'm_pt_buffer[m_buffer_index]
                        + '< 'IntToStr(Ord(m_pt_buffer[m_buffer_index])));
                end// case
              end
            else m_dfm_symbol_type:= e_end_of_parse_symbol;

          Result:= True;
        end// not eof
  end// f_read_symbol



2.5 - The Parser

The parser is derived from our Grammar. It simply checks that the .Dfm selected corresponds to our grammar or not:

PROCEDURE pure_parse_dfm;

  PROCEDURE parse_object;

    PROCEDURE parse_property;

      PROCEDURE parse_value;

        PROCEDURE parse_collection_item;
          BEGIN
            check(e_IDENTIFIER_symbol);
            read_symbol;
            parse_property;
            WHILE f_symbol_typee_IDENTIFIER_symbol DO
              parse_property;
            check(e_END_symbol);
            read_symbol;
          END// parse_collection_item

        BEGIN // parse_value
          CASE f_symbol_type OF
            e_INTEGER_symbol : 
                read_symbol;
            e_DOUBLE_symbol : 
                read_symbol;
            e_TRUE_symbol : 
                read_symbol;
            e_FALSE_symbol : 
                read_symbol;
            e_STRING_LITTERAL_symbol : 
                read_symbol;
            e_IDENTIFIER_symbol : 
                BEGIN
                  read_symbol;
                  IF f_symbol_typee_point_symbol
                    THEN BEGIN
                        read_symbol;
                        check(e_IDENTIFIER_symbol);
                        read_symbol;
                      END// IF [
                END// n

            e_opening_bracket_symbol :
                BEGIN
                  read_symbol;

                  IF f_symbol_type IN [e_INTEGER_symbole_DOUBLE_symbol
                      e_TRUE_symbole_FALSE_symbole_STRING_LITTERAL_symbol,
                      e_IDENTIFIER_symbole_opening_bracket_symbol
                      e_opening_parenthesis_symbole_opening_brace_symbole_lower_symbol]
                    THEN BEGIN
                        parse_value;
                        WHILE f_symbol_typee_comma_symbol DO
                        BEGIN
                          read_symbol;
                          parse_value;
                        END// WHILE {
                      END// IF [

                  check(e_closing_bracket_symbol);
                  read_symbol;
                END// n
            e_opening_parenthesis_symbol :
                BEGIN
                  read_symbol;
                  parse_value;

                  WHILE f_symbol_type IN [e_plus_symbol,
                      e_INTEGER_symbole_DOUBLE_symbole_TRUE_symbole_FALSE_symbol
                      e_STRING_litteral_symbole_identifier_symbole_opening_bracket_symbol
                      e_opening_parenthesis_symbole_opening_brace_symbolDO
                  BEGIN
                    if f_symbol_typee_plus_symbol
                      then read_symbol;
                    parse_value;
                  END// WHILE {
                  check(e_closing_parenthesis_symbol);
                  read_symbol;
                END// n
            e_opening_brace_symbol :
                BEGIN
                  read_symbol;
                  parse_value;
                  WHILE f_symbol_type IN [e_INTEGER_symbole_DOUBLE_symbol
                      e_TRUE_symbole_FALSE_symbole_STRING_LITTERAL_symbol,
                      e_IDENTIFIER_symbole_opening_bracket_symbol
                      e_opening_parenthesis_symbole_opening_brace_symbole_lower_symbolDO
                    parse_value;
                  check(e_closing_brace_symbol);
                  read_symbol;
                END// n
            e_lower_symbol :
                BEGIN
                  read_symbol;
                  parse_collection_item;
                  WHILE f_symbol_typee_IDENTIFIER_symbol DO
                    parse_collection_item;
                  check(e_greater_symbol);
                  read_symbol;
                END// n
            ELSE display_error('INTEGER, DOUBLE, TRUE, FALSE, STRING, NAME, [, (, {, <');
          END// case
        END// parse_value

      BEGIN // parse_property
        parse_object;
      check(e_END_symbol);
      read_symbol;
    END// parse_object

  BEGIN // pure_parse_dfm
    parse_object;
  END// 



Knowing that the IDE has build a correct .Dfm is quite an achievement. So the real part starts now: we have to add to the parsing routines the code that performs some useful task.

We can either embed in the parser the code which will work on the .Dfm, or build intermediate structures, which will in turn be used to operate on the .Dfm. We chose the second solution, and will present now the structure that we will build.

Also note that this is quite similar to the handling of .XML files: parsing is trivial, but the difficult part is building the layers that will manipulate the file, either as call backs, or as a tree structure.



The Data Structure

The .Dfm grammar (and the samples) show that the .Dfm is composed of

  • an object node
  • the object contains
    • a list of properties
    • a list of sub objects
So the structure is simply a class for the object, with two lists for sub objects and sub properties.

Each property has a name and a (list of) value(s).

The only choice came from the collections: we chose to represent them as a kind of object list nested inside a property:

  • the list correspond to the "<>" part
  • the objects correspond to the the items, with the NAME and END
  • each object of this object list has properties (NAME= VALUE)
This can be represented with the following diagram:



This picture has been build using our "delphi-like" picture editor (Palette, Inspector, Design surface etc.). To be able to move, resize, save the figures, we use an in-memory structure. This structure can then be used to generate the corresponding unit, with the CLASSes.

In addition to the members and methods, we can also generate some standard CLASSes, like object lists using tList or tStringList. To detect which CLASS should be generated from a List container, we can either simple check for the "_list" suffix, or use a more complex syntax with all kind of original / replacement parameters. In our case, we have a single kind of list, with only the name of the object as a parameter, so the "_list" suffix rule is enough. Our starting skeletton is:

// 001 u_c_xxx_list
// 24 jan 2005

(*$r+*)

unit u_c_xxx_list;
  interface
    uses Classesu_c_basic_object;

    type c_xxx// one "xxx"
                Class(c_basic_object)
                  // -- m_name:

                  Constructor create_xxx(p_nameString);
                  function f_display_xxxString;
                  function f_c_selfc_xxx;
                  Destructor DestroyOverride;
                end// c_xxx

         c_xxx_list// "xxx" list
                     Class(c_basic_object)
                       m_c_xxx_listtStringList;

                       Constructor create_xxx_list(p_nameString);

                       function f_xxx_countInteger;
                       function f_c_xxx(p_xxx_indexInteger): c_xxx;
                       function f_index_of_xxx(p_xxx_nameString): Integer;
                       function f_c_find_by_xxx(p_xxx_nameString): c_xxx;
                       procedure add_xxx(p_xxx_nameStringp_c_xxxc_xxx);
                       function f_c_add_xxx(p_xxx_nameString): c_xxx;
                       function f_c_add_unique_xxx(p_xxx_nameString): c_xxx;
                       procedure display_xxx_list;

                       Destructor DestroyOverride;
                     end// c_xxx_list

  implementation
    uses SysUtilsu_display;

    // -- c_xxx

    Constructor c_xxx.create_xxx(p_nameString);
      begin
        Inherited create_basic_object(p_name);
      end// create_xxx

    function c_xxx.f_display_xxxString;
      begin
        Result:= Format('%-10s ', [m_name]);
      end// f_display_xxx

    function c_xxx.f_c_selfc_xxx;
      begin
        Result:= Self;
      end// f_c_self

    Destructor c_xxx.Destroy;
      begin
        InHerited;
      end// Destroy

    // -- c_xxx_list

    Constructor c_xxx_list.create_xxx_list(p_nameString);
      begin
        Inherited create_basic_object(p_name);

        m_c_xxx_list:= tStringList.Create;
      end// create_xxx_line

    function c_xxx_list.f_xxx_countInteger;
      begin
        Result:= m_c_xxx_list.Count;
      end// f_xxx_count

    function c_xxx_list.f_c_xxx(p_xxx_indexInteger): c_xxx;
      begin
        Result:= c_xxx(m_c_xxx_list.Objects[p_xxx_index]);
      end//  f_c_xxx

    function c_xxx_list.f_index_of_xxx(p_xxx_nameString): Integer;
      begin
        Result:= m_c_xxx_list.IndexOf(p_xxx_name);
      end// f_index_of_xxx

    function c_xxx_list.f_c_find_by_xxx(p_xxx_nameString): c_xxx;
      var l_index_ofInteger;
      begin
        l_index_of:= f_index_of_xxx(p_xxx_name);
        if l_index_of< 0
          then Result:= Nil
          else Result:= c_xxx(m_c_xxx_list.Objects[l_index_of]);
      end// f_c_find_by_name

    procedure c_xxx_list.add_xxx(p_xxx_nameStringp_c_xxxc_xxx);
      begin
        m_c_xxx_list.AddObject(p_xxx_namep_c_xxx);
      end// add_xxx

    function c_xxx_list.f_c_add_xxx(p_xxx_nameString): c_xxx;
      begin
        Result:= c_xxx.create_xxx(p_xxx_name);
        m_c_xxx_list.AddObject(p_xxx_nameResult);
      end// f_c_add_xxx

    function c_xxx_list.f_c_add_unique_xxx(p_xxx_nameString): c_xxx;
      var l_index_ofInteger;
      begin
        l_index_of:= f_index_of_xxx(p_xxx_name);
        if l_index_of>= 0
          then Result:= f_c_xxx(l_index_of)
          else Result:= f_c_add_xxx(p_xxx_name);
      end// f_c_add_unique_xxx

    procedure c_xxx_list.display_xxx_list;
      var l_xxx_indexInteger;
      begin
        display(m_name' 'IntToStr(f_xxx_count));

        for l_xxx_index:= 0 to f_xxx_count- 1 do
          display(f_c_xxx(l_xxx_index).f_display_xxx);
      end// display_xxx_list

    Destructor c_xxx_list.Destroy;
      var l_xxx_indexInteger;
      begin
        for l_xxx_index:= 0 to f_xxx_count- 1 do
          f_c_xxx(l_xxx_index).Free;
        m_c_xxx_list.Free;

        Inherited;
      end// Destroy

    begin // u_c_xxx_list
    end// 



By using the figure's data, the skeletton list and a simple generator, we get the unit which will represent the .Dfm's structure. After adding some members (not shown in the UML diagram), we then obtain the following definition:

 c_dfm_object_listClass// forward

 c_dfm_property// one "property"
                 Class(c_basic_object)
                   // -- m_name: the property name

                   // -- if "Font.Color"
                   m_c_name_listtStringList;

                   // -- if object tree, value  "xxx= yyy.zzz" saved
                   // --   as 3 values "yyy" "." "zzz"
                   m_c_value_listtStringList;
                   m_is_setBoolean;
                   m_has_braceBoolean;
                   m_is_listBoolean;
                   m_is_collectionBoolean;
                   // -- modeled as an object list
                   m_c_dfm_collection_object_listc_dfm_object_list;

                   m_property_typet_dfm_symbol_type;

                   Constructor create_dfm_property(p_nameString);

                   function f_display_dfm_propertyString;
                   function f_c_selfc_dfm_property;
                   procedure add_name(p_nameString);
                   procedure add_value(p_valueString);
                   procedure add_unique_value(p_valueString);
                   procedure update_property_type(p_property_typet_dfm_symbol_type);
                   function f_display_value_listString;
                   function f_display_tree_value_listString;
                   function f_display_name_listString;

                   Destructor DestroyOverride;
                 end// c_dfm_property

 c_dfm_property_list// "property" list
                      Class(c_basic_object)
                        m_c_dfm_property_listtStringList;

                        Constructor create_dfm_property_list(p_nameString);

                        function f_dfm_property_countInteger;
                        function f_c_dfm_property(p_dfm_property_indexInteger): c_dfm_property;
                        function f_index_of(p_dfm_property_nameString): Integer;
                        function f_c_find_by_dfm_property(p_dfm_property_nameString): c_dfm_property;
                        procedure add_dfm_property(p_dfm_property_nameStringp_c_dfm_propertyc_dfm_property);
                        function f_c_add_dfm_property(p_dfm_property_nameString): c_dfm_property;
                        function f_c_add_unique_dfm_property(p_dfm_property_nameString): c_dfm_property;
                        procedure display_dfm_property_list;

                        Destructor DestroyOverride;
                      end// c_dfm_property_list

 c_dfm_objectClass// Forward

 c_dfm_object_list// "dfm_object" list
                    Class(c_basic_object)
                      m_c_dfm_object_listtStringList;
                      m_is_collectionBoolean;

                      Constructor create_dfm_object_list(p_nameString);

                      function f_dfm_object_countInteger;
                      function f_c_dfm_object(p_dfm_object_indexInteger): c_dfm_object;
                      function f_index_of(p_dfm_object_nameString): Integer;
                      function f_c_find_by_dfm_object(p_dfm_object_nameString): c_dfm_object;
                      procedure add_dfm_object(p_dfm_object_nameStringp_c_dfm_objectc_dfm_object);
                      function f_c_add_dfm_object(p_dfm_object_nameString): c_dfm_object;
                      function f_c_add_unique_dfm_object(p_dfm_object_nameString): c_dfm_object;
                      procedure display_dfm_object_list;

                      procedure display_dfm_object_and_properties;

                      Destructor DestroyOverride;
                    end// c_dfm_object_list

 c_dfm_object// one "dfm_object"
               Class(c_basic_object)
                 // -- m_name: the object name
                 m_object_nameString;
                 m_is_collectionBoolean;

                 m_c_dfm_object_listc_dfm_object_list;
                 m_c_dfm_property_listc_dfm_property_list;

                 Constructor create_dfm_object(p_nameString);
                 function f_display_dfm_objectString;
                 function f_c_selfc_dfm_object;
                 procedure display_dfm_object_tree;

                 // -- for comparision with scanned text
                 procedure save_to_txt(p_scanner_full_file_namep_full_file_nameString);
                 // -- for "true" generation
                 procedure generate_indented_text(p_full_file_nameString);

                 Destructor DestroyOverride;
               end// c_dfm_object



The body of those classes, as well as the building of the the structure are in the companion .ZIP.



2.6 - Using the Parser

To use the parser
   select the path and click the .DFM you want to analyze
   the parser builds the data structure
   to visualize the data structure, select "display"
   the projects displays the indented content of the tree:




2.7 - Why a parser ?

Here are a couple of examples about how we use the parser:
  • to modify some .DFM's (removing or changing some properties). For instance, one of our customer requested the use of Quick Report. To my astonishment, you cannot resize some qrdbText or qrLabel without manually repositionning the components to the right of the resized component. The parser was used to automatically recompute the components sizes: we simply start from the left, and adjust the Left by computing the previous Left plus the previous Width

  • to create "stub components". Quick Report again: the components need a connection to a valid printer. The printer was on a network which was not always connected. So we built a "phoney quick report" component suite, allowing us to still work with the parts which did not depend on the report layout.
  • we also used the parser to shift from one Report generator to another. Guess who was involved once again ?


If such applications are of some interest to you, just send us a mail at fcolibri@felix-colibri.com, and we will try to publish some of the projects using the .dfm parser.




3 - Download the Sources

Here are the source code files:
  • parse_dfm.zip: the project with the parser and the data structure (51 K)
The .ZIP file(s) contain:
  • the main program (.DPR, .DOF, .RES), the main form (.PAS, .DFM), and any other auxiliary form
  • any .TXT for parameters, samples, test data
  • all units (.PAS) for units
Those .ZIP
  • are self-contained: you will not need any other product (unless expressly mentioned).
  • for Delphi 6 projects, can be used from any folder (the pathes are RELATIVE)
  • will not modify your PC in any way beyond the path where you placed the .ZIP (no registry changes, no path creation etc).
To use the .ZIP:
  • create or select any folder of your choice
  • unzip the downloaded file
  • using Delphi, compile and execute
To remove the .ZIP simply delete the folder.

The Pascal code uses the Alsacian notation, which prefixes identifier by program area: K_onstant, T_ype, G_lobal, L_ocal, P_arametre, F_unction, C_lass etc. This notation is presented in the Alsacian Notation paper.



As usual:

  • please tell us at fcolibri@felix-colibri.com if you found some errors, mistakes, bugs, broken links or had some problem downloading the file. Resulting corrections will be helpful for other readers
  • we welcome any comment, criticism, enhancement, other sources or reference suggestion. Just send an e-mail to fcolibri@felix-colibri.com.
  • or more simply, enter your (anonymous or with your e-mail if you want an answer) comments below and clic the "send" button
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4 - Conclusion

We presented in this paper a simple parser which analyzes the content of a .Dfm file, which is the starting point for many Delphi utilities.




5 - Other Papers with Source and Links

Database
database reverse engineering Extraction of the Database Schema by analyzing the content of the application's .DFMs
sql parser Parsing SQL requests in Delphi, starting from an EBNF grammar for SELECT, INSERT and UPDATE
ado net tutorial a complete Ado Net architectural presentation, and projects for creating the Database, creating Tables, adding, deleting and updating rows, displaying the data in controls and DataGrids, using in memory DataSets, handling Views, updating the Tables with a DataGrid
turbo delphi interbase tutorial develop database applications with Turbo Delphi and Interbase. Complete ADO Net architecture, and full projects to create the database, the Tables, fill the rows, display and update the values with DataGrids. Uses the BDP
bdp ado net blobs BDP and Blobs : reading and writing Blob fields using the BDP with Turbo Delphi
interbase stored procedure grammar Interbase Stored Procedure Grammar : The BNF Grammar of the Interbase Stored Procedure. This grammar can be used to build stored procedure utilities, like pretty printers, renaming tools, Sql Engine conversion or ports
using interbase system tables Using InterBase System Tables : The Interbase / FireBird System Tables: description of the main Tables, with their relationship and presents examples of how to extract information from the schema
eco tutorial Writing a simple ECO application: the UML model, the in memory objects and the GUI presentation. We also will show how to evaluate OCL expressions using the EcoHandles, and persist the data on disc
delphi dbx4 programming the new dbExpress 4 framework for RAD Studio 2007 : the configuration files, how to connect, read and write data, using tracing and pooling delegates and metadata handling
blackfishsql using the new BlackfishSql standalone database engine of RAD Studio 2007 (Win32 and .Net) : create the database, create / fill / read Tables, use Pascal User Defined Functions and Stored Procedures
rave pdf intraweb how to produce PDF reports using Rave, and have an Intraweb site generate and display .PDF pages, with multi-user access
embarcadero er studio Embarcadero ER Studio tutorial: how to use the Entity Relationship tool to create a new model, reverse engineer a database, create sub-models, generate reports, import metadata, switch to Dimensional Model
Web
sql to html converting SQL ascii request to HTML format
simple web server a simple HTTP web Server and the corresponding HTTP web Browser, using our Client Server Socket library
simple cgi web server a simple CGI Web Server which handles HTML <FORM> requests, mainly for debugging CGI Server extension purposes
cgi database browser a CGI extension in order to display and modify a Table using a Web Browser
whois a Whois Client who requests information about owners of IP adresses. Works in batch mode.
web downloader an HTTP tool enabling to save on a local folder an HTML page with its associated images (.GIF, .JPEG, .PNG or other) for archieving or later off-line reading
web spider a Web Spider allowing to download all pages from a site, with custom or GUI filtering and selection.
asp net log file a logging CLASS allowing to monitor the Asp.Net events, mainly used for undesrtanding, debugging and journaling Asp.Net Web applications
asp net viewstate viewer an ASP.NET utility displaying the content of the viewtate field which carries the request state between Internet Explorer and the IIS / CASSINI Servers
rss reader the RSS Reader lets you download and view the content of an .RSS feed (the entry point into somebody's blog) in a tMemo or a tTreeView. Comes complete with an .HTML downloader and an .XML parser
news message tree how to build a tree of the NNTP News Messages. The downloaded messages are displayed in tListBox by message thread (topic), and for each thread the messages are presented in a tTreeVi"ew
threaded indy news reader a NewsReader which presents the articles sorted by thread and in a logical hierarchical way. This is the basic Indy newsreader demo plus the tree organization of messages
delphi asp net portal programming presentation, architecture and programming of the Delphi Asp Net Portal. This is a Delphi version of the Microsoft ASP.NET Starter Kit Web Portal showcase. With detailed schemas and step by step presentation, the Sql scripts and binaries of the Database
delphi web designer a tiny Delphi "RAD Web Designer", which explains how the Delphi IDE can be used to generate .HTML pages using the Palette / Object Inspector / Form metaphor to layout the page content
intraweb architecture the architecture of the Intraweb web site building tool. Explains how Delphi "rad html generator" work, and presents the CLASS organization (UML Class diagrams)
ajax tutorial AJAX Tutorial : writing an AJAX web application. How AJAX works, using a JavaScript DOM parser, the Indy Web Server, requesting .XML data packets - Integrated development project
asp net master pages Asp.Net 2.0 Master Pages : the new Asp.Net 2.0 allow us to define the page structure in a hierarchical way using Master Pages and Content Pages, in a way similar to tForm inheritance
delphi asp net 20 databases Asp.Net 2.0 and Ado.Net 2.0 : displaying and writing InterBase and Blackfish Sql data using Dbx4, Ado.Net Db and AdoDbxClient. Handling of ListBox and GridView with DataSource components
asp net 20 users roles profiles Asp.Net 2.0 Security: Users, Roles and Profiles : Asp.Net 2.0 offers a vaslty improved support for handling security: new Login Controls, and services for managing Users, grouping Users in Roles, and storing User preferences in Profiles
bayesian spam filter Bayesian Spam Filter : presentation and implementation of a spam elimination tool which uses Bayesian Filtering techniques
TCP/IP
tcp ip sniffer project to capture and display the packets travelling on the Ethernet network of your PC.
sniffing interbase traffic capture and analysis of Interbase packets. Creation of a database and test table, and comparison of the BDE vs Interbase Express Delphi components
socket programming the simplest Client Server example of TCP / IP communication using Windows Sockets with Delphi
delphi socket architecture the organization of the ScktComp unit, with UML diagrams and a simple Client Server file transfer example using tClientSocket and tServerSocket
Object Oriented Programming Components
delphi virtual constructor VIRTUAL CONSTRUCTORS together with CLASS references and dynamic Packages allow the separation between a main project and modules compiled and linked in later. The starting point for Application Frameworks and Plugins
delphi generics tutorial Delphi Generics Tutorial : using Generics (parameterized types) in Delphi : the type parameter and the type argument, application of generics, constraints on INTERFACEs or CONSTRUCTORs
UML Patterns
the lexi editor delphi source code of the Gof Editor: Composite, Decorator, Iterator, Strategy, Visitor, Command, with UML diagrams
factory and bridge patterns presentation and Delphi sources for the Abstract Factory and Bridge patterns, used in the Lexi Document Editor case study from the GOF book
gof design patterns delphi source code of the 23 Gof (GAMMA and other) patterns: Composite, Decorator, Iterator, Strategy, Visitor, Command
Debug and Test
Graphic
delphi 3d designer build a 3d volume list, display it in perspective and move the camera, the screen or the volumes with the mouse.
writing a flash player build your own ShockWave Flash movie Player, with pause, custom back and forward steps, snapshots, resizing. Designed for analyzing .SWF demos.
Utilities
the coliget search engine a Full Text Search unit allowing to find the files in a directory satisfying a complex string request (UML AND Delphi OR Patters)
treeview html help viewer Treeview .HTML Help Viewer : the use of a Treeview along with a WebBrowser to display .HTML files alows both structuring and ordering of the help topics. This tool was used to browse the Delphi PRISM Wiki help.
Delphi utilities
delphi net bdsproj structure and analysis of the .BDSPROJ file with the help of a small Delphi .XML parser
dccil bat generator generation of the .BAT for the Delphi DCCIL command line compiler using the .BDSPROJ
dfm parser a Delphi Project analyzing the .DFM file and building a memory representation. This can be used for transformations of the form components
dfm binary to text a Delphi Project converting all .DFM file from a path from binary to ascii format
component to code generate the component creation and initialization code by analyzing the .DFM. Handy to avoid installing components on the Palette when examining new libraries
exe dll pe explorer presents and analyzes the content of .EXE and .DLL files. The starting point for extracting resources, spying .DLL function calls or injecting additional functionalities
dll and process viewer analyze and display the list of running processes, with their associated DLLs and Memory mapped files (Process Walker)
Controls
find memo a tMemo with "find first", "find next", "sort", "save" capabilities
Helper units
windows environment read and write Windows Environment strings
stdin stdout send and receive strings from a GUI application to a CONSOLE application




6 - The author

Felix John COLIBRI works at the Pascal Institute. Starting with Pascal in 1979, he then became involved with Object Oriented Programming, Delphi, Sql, Tcp/Ip, Html, UML. Currently, he is mainly active in the area of custom software development, Delphi Consulting and Delph training, and is a frequent speaker at Borland Developer Conferences. His web site features tutorials, technical papers about programming with full downloadable source code, and the description and calendar of forthcoming Delphi, Interbase, Asp.Net, Ado.Net and OOP  /  UML training sessions.
Created: nov-04. Last updated: oct-10 - 61 articles, 121.ZIP sources, 954 figures
Copyright © Felix J. Colibri   http://www.felix-colibri.com 2004 - 2010. All rigths reserved
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