Basic usage

scn::scan can be used to scan various values from a source. That source can either be a range, or a file.

First, we'll talk about ranges. A range is an object that has a beginning and an end. Examples of ranges are string literals, std::string and std::vector<char>. Objects of these types, and more, can be passed to scn::scan. To learn more about the requirements on these ranges, see the API documentation on source ranges.

After the source range, scn::scan is passed a format string. This is similar in nature to std::scanf, and has virtually the same syntax as std::format and {fmt}. In the format string, arguments are marked with curly braces {}. Each {} means that a single value is to be scanned from the source range. Because scnlib uses templates, type information is not required in the format string, like it is with std::scanf (e.g. d).

The types of the values to scan are given as template parameters to scn::scan. scn::scan returns an object, which contains the read value. If only a single value is read, it can be accessed through the member function value(), otherwise all the read values can be accessed through a std::tuple with values().

// Scanning an int
auto result = scn::scan<int>("123", "{}"):
auto i = result->value();
// i == 123

// Scanning a double
auto result = scn::scan<double>("3.14", "{}");
auto& [d] = result->values();
// d == 3.14

// Scanning multiple values
auto result = scn::scan<int, int>("0 1 2", "{} {}");
auto& [a, b] = result->values();
// a == 0
// b == 1
// Note, that " 2" was not scanned,
// because only two integers were requested

// Scanning a string means scanning a "word" --
//   that is, until the next whitespace character
// this is the same behavior as with iostreams
auto result = scn::scan<std::string>("hello world", "{}");
// result->value() == "hello"

Compare the above example to the same implemented with std::istringstream:

int i;
std::istringstream{"123"} >> i;

double d;
std::istringstream{"3.14"} >> d;

int a, b;
std::istringstream{"0 1 2"} >> a >> b;

std::string str;
std::istringstream{"hello world"} >> str;

Or with std::sscanf:

int i;
std::sscanf("123", "%d", &i);

double d;
std::sscanf("3.14", "%lf", &d);

int a, b;
std::sscanf("0 1 2", "%d %d", &a, &b);

// Not really possible with scanf!
char buf[16] = {0};
std::sscanf("hello world", "%15s", buf);
// buf == "hello"

Error handling and return values

scnlib does not use exceptions. The library compiles with -fno-exceptions -fno-rtti and is perfectly usable without them.

Instead, it uses return values to signal errors: scn::scan returns an scn::scan_expected. This return value is truthy if the operation succeeded. If there was an error, the scn::scan_expected::error() member function can be used to gather more details about the error.

The actual read values are accessed with either scn::scan_expected::operator->() or the member function scn::scan_expected::value() of the returned scn::scan_expected. This ensures that if an error occurred, the values are not accidentally accessed.

// "foo" is not an integer
auto result = scn::scan<int>("foo", "{}");
// fails, result->value() would be UB, result.value().value() would throw
if (!result) {
    std::cout << result.error().msg() << '\n';

Unlike with std::scanf, partial successes are not supported. Either the entire scanning operation succeeds, or a failure is returned.

// "foo" is still not an integer
auto result = scn::scan<int, int>("123 foo", "{} {}");
// fails -- result == false

Oftentimes, the entire source range is not scanned, and the remainder of the range may be useful later. The unparsed input can be accessed with ->range(), which returns a subrange. An iterator pointing to the first unparsed element can be retrieved with ->begin().

auto result = scn::scan<int>("123 456"sv, "{}");
// result == true
// result->value() == 123
// result->range() == " 456"

auto [other_result, i] = scn::scan<int>(result->range(), "{}");
// other_result == true
// i == 456
// other_result-> == ""

The return type of ->range() is a view into the range scn::scan was given. Its type may not be the same as the source range, but its iterator and sentinel types are the same. If the range given to scn::scan does not model ranges::borrowed_range (essentially, the returned range would dangle), the returned range is of type ranges::dangling.

Because the range type returned by scn::scan is always a subrange over its input, it's easy to use scn::scan in loops, as long as the input type is a subrange to begin with. If it's not, consider making it one with scn::ranges::subrange{your-input-range}.

auto input = scn::ranges::subrange{...};
while (auto result = scn::scan<...>(input, ...)) {
    // use result
    input = result->range();

Files and standard streams

To read from stdin, use scn::input or scn::prompt. They work similarly to scn::scan, except they do not take an input range as a parameter: stdin is implied.

if (auto result = scn::input<int>("{}")) {
    // ...
// scn::input, std::cin, and std::scanf can be used immediately,
// without explicit synchronization
if (auto result = scn::prompt<int>("Provide a number: ", "{}"); result) {
    // ...

Instead of scn::input and scn::prompt, scn::scan can also be directly used with files (FILE*). It should be noted, that scn::input, scn::prompt and scn::scan all automatically synchronize with the given FILE, so that they can be used seamlessly alongside both C I/O and C++ iostreams.

When used with files, scn::scan doesn't return a range, but the file it was passed, which can be accessed with ->file(). To prevent confusion, there's no member ->range() when using files.

auto result = scn::input<int>("{}");
// equivalent to:
auto result = scn::scan<int>(stdin, "{}");
// result->file() is stdin
// result->range() doesn't exist

Format string

Parsing of a given value can be customized with the format string. The format string syntax is based on the one used by {fmt} and std::format.

In short, in the format string, {} represents a value to be parsed. The type of the value is determined by the list of types given to scn::scan.

Any whitespace character in the format string is an instruction to skip all whitespace. Some types may do that automatically. This behavior is identical to std::scanf.

// scanning a char doesn't automatically skip whitespace,
// int does
auto result = scn::scan<char, char, int>("x   123", "{}{}{}");
auto& [a, b, i] = result->values();
// a == 'x'
// b == ' '
// i == 123

// Whitespace in format string, skip all whitespace
auto result = scn::scan<char, char>("x        y", "{} {}");
auto& [a, b] = result->values();
// a == 'x'
// b == 'y'

Any other character in the format string is expected to be found in the source range, and is then discarded.

auto result = scn::scan<char>("abc", "ab{}");
// result->value() == 'c'

Inside the curly braces {}, flags can be specified, that govern the way the value is parsed. The flags start with a colon : character. See the API Documentation for full reference on format string flags.

// accept only hex floats
auto result = scn::scan<double>(..., "{:a}");

// interpret the parsed number as hex
auto result = scn::scan<int>(..., "{:x}");

Scanning a single value

For simple cases, there's scn::scan_value. It can be used to scan a single value from a source range, as if by using the default format string "{}".

auto result = scn::scan_value<int>("123");
// result->value() == 123
// result->range() is empty

Unicode and wide source ranges

scnlib expects all input given to it to be Unicode. All input with the character/value type of char is always assumed to be UTF-8. Encoding errors are checked for, and may cause scanning to fail.

This guide has so far only used narrow (char) ranges as input. scnlib also supports wide (wchar_t) ranges to be used as source ranges, including wide string literals and std::wstring s. Wide strings are expected to be encoded in UTF-16 (with platform endianness), or UTF-32, depending on the width of wchar_t (2 byte wchar_t -> UTF-16, 4 byte wchar_t -> UTF-32).

Any other character types are currently not supported.

auto result = scn::scan<std::wstring>(L"foo bar", L"{}");
// result->value() == L"foo"

// narrow strings can be scanned from wide sources, and vice versa
// in these cases, Unicode transcoding (UTF-8 <-> UTF-16/32) is performed
auto result2 = scn::scan<std::string>(result->range(), L"{}");
// result2->value() == "bar"

User types

To scan a value of a user-defined type, specialize scn::scanner with two member functions, parse and scan.

struct mytype {
    int i;
    double d;

template <>
struct scn::scanner<mytype, char> {
    template <typename ParseContext>
    constexpr auto parse(ParseContext& pctx)
        -> scan_expected<typename ParseContext::iterator>;

    template <typename Context>
    auto scan(mytype& val, Context& ctx)
        -> scan_expected<typename Context::iterator>;

parse parses the format string, and extracts scanning options from it. The easiest ways to implement it are to inherit it from another type, or to just accept no options:

// Inherit
template <>
struct scn::scanner<mytype, char> : scn::scanner<std::string_view, char> {};

// Accept only empty
template <typename ParseContext>
constexpr auto parse(ParseContext& pctx) -> scan_expected<typename ParseContext::iterator> {
    return pctx.begin();

scan parses the actual value, using the supplied Context. The context has a member function, current, to get an iterator pointing to the next character in the source range, and range, to get the entire source range that's still left to scan. These values can be then passed to scn::scan. Alternatively, scanning can be delegated to another scn::scanner.

template <typename Context>
auto scan(mytype& val, Context& ctx) -> scan_expected<typename Context::iterator> {
    auto result = scn::scan(ctx.range(), "{} {}");
    if (!result) {
        return unexpected(result.error());

    val = {i, d};
    return result->begin();

    // or, delegate to other scanners (more advanced):

    return scn::scanner<int>{}.scan(val.i, ctx)
        .and_then([&](auto it) {
            return scn::scanner<double>{}.scan(val.d, ctx);

If your type has an std::istream compatible operator>> overload, that can also be used for scanning. Include the header <scn/istream.h>, and specialize scn::scanner by inheriting from scn::istream_scanner.

std::istream& operator>>(std::istream&, const mytype&);

template <>
struct scn::scanner<mytype, char> : scn::istream_scanner {};


By default, scnlib isn't affected by changes to the global C or C++ locale. All functions behave as if the global locale were set to "C".

A std::locale can be passed as the first argument to scn::scan, to scan using that locale. This is mostly used with floats, to get locale-specific decimal separators.

Because of the way std::locale and the facilities around it work, parsing using a locale is significantly slower compared to not using one. This is, because the library effectively has to fall back on iostreams for parsing.

Just passing a locale isn't enough, but you'll need to opt-in to locale-specific parsing, by using the L flag in the format string. Not every type supports localized parsing.

auto result = scn::scan(std::locale{"fi_FI.UTF-8"}, "2,73", "{:L}");
// result->value() == 2.73

Because localized scanning uses iostreams under the hood, the results may not be entirely the same when no locale is used, even if std::locale::classic() was passed. This is due to limitations of the design of iostreams, and platform-specific differences in locales and iostreams.