Protocol decoder HOWTO

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This page serves as a quick-start guide for people who want to write their own libsigrokdecode protocol decoders (PDs).

It is not intended to replace the Protocol decoder API page, but rather to give a short overview/tutorial and some tips.



Protocol decoders are written entirely in Python (>= 3.0).


Every protocol decoder is a Python module and has its own subdirectory in libsigrokdecode's decoders directory.

This is a minimalistic example of how a protocol decoder looks like, in this case the i2c decoder (license header, comments, and some other parts omitted).

Note: Do not start new protocol decoders by copying code from here. Instead, it's recommended to select an already existing decoder in the source code which is similar to the one you plan to write, and copy that as a starting point.

 I²C (Inter-Integrated Circuit) is a bidirectional, multi-master
 bus using two signals (SCL = serial clock line, SDA = serial data line).

 <Insert notes and hints for the user here>
 from .pd import *

This is a standard Python file, required in every Python module. It contains a module-level docstring, which is accessible by frontends via the libsigrokdecode API. It should contain a (very) short description of what the protocol (in this case I²C) is about, and some notes and hints for the user of this protocol decoder (which can be shown in GUIs when the user selects/browses different PDs).

This docstring should not contain the full, extensive protocol description. Instead, the per-PD wiki page should be used for protocol description, photos of devices or photos of example acquisition setups, and so on. Each decoder has one unique wiki page at the URL<pd>, where <pd> is the Python module name of the decoder (i2c in this case). Some examples for such per-PD wiki pages: UART, PAN1321, MX25Lxx05D, DCF77.

The "from .pd import *" line will make sure the code from gets properly imported when this module is used.

 import sigrokdecode as srd
 class Decoder(srd.Decoder):
     api_version = 1
     id = 'i2c'
     name = 'I²C'
     longname = 'Inter-Integrated Circuit'
     desc = 'Two-wire, multi-master, serial bus.'
     license = 'gplv2+'
     inputs = ['logic']
     outputs = ['i2c']
     probes = [
         {'id': 'scl', 'name': 'SCL', 'desc': 'Serial clock line'},
         {'id': 'sda', 'name': 'SDA', 'desc': 'Serial data line'},
     optional_probes = []
     options = {
         'address_format': ['Displayed slave address format', 'shifted'],
     annotations = [
         ['start', 'Start condition'],
         ['repeat-start', 'Repeat start condition'],
         ['stop', 'Stop condition'],
         ['ack', 'ACK'],
         ['nack', 'NACK'],
         ['bit', 'Data/address bit'],
         ['address-read', 'Address read'],
         ['address-write', 'Address write'],
         ['data-read', 'Data read'],
         ['data-write', 'Data write'],
         ['warnings', 'Human-readable warnings'],
     annotation_rows = (
         ('bits', 'Bits', (5,)),
         ('addr-data', 'Address/Data', (0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 7, 8, 9)),
         ('warnings', 'Warnings', (10,)),
     def __init__(self, **kwargs):
         self.state = 'FIND START'
         # And various other variable initializations...
     def metadata(self, key, value):
         if key == srd.SRD_CONF_SAMPLERATE:
             self.samplerate = value
     def start(self):
         self.out_ann = self.register(srd.OUTPUT_ANN)
     def decode(self, ss, es, data):
         for self.samplenum, (scl, sda) in data:
             # ...

The recommended name for the actual decoder file is

This file contains some meta information about the decoder, and the actual code itself, mostly in the decode() method.

Random notes, tips and tricks

  • You should only use raise in a protocol decoder to raise exceptions in cases which are a clear bug in the protocol decoder.
  • A simple and fast way to calculate a parity (i.e., count the number of 1 bits) over a number (0x55 in this example) is: ones = bin(0x55).count('1').
  • A simple function to convert a BCD number (max. 8 bits) to an integer is: def bcd2int(b): return (b & 0x0f) + ((b >> 4) * 10).
  • A nice way to construct method names according to (e.g.) protocol commands is: fn = getattr(self, 'handle_cmd_0x%02x' % cmd); fn(arg1, arg2, ...).