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Clang Plugins
Clang Plugins make it possible to run extra user defined actions during a
compilation. This document will provide a basic walkthrough of how to write and
run a Clang Plugin.
Clang Plugins run FrontendActions over code. See the :doc:`FrontendAction
tutorial <RAVFrontendAction>` on how to write a ``FrontendAction`` using the
``RecursiveASTVisitor``. In this tutorial, we'll demonstrate how to write a
simple clang plugin.
Writing a ``PluginASTAction``
The main difference from writing normal ``FrontendActions`` is that you can
handle plugin command line options. The ``PluginASTAction`` base class declares
a ``ParseArgs`` method which you have to implement in your plugin.
.. code-block:: c++
bool ParseArgs(const CompilerInstance &CI,
const std::vector<std::string>& args) {
for (unsigned i = 0, e = args.size(); i != e; ++i) {
if (args[i] == "-some-arg") {
// Handle the command line argument.
return true;
Registering a plugin
A plugin is loaded from a dynamic library at runtime by the compiler. To
register a plugin in a library, use ``FrontendPluginRegistry::Add<>``:
.. code-block:: c++
static FrontendPluginRegistry::Add<MyPlugin> X("my-plugin-name", "my plugin description");
Defining pragmas
Plugins can also define pragmas by declaring a ``PragmaHandler`` and
registering it using ``PragmaHandlerRegistry::Add<>``:
.. code-block:: c++
// Define a pragma handler for #pragma example_pragma
class ExamplePragmaHandler : public PragmaHandler {
ExamplePragmaHandler() : PragmaHandler("example_pragma") { }
void HandlePragma(Preprocessor &PP, PragmaIntroducer Introducer,
Token &PragmaTok) {
// Handle the pragma
static PragmaHandlerRegistry::Add<ExamplePragmaHandler> Y("example_pragma","example pragma description");
Defining attributes
Plugins can define attributes by declaring a ``ParsedAttrInfo`` and registering
it using ``ParsedAttrInfoRegister::Add<>``:
.. code-block:: c++
class ExampleAttrInfo : public ParsedAttrInfo {
ExampleAttrInfo() {
AttrHandling handleDeclAttribute(Sema &S, Decl *D,
const ParsedAttr &Attr) const override {
// Handle the attribute
return AttributeApplied;
static ParsedAttrInfoRegistry::Add<ExampleAttrInfo> Z("example_attr","example attribute description");
The members of ``ParsedAttrInfo`` that a plugin attribute must define are:
* ``Spellings``, which must be populated with every `Spelling
</doxygen/structclang_1_1ParsedAttrInfo_1_1Spelling.html>`_ of the
attribute, each of which consists of an attribute syntax and how the
attribute name is spelled for that syntax. If the syntax allows a scope then
the spelling must be "scope::attr" if a scope is present or "::attr" if not.
* ``handleDeclAttribute``, which is the function that applies the attribute to
a declaration. It is responsible for checking that the attribute's arguments
are valid, and typically applies the attribute by adding an ``Attr`` to the
``Decl``. It returns either ``AttributeApplied``, to indicate that the
attribute was successfully applied, or ``AttributeNotApplied`` if it wasn't.
The members of ``ParsedAttrInfo`` that may need to be defined, depending on the
attribute, are:
* ``NumArgs`` and ``OptArgs``, which set the number of required and optional
arguments to the attribute.
* ``diagAppertainsToDecl``, which checks if the attribute has been used on the
right kind of declaration and issues a diagnostic if not.
* ``diagLangOpts``, which checks if the attribute is permitted for the current
language mode and issues a diagnostic if not.
* ``existsInTarget``, which checks if the attribute is permitted for the given
To see a working example of an attribute plugin, see `the Attribute.cpp example
Putting it all together
Let's look at an example plugin that prints top-level function names. This
example is checked into the clang repository; please take a look at
the `latest version of PrintFunctionNames.cpp
Running the plugin
Using the cc1 command line
To run a plugin, the dynamic library containing the plugin registry must be
loaded via the `-load` command line option. This will load all plugins
that are registered, and you can select the plugins to run by specifying the
`-plugin` option. Additional parameters for the plugins can be passed with
Note that those options must reach clang's cc1 process. There are two
ways to do so:
* Directly call the parsing process by using the `-cc1` option; this
has the downside of not configuring the default header search paths, so
you'll need to specify the full system path configuration on the command
* Use clang as usual, but prefix all arguments to the cc1 process with
For example, to run the ``print-function-names`` plugin over a source file in
clang, first build the plugin, and then call clang with the plugin from the
source tree:
.. code-block:: console
$ export BD=/path/to/build/directory
$ (cd $BD && make PrintFunctionNames )
-I$BD/tools/clang/include -Itools/clang/include -I$BD/include -Iinclude \
tools/clang/tools/clang-check/ClangCheck.cpp -fsyntax-only \
-Xclang -load -Xclang $BD/lib/ -Xclang \
-plugin -Xclang print-fns
Also see the print-function-name plugin example's
`README <>`_
Using the clang command line
Using `-fplugin=plugin` on the clang command line passes the plugin
through as an argument to `-load` on the cc1 command line. If the plugin
class implements the ``getActionType`` method then the plugin is run
automatically. For example, to run the plugin automatically after the main AST
action (i.e. the same as using `-add-plugin`):
.. code-block:: c++
// Automatically run the plugin after the main AST action
PluginASTAction::ActionType getActionType() override {
return AddAfterMainAction;