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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");
Putting it all together
Let's look at an example plugin that prints top-level function names. This
example is also checked into the clang repository; please also take a look at
the latest `checked in version of PrintFunctionNames.cpp
.. code-block:: c++
#include "clang/Frontend/FrontendPluginRegistry.h"
#include "clang/AST/ASTConsumer.h"
#include "clang/AST/AST.h"
#include "clang/Frontend/CompilerInstance.h"
#include "llvm/Support/raw_ostream.h"
using namespace clang;
namespace {
class PrintFunctionsConsumer : public ASTConsumer {
virtual bool HandleTopLevelDecl(DeclGroupRef DG) {
for (DeclGroupRef::iterator i = DG.begin(), e = DG.end(); i != e; ++i) {
const Decl *D = *i;
if (const NamedDecl *ND = dyn_cast<NamedDecl>(D))
llvm::errs() << "top-level-decl: \"" << ND->getNameAsString() << "\"\n";
return true;
class PrintFunctionNamesAction : public PluginASTAction {
ASTConsumer *CreateASTConsumer(CompilerInstance &CI, llvm::StringRef) {
return new PrintFunctionsConsumer();
bool ParseArgs(const CompilerInstance &CI,
const std::vector<std::string>& args) {
for (unsigned i = 0, e = args.size(); i != e; ++i) {
llvm::errs() << "PrintFunctionNames arg = " << args[i] << "\n";
// Example error handling.
if (args[i] == "-an-error") {
DiagnosticsEngine &D = CI.getDiagnostics();
unsigned DiagID = D.getCustomDiagID(
DiagnosticsEngine::Error, "invalid argument '" + args[i] + "'");
return false;
if (args.size() && args[0] == "help")
return true;
void PrintHelp(llvm::raw_ostream& ros) {
ros << "Help for PrintFunctionNames plugin goes here\n";
static FrontendPluginRegistry::Add<PrintFunctionNamesAction>
X("print-fns", "print function names");
Running the plugin
To run a plugin, the dynamic library containing the plugin registry must be
loaded via the :option:`-load` command line option. This will load all plugins
that are registered, and you can select the plugins to run by specifying the
:option:`-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 :option:`-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 <>`_