eucalypt is a tool, and a little language, for generating and transforming structured data formats like YAML, JSON and TOML.

If you use text-based templating to process these formats or you pipe this these formats through several different tools or build steps, eucalypt might be able to help you generate your output more cleanly and with fewer cognitive somersaults.

eucalypt is a purely functional language that can be used quickly and easily from the command line.

It has the following features:

  • a concise native syntax that allows you to define data, functions, and operators
  • a simple embedding into YAML files to support in-place manipulation of the data (a la templating)
  • facilities for manipulating blocks (think JSON objects, YAML mappings)
  • facilities for manipulating text including string interpolation and regular expressions
  • an ergonomic command line interface and access to environment variables
  • metadata annotations and numerous extension points
  • a prelude of built in functions, acting like a standard library

It can currently read YAML, JSON, TOML, XML, CSV and plain text and eucalypt's own ("eu") syntax and it can export YAML, JSON, TOML or plain text.


eucalypt is still in an early phase of development and subject to change.

A lightning tour

Eucalypt has a native syntax for writing blocks, lists and expressions. The YAML embedding consists of a few YAML tags used to embed eucalypt expression in YAML so a basic understanding of the native syntax is helpful.

A few micro-examples should help give a flavour of eucalypt's native syntax. If you want to follow along, see Getting Started for notes on installation.

Example 1

Here is a simple one:

target-zones: ["a", "b", "c"] map("eu-west-1{}")

You can put this in a file named and run it with just:


This outputs the following YAML:

  - eu-west-1a
  - eu-west-1b
  - eu-west-1c

As an aside, although we're looking at the native eucalypt syntax here, this example could just as easily be embedded directly in a YAML file using the !eu tag. Pop the following in a test.yaml file and process it with: eu test.yaml. You'll get the same result.

target-zones: !eu ["a", "b", "c"] map("eu-west-1{}")

First, this example illustrates how we apply transformations like map simply by concatenation. This "pipelining" or "catenation" is the natural way to apply transformations to values in eucalypt.

In fact this is simply a function call with the arguments rearranged a bit. In this example, map is a function of two parameters. Its first argument is provided in parentheses and its second argument is the value of what came before.


Users of languages like Elixir or OCaml may recognise an implicit |> operator here. Clojure users may see an invisible threading macro. Note that writing elements next to each other like this gives you the reverse of what you might expect in Haskell or OCaml or Lisp: we write x f not f x.

There is a lot of freedom in eucalypt to express ideas in different ways and develop colorful and cryptic expressions. In a larger or more ambitious language this could be viewed as rope to hang yourself with. Please be careful.

The string template, "eu-west-1{}", actually defines a function of one argument that returns a string. The key ingredients here are:

  • the interpolation syntax "{...}" which allows values to be inserted into the string
  • the (hidden) use of numeric anaphora in the interpolation syntax ({0}, {1}, {2}, ...) which cause the string to define a function, not just sequence of characters
  • the use of the unnumbered anaphor ({}) which is numbered automatically for us, so in this case, {} is a convenient synonym for {0} - the first argument


Anaphora crop up in various contexts in eucalypt and are generally preferable to the full generality of lambdas. If the idea is too complex to be expressed with anaphora, it should generally be explicitly named.


a: 42 "The answer is {0}"

renders as

a: The answer is 42

eucalypt also has expression anaphora and block anaphora


Users of Groovy or Kotlin may recognise an equivalent of the it parameter. Seasoned Lisp hackers are familiar with anaphoric macros. Clojure users will recognise the %, %1, %2 forms from #(...) contexts. Unlike % repeated uses of unnumbered anaphora in eucalypt refer to different parameters. "{}{}" is a two-argument function which concatenates strings.

Back to:

target-zones: ["a", "b", "c"] map("eu-west-1{}")

The whole line is a declaration. Declarations come in several types - this one is a property declaration. A block is written as a sequence of declarations enclosed in braces. For example:

  w: "foo" # a string
  x: 3     # a whole number
  y: 22.2  # a floaty number
  z: true  # the truth

(The # character introduces a comment which is ignored.)

Unlike YAML, indentation is never significant.

Unlike JSON, commas are not needed to separate declarations. Instead, the eucalypt parser determines the declarations mainly based on the location of colons. You can write:

{ x: 1 increment negate y: 2 }

...and eucalypt knows it's two declarations.

If that's a bit too crazy for you, then feel free to insert the commas. Eucalypt will accept them. Any of these are okay:

ok1: { a: 1 b: 2 c: 3 }
ok2: { a: 1, b: 2, c: 3 }
ok3: { a: 1, b: 2, c: 3, }


Unlike Clojure which makes commas optional by treating them as whitespace, Eucalypt demands that if you are going to put commas in, they have to be in the right place, at the end of declarations. So you can use them if you believe it makes things clearer but you are prevented from using them in ways which would misguide.

Our target-zones property declaration is at the top level so need not be surrounded by braces. Nevertheless it is in a block: the top level block, known as a unit, that is defined by the file that contains it. You can imagine the braces to be there if you like.

As a final point on this example, it is probably worthwhile documenting declarations. eucalypt offers an easy way to do that using declaration metadata which we squeeze in between a leading backtick and the declaration itself:

` "AZs to deploy alien widgets in"
target-zones: ["a", "b", "c"] map("eu-west-1{}")

In fact, all sorts of things can be wedged in there, but if a string appears on its own, it is interpreted as documentation.

Example 2

Let's look at another small example:

character(name): {
  resource-name: name
  created: io.epoch-time

prentice: character("Pirate Prentice") {
  laser-colour: "red"

slothrop: character("Tyrone Slothrop") {
  eye-count: 7

We've introduced a new type of declaration here of the form f(x):. This is a function declaration.

Remember we saw a property declaration earlier. Eucalypt also has operator declarations but we'll ignore those for now.

The function declaration declares a function called character, which accepts a single parameter (name) and returns a block containing two properties.

Functions, like everything else in eucalypt, are declared in and live in blocks but they are left out when output is rendered, so you won't see them in the YAML or JSON that eucalypt produces.

The braces in the definition of character are there to delimit the resulting block - not to define a function body. A function that returned a number would not need them:

inc(x): x + 1 # this defines an increment function

The next important ingredient in this example is block catenation.

Blocks can be treated as functions of a single parameter. When they are applied as functions, the effect is a block merge.

We've already seen that functions can be applied to arguments by concatenation.

So writing one block after another produces a merged block. It contains the contents of the second block merged "on top" of the first.

There is more to be said on block merge, but for now:

{ a: 1 } { b: 2 } evaluates to { a: 1 b: 2 }.


{ a: 1 } { a: 2 } evaluates to { a: 2 }.

In our example, the resulting YAML is just:

  resource-name: Pirate Prentice
  created: 1526991765
  laser-colour: red

  resource-name: Tyrone Slothrop
  created: 1526991765
  eye-count: 7

As you can see, io.epoch-time evaluates to a unix timestamp.

This metadata is generated once at launch time, not each time the expression is evaluated. eucalypt the language is a pure functional language, and there are no side-effects or non-deterministic functions (although its command line driver can perform all sorts of side-effects as input to the evaluation and as output from the evaluation and there are one or two dirty tricks in the debugging functions). For this reason, prentice and slothrop will have the same timestamps.

Block merge can be a useful means of generating common content in objects. The common content can appear first as in this case, allowing it to be overridden. Or it couple be applied second allowing it to override the existing detail. Or a mixture of both. Many more sophisticated means of combining block data are available too.


This merge is similar to the effect of merge keys in YAML, where a special << mapping key causes a similar merge to occur. Not all YAML processors support this and nor does eucalypt at present, but it probably will some day.

Be aware that eucalypt has nothing like virtual functions. The functions in scope when an expression is created are the ones that are applied. So if you redefine an f like this, in an overriding block...

{ f(x): x+1 a: f(2) } { f(x): x-2 }

...the definition of a will not see it.

a: 3

So block merge is only very loosely related to object oriented inheritance. Also by default you only get a shallow merge - deep merges are provided in the standard prelude. It is possible that a deep merge will become the default for block catenation in future.

Many more complicated ways of processing blocks are possible using functions, block anaphora and standard prelude functions.

Quick tour of the command line

On macOS you can install the eu command line tools using Homebrew with:

brew install curvelogic/homebrew-tap/eucalypt

Check the version you are running with:

eu -v

eu is intended to be easy to use for common tasks and does its best to allow you to say what you want succinctly. The intention is to be easy to use in pipelines in combination with other tools like jq.

By default, it runs in ergonomic mode which will make a few assumptions in order to allow you to be a little less explicit. It also pulls in user-specific declarations from ~/.eucalypt. For repeatable builds and scripted usage, it is better to turn ergonomic mode off using the -B (--batch-mode) switch.

The simplest usage is to specify a eucalypt file to evaluate and leave the default render format (YAML) and output (standard out) alone.

> eu

eu with no arguments will generally be taken to specify that input is coming from standard in. So the above is equivalent to:

> cat | eu

There is an -x switch to control output format explicitly (setting "yaml", "json", "text", "csv" or "eu") but for the very common case of requiring JSON output there is a shortcut:

> eu -j

You can, of course, redirect standard output to a file but if you specify the output file explicitly (with -o), eu will infer the output format from the extension:

> eu -o output.json # equivalent to eu -j > output.json

Small snippets of eucalypt can be passed in directly using the -e switch.

> eu -e '{ a: 8 * 8 }'

The fact that eucalypt makes relatively infrequent use of single quotes makes this straightforward for most shells.

By default, eu evaluates the entirety of the loaded source and uses all of it to render the result, leaving out any function values and other non-renderable content.

It is possible to select just parts of the eucalypt for rendering:

  1. A declaration in the source may be identified as the main target using the :main declaration metadata and we become the part rendered by default.
  2. targets may be defined and named using the :target declaration metadata and those targets can then be specified using the -t option to eu
  3. The -e option can be used in addition to other source file(s) to identify an expression to be rendered (e.g. eu -e x.y.z)

So eu's ability to read JSON and YAML natively combined with the last options give a simple way to pick values out of structured data which can be very handy for "querying" services that return YAML or JSON data.

> aws s3api list-buckets | eu -e 'Buckets map(lookup(:Name))'

There is much more to this story. For instance eu can:

  • accept several inputs to make definitions in earlier inputs available to subsequent inputs eu
  • accept YAML and JSON files as pure data to be merged in: eu data.yaml
  • accept YAML or JSON annotated with eucalypt to execute: eu data.yaml
  • override the default extensions: eu yaml@info.txt
  • automatically use Eufile files in the current folder hierarchy

See command line for more complete documentation.