Colm Programming Language

Colm is a programming language designed for the analysis and transformation of computer languages. Colm is influenced primarily by TXL. It is in the family of program transformation languages.

A transformation language has a type system based on formal languages. Rather than define classes or data structures, one defines grammars. A parser is constructed automatically from the grammar, and the parser is used for two purposes: to parse the input language, and to parse the structural patterns in the program that performs the analysis. In this setting, grammar-based parsing is critical because it guarantees that both the input and the structural patterns are parsed into trees from the same set of types, allowing comparison.

Colm’s main contribution lies in the parsing method. Colm’s parsing engine is generalized, but it also allows for the construction of arbitrary global data structures that can be queried during parsing. In other generalized methods, construction of global data requires some very careful consideration because of inherent concurrency in the parsing method. It is such a tricky task that it is often avoided altogether and the problem is deferred to a post-parse disambiguation of the parse forest.



Feb 1, 2014


May 11, 2017


Colm does not yet have any documentation. The best way to learn about it is by reading the Ph.D. thesis. Please keep in mind that this is not a manual. A proper manual will follow.

Thurston Ph.D. Thesis

Discussion and GIT Repos

Please direct discussion to the mailing list, thanks!

git clone git://


Colm is released under an MIT style license. Please see the file COPYING in the source.