2014.9.24 • Public • Published

Dotset: The Settings File Format

A format for settings.

  • It's just JSON,
  • Very readable,
  • Easy to edit (think "no trailing comma error"),
  • Simple to parse.

In many ways, it's JSON with the CoffeeScript treatment.

Also, it's a subset of YAML. YAML parsers parse Dotset.


The following file example.set:

    # Comments. They're actually useful. 
    name: "Dotset: The Settings File Format"
    version: 1.0
    That simple?: yes
    Can I nest?:
      - You can nest lists…
      and: obviously
        objects: too!

… would correspond to this JSON:

      "name": "Dotset: The Settings File Format",
      "version": 1.0,
      "That simple?": true,
      "Can I nest?": [
        "You can nest lists…",
          "and": "obviously",
          "objects": "too!"


Each file is UTF-8 encoded.


  • dictionary

  • array

  • string

  • number

  • boolean (yes or no)

  • null (null)

  • string: either rawString or the following. String spec

Also, Strings can escape newlines. Multiline strings for you.

Number spec

  • dictionary:

    keyValue (newline keyValue)*

  • newline: ASCII character 0x0A (or 0x0D, but don't use it).

  • keyValue of indentation indent:

    string : (whitespace)+ primitive OR string : (whitespace)+ newline indent primitive

  • rawString:

    (any unicode character but - and " and digit) (any sequence of unicode character but (: (whitespace)+))* but not yes, no, null

  • indent: sequence of ASCII characters 0x20. Nothing else.

  • non-empty array of indentation indent:

    - (whitespace)+ primitive (newline indent - (whitespace)+ primitive)*

  • empty array:


  • whitespace:

    (Unicode points 0x9 OR 0x20 OR 0xA0 OR 0x2000 - 0x200D OR 0x202F OR 0x205F OR 0x2060 OR 0x3000 OR 0xFEFF)+

Functional requirements

  • Arrays must conserve order.
  • Order of dictionary entries is meaningless.
  • If a dictionary has duplicate entries, only keep the last one. Don't crash, don't throw.
  • Numbers must be decoded in a format at least as precise as IEEE754.


Because I hate to see projects use .ini files. It is ugly and poorly specified (if at all).

Because I hate to see projects use .xml files. It is even uglier and supports namespaces.

Because YAML is overly complex to parse.

Because JSON is just fine, but people find it too raw and hard to edit.

I want my tabs! I want my CR-LF! I want my Big5!

Having just one possibility for invisible characters / encoding makes it easier to not screw things up. The last thing anyone wants to screw up is the config file.




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