Built-in Reader and Writers

This page briefly walks through FDcReader/FDcWriter classes bundled in DataConfigCore.

FDcPipeVisitor and FDcPrettyPrintWriter

FDcPipeVisitor takes a FDcReader and a FDcWriter then start peek-read-write loop until it peeks EDcDataEntry::Ended from reader or an error happens.

Then there's FDcPrettyPrintWriter that dumps everything write into it as string.

Combining these two we get a way to dump arbitrary FDcReader into a string!. This is how built-in debug dump features are implemented:

// DataConfig/Source/DataConfigCore/Private/DataConfig/Automation/DcAutomationUtils.cpp
void DumpToOutputDevice(...)
    FDcPropertyReader PropReader(Datum);
    FDcPrettyPrintWriter PrettyWriter(Output);
    FDcPipeVisitor PrettyPrintVisit(&PropReader, &PrettyWriter);

    if (!PrettyPrintVisit.PipeVisit().Ok())

In following sections we'll see some other usages of the pipe visitor.


This pair of classes is used to access the actual Unreal Property System. Both takes a FDcPropertyDatum to construct:

// DataConfig/Source/DataConfigCore/Public/DataConfig/Property/DcPropertyDatum.h
struct DATACONFIGCORE_API FDcPropertyDatum
    FFieldVariant Property;
    void* DataPtr;

It's simply a property plus opaque pointer pair. These constructs are also called "Fat Pointers". Turns out this is enough to represent everything in the Property System. Property reader/writer needs one of these as a root and start reading/writing from there.

A simple use case of these is to roundtrip two objects so that every property in the first one is copied into latter:

// DataConfig/Source/DataConfigTests/Private/DcTestCommon.h
FDcResult DcTestPropertyRoundtrip(...)
    FDcPropertyReader Reader(FromDatum);
    FDcPropertyWriter Writer(ToDatum);
    FDcPipeVisitor RoundtripVisit(&Reader, &Writer);
    return RoundtripVisit.PipeVisit();

There's a quirk that you cannot create a FDcPropertyDatum for stack allocated TArray :

void f()
    // this is ok
    FDcTestExampleStruct MyStruct;
    FDcPropertyDatum StructDatum(&FDcTestExampleStruct::StaticStruct(), &MyStruct);

    // this is not
    TArray<int> myArr;
    FDcPropertyDatum myDatum(&???, &myArr);

We can, however, get datum for member TArray and other fields. We'll see related example in later chapters.


This is the only reader that reads a external textual format. It's also an example showcasing that the DataConfig data model is actually a superset of the property system.

// DataConfig/DataConfig/Source/DataConfigTests/Private/DcTestBlurb.cpp
FString Str = TEXT(R"(
        "Str":    "Fooo",
        "Number": 1.875,
        "Bool":   true

FDcJsonReader Reader(Str);

//  calling read methods
FString KeyStr;
FString GotStr;
double GotNumber;
bool GotBool;






//  validate results
check(GotStr == TEXT("Fooo"));
check(GotNumber == 1.875);
check(GotBool == true);

In the example above we deserialized a JSON object from string. The first and the last call is ReadMapRoot and ReadMapEnd, which is also used to read Unreal's TMap properties. The difference is that UE's TMap is strictly typed but JSON object values can have arbitrary type. This means that if you use FDcPipeVisitor to pipe a FDcJsonReader into a FDcPropertyWriter it won't work.

The good news is that DataConfig data model is designed to support these use cases. As long as you can use FDcReader/FDcWriter API to describe the format you want to serialize you're good to go. Mapping and conversion between these different shapes of reader/writers are handled by deserializers.

Some additional caveats:

  • Similar to Unreal's TJsonReader, we provide TDcJsonReader with 2 specializations:
    • FDcJsonReader that reads TCHAR*, FString
    • FDcAnsiJsonReader that reads char*.
  • We're supporting a relaxed superset of JSON:
    • Allow C Style comments, i.e /* block */ and // line .
    • Allow trailing comma, i.e [1,2,3,], .
    • Allow non object root. You can put a list as the root.
  • String parsing and number parsing are delegated to Unreal's built-ins:
    • Parse string: FParse::QuotedString()
    • Parse numbers: TCString::Atof/Strtoi/Strtoi64


Finally there're some utility reader/writers for various purposes.

  • FDcNoopWriter - a writer that does literally nothing. Useful to benchmark reader performance.
  • FDcWeakCompositeWriter - a writer that multiplex into a list of writers. Useful to trace writing calls.
  • FDcPutbackReader - FDcReader doesn't support lookahead. It can only peek next item's type but not value. This class is used to support limited lookahead by putting back read value. It's used in implementing custom deserializer handlers.


You should consider implement new FDcReader/FDcWriter when you want to support a new file format. You can also implement utility reader/writer that nest other reader/writers.