#bitstream #pack #rle


An RLE-based encoder and decoder for bit streams

4 releases

0.2.3 Sep 22, 2020
0.2.2 Sep 28, 2017
0.2.1 Jul 9, 2017
0.2.0 Jul 9, 2017

#42 in Compression

MIT license

767 lines


Bitterlemon is a data format and Rust library crate to efficiently store bit sequences in byte streams using run-length encoding (RLE). Bitterlemon will pack contiguous bit runs into compact RLE representations where it can, and fall back to standard byte packing where RLE can't improve the compression factor. There are no limits or compression performance penalties related to input or output size.


Add bitterlemon as a dependency in your Cargo.toml file:

bitterlemon = ">= 0.2.0"

API documentation is hosted on docs.rs.


Bitterlemon is released under terms of the MIT license. See the file LICENSE for more.

Data format

Bitterlemon data is a sequence of runs and frames, with runs further split into set runs and clear runs. A run is a compacted representation of a contiguous series of bits, all with the same value. Clear runs hold a sequence of 0s, and Set runs a sequence of 1s. A frame is a sized sequence of bits packed into a byte, where the bit value changes too often for runs to be of any benefit. Runs can be 1–64 bytes in length, while frames can be 1–128 bytes.

Byte values

Runs are encoded as single bytes with the following bit representation:

MSB  1Tnnnnnn  LSB

T is the run type (0 for clear runs, 1 for set runs) and nnnnnn is the run length (runs of 64 are encoded as 000000).

Frames are encoded as follows:

0LLLLLLL bbbbbbbb bbbbbbbb … bbbbbbbb

LLLLLLL represents the number of bits in the frame (a length of 128 is encoded as 0000000). The following bytes are the bits contained within the frame, starting with the MSB of the first subsequent byte. If a frame length does not align to a byte boundary, it should be padded to 0 bits to complete the last byte. In all cases, the length of the leading byte is the authority on how many bits have been encoded.

The number of bytes needed to encode a frame can be worked out as follows:

frame_size_in_bytes = ((number_of_bits + 7) >> 3) + 1

Implementation details

The reference encoder first converts the input bit stream to a series of runs, each 1 to 64 bits in length. There is then a second pass that replaces some of these runs with frames, where it would take fewer bytes to do so.