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0.2.0 Feb 18, 2023
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0.1.0 Jan 30, 2023

#731 in Encoding

Used in ryan-cli

MIT license


Crates.io PyPI NPM

Docs.rs Ryan license

Ryan: a configuration language for the practical programmer

Say hello to Ryan!
Say hello to Ryan!

Ryan is a minimal programming language that produces JSON (and therefore YAML) as output. It has builtin support for variables, imports and function calls while keeping things simple. The focus of these added features is to reduce code reuse when maintaining a sizable codebase of configuration files. It can also be used as an alternative to creating an overly complex CLI interfaces. Unsure on whether a value should be stored in a file or in an environment variable? Why not declare a huge configuration file with everything in it? You leave the users to decide where the values are coming from, giving them a versatile interface while keeping things simple on your side. Ryan makes that bridge while keeping the user's code short and maintainable.

Resources for Ryan

How to use Ryan

One-liner (Linux, MacOS)

Copy and paste the following command in your favorite console:

curl -L -Ssf "https://raw.githubusercontent.com/tokahuke/ryan/main/install/$(uname).sh" \
    | sudo sh

You will need sudo rights to run the script (this installation is system-wide).


Go to the Ryan repository and download the zipped file corresponding to Windows. Unzip it and move it to somewhere nice! Or...

Using cargo

You can run Ryan by installing the CLI from crates.io

cargo install ryan-cli

Integrate into your app!

Depending on your language, you can install a binding to Ryan from your standard package manager:

cargo install ryan          # Rust
pip install ryan-lang       # Python
npm install ryan-lang-web   # JavaScript (web)
npm install ryan-lang-node  # JavaScript (NodeJS)

Isn't this similar to X?

Yes, Ryan is a product of my frustrations with Dhall and Jsonnet. There is plenty of stuff I like and hate in both languages. Ryan is an opinionated middle term between the two, featuring:

  • A string equality comparator (yeah, that is a thing).
  • Type assertions. Ryan is not statically typed, but you can optionally annotate things to make sure that there is some type conformity.
  • Pattern matching. If you like the match statement from Python or Rust or whatever that thing is in Elixir, you will feel right at home.

Ryan key principles

It might look at first that adding one more thingamajig to your project might be overly complicated or even (God forbid!) dangerous. However, Ryan was created with your main concerns in mind and is purposefully limited in scope. Here is how you cannot code a fully functional Pacman game in Ryan:

  1. (Configurable) hermeticity: there is no print statement or any other kind side-effect to the language itself. The import system is the only way data can get into Ryan and even that can be easily disabled. Even if Ryan is not completely hermetic out-of-the-box, it can be made so in a couple of extra lines.
  2. Turing incompleteness: this has to do mainly with loops. There is no while statement and you cannot recurse in Ryan. While you can iterate through data, you can do so only in pre-approved ways. This is done in such a way that every Ryan program is guaranteed to finish executing (eventually).
  3. Immutability: everything in Ryan is immutable. Once a value is declared, it stays that way for the remaining of its existence. Of course, you can shadow a variable by re-declaring it with another value, but that will be a completely new variable.

Of course, one can reconfigure the import system to read from any arbitrary source of information and can also create native extensions to throw all these guarantees out of the window. The possibilities are infinite. However, these are the sane defaults that are offered out-of-the-box.


~80K SLoC