Design of clangd
A language server’s main responsibilities are:
- keeping track of open files and unsaved changes
- providing the editor with up-to-date diagnostics (warnings/errors)
- responding to requests from the editor (such as go-to-definition)
Most of the design documentation focuses on the concepts, if you’re interested in the implementation we try to keep the code well-documented.
Clangd needs to make choices about how to parse each open file, such as:
- Is it C or C++?
- Which version of C++?
- Where are included headers found?
clangd determines a virtual compiler command for each file
clang foo.cc -Iheaders/) and uses this to configure its parser.
Ideally this command comes from the build system.
Compile flags can control many subtle pieces of the clang parser, so compile commands are an important configuration point.
clangd is based on the
clang compiler, and at its core runs the clang parser
in a loop. The parser produces diagnostics as it encounters problems, and the
end result is a clang AST. The AST is saved to answer queries like “what kind
of symbol is under the cursor”.
There is one such loop for each open file. The
TUScheduler class manages a
ASTWorkers, each running on its own thread. Most operations run
on these threads, though code completion is a notable exception.
threads and request handling
C/C++/Objective-C are designed so that you can parse one source file at a time, without needing to see the whole program. This means that the resulting AST lacks certain information:
- if you call a function, we can find a declaration for it, but we may not have seen its definition
- there’s no way to find all the references to a struct you defined
- code completion can suggest variables that are in scope, but not those
where you’d need to add an
To solve this, clangd maintains a database of symbols found anywhere in the program, called the index. This is extracted from each open file as it is parsed, and also by parsing the whole project in the background.
the clangd index
The remote index system allows a codebase index to be built offline and shared across many clangd instances with an RPC server.