Published on 2/12/2015 – Text version

TOML v0.4.0

Tom's Obvious, Minimal Language.

By Tom Preston-Werner.

Be warned, this spec is still changing a lot. Until it's marked as 1.0, you should assume that it is unstable and act accordingly.


TOML aims to be a minimal configuration file format that's easy to read due to obvious semantics. TOML is designed to map unambiguously to a hash table. TOML should be easy to parse into data structures in a wide variety of languages.


  • TOML is case sensitive.
  • A TOML file must contain only UTF-8 encoded Unicode characters.
  • Whitespace means tab (0x09) or space (0x20).
  • Newline means LF (0x0A) or CRLF (0x0D0A).


Speak your mind with the hash symbol. They go from the symbol to the end of the line.

# I am a comment. Hear me roar. Roar.
key = "value" # Yeah, you can do this.


There are four ways to express strings: basic, multi-line basic, literal, and multi-line literal. All strings must contain only valid UTF-8 characters.

Basic strings are surrounded by quotation marks. Any Unicode character may be used except those that must be escaped: quotation mark, backslash, and the control characters (U+0000 to U+001F).

"I'm a string. \"You can quote me\". Name\tJos\u00E9\nLocation\tSF."

For convenience, some popular characters have a compact escape sequence.

\b         - backspace       (U+0008)
\t         - tab             (U+0009)
\n         - linefeed        (U+000A)
\f         - form feed       (U+000C)
\r         - carriage return (U+000D)
\"         - quote           (U+0022)
\\         - backslash       (U+005C)
\uXXXX     - unicode         (U+XXXX)
\UXXXXXXXX - unicode         (U+XXXXXXXX)

Any Unicode character may be escaped with the \uXXXX or \UXXXXXXXX forms. The escape codes must be valid Unicode scalar values.

All other escape sequences not listed above are reserved and, if used, TOML should produce an error.

Sometimes you need to express passages of text (e.g. translation files) or would like to break up a very long string into multiple lines. TOML makes this easy. Multi-line basic strings are surrounded by three quotation marks on each side and allow newlines. A newline immediately following the opening delimiter will be trimmed. All other whitespace and newline characters remain intact.

key1 = """
Roses are red
Violets are blue"""

TOML parsers should feel free to normalize newline to whatever makes sense for their platform.

# On a Unix system, the above multi-line string will most likely be the same as:
key2 = "Roses are red\nViolets are blue"

# On a Windows system, it will most likely be equivalent to:
key3 = "Roses are red\r\nViolets are blue"

For writing long strings without introducing extraneous whitespace, end a line with a \. The \ will be trimmed along with all whitespace (including newlines) up to the next non-whitespace character or closing delimiter. If the first characters after the opening delimiter are a backslash and a newline, then they will both be trimmed along with all whitespace and newlines up to the next non-whitespace character or closing delimiter. All of the escape sequences that are valid for basic strings are also valid for multi-line basic strings.

# The following strings are byte-for-byte equivalent:
key1 = "The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog."

key2 = """
The quick brown \

  fox jumps over \
    the lazy dog."""

key3 = """\
       The quick brown \
       fox jumps over \
       the lazy dog.\

Any Unicode character may be used except those that must be escaped: backslash and the control characters (U+0000 to U+001F). Quotation marks need not be escaped unless their presence would create a premature closing delimiter.

If you're a frequent specifier of Windows paths or regular expressions, then having to escape backslashes quickly becomes tedious and error prone. To help, TOML supports literal strings where there is no escaping allowed at all. Literal strings are surrounded by single quotes. Like basic strings, they must appear on a single line:

# What you see is what you get.
winpath  = 'C:\Users\nodejs\templates'
winpath2 = '\\ServerX\admin$\system32\'
quoted   = 'Tom "Dubs" Preston-Werner'
regex    = '<\i\c*\s*>'

Since there is no escaping, there is no way to write a single quote inside a literal string enclosed by single quotes. Luckily, TOML supports a multi-line version of literal strings that solves this problem. Multi-line literal strings are surrounded by three single quotes on each side and allow newlines. Like literal strings, there is no escaping whatsoever. A newline immediately following the opening delimiter will be trimmed. All other content between the delimiters is interpreted as-is without modification.

regex2 = '''I [dw]on't need \d{2} apples'''
lines  = '''
The first newline is
trimmed in raw strings.
   All other whitespace
   is preserved.

For binary data it is recommended that you use Base64 or another suitable ASCII or UTF-8 encoding. The handling of that encoding will be application specific.


Integers are whole numbers. Positive numbers may be prefixed with a plus sign. Negative numbers are prefixed with a minus sign.


For large numbers, you may use underscores to enhance readability. Each underscore must be surrounded by at least one digit.

1_2_3_4_5     # valid but inadvisable

Leading zeros are not allowed. Hex, octal, and binary forms are not allowed. Values such as "infinity" and "not a number" that cannot be expressed as a series of digits are not allowed.

64 bit (signed long) range expected (−9,223,372,036,854,775,808 to 9,223,372,036,854,775,807).


A float consists of an integer part (which may be prefixed with a plus or minus sign) followed by a fractional part and/or an exponent part. If both a fractional part and exponent part are present, the fractional part must precede the exponent part.

# fractional

# exponent

# both

A fractional part is a decimal point followed by one or more digits.

An exponent part is an E (upper or lower case) followed by an integer part (which may be prefixed with a plus or minus sign).

Similar to integers, you may use underscores to enhance readability. Each underscore must be surrounded by at least one digit.


64-bit (double) precision expected.


Booleans are just the tokens you're used to. Always lowercase.



Datetimes are RFC 3339 dates.



Arrays are square brackets with other primitives inside. Whitespace is ignored. Elements are separated by commas. Data types may not be mixed (though all string types should be considered the same type).

[ 1, 2, 3 ]
[ "red", "yellow", "green" ]
[ [ 1, 2 ], [3, 4, 5] ]
[ "all", 'strings', """are the same""", '''type'''] # this is ok
[ [ 1, 2 ], ["a", "b", "c"] ] # this is ok
[ 1, 2.0 ] # note: this is NOT ok

Arrays can also be multiline. So in addition to ignoring whitespace, arrays also ignore newlines between the brackets. Terminating commas are ok before the closing bracket.

key = [
  1, 2, 3

key = [
  2, # this is ok


Tables (also known as hash tables or dictionaries) are collections of key/value pairs. They appear in square brackets on a line by themselves. You can tell them apart from arrays because arrays are only ever values.


Under that, and until the next table or EOF are the key/values of that table. Keys are on the left of the equals sign and values are on the right. Whitespace is ignored around key names and values. The key, equals sign, and value must be on the same line (though some values can be broken over multiple lines).

Keys may be either bare or quoted. Bare keys may only contain letters, numbers, underscores, and dashes (A-Za-z0-9_-). Quoted keys follow the exact same rules as basic strings and allow you to use a much broader set of key names. Best practice is to use bare keys except when absolutely necessary.

Key/value pairs within tables are not guaranteed to be in any specific order.

key = "value"
bare_key = "value"
bare-key = "value"

"" = "value"
"character encoding" = "value"
"ʎǝʞ" = "value"

Dots are prohibited in bare keys because dots are used to signify nested tables! Naming rules for each dot separated part are the same as for keys (see above).

type = "pug"

In JSON land, that would give you the following structure:

{ "dog": { "tater.man": { "type": "pug" } } }

Whitespace around dot-separated parts is ignored, however, best practice is to not use any extraneous whitespace.

[a.b.c]          # this is best practice
[ d.e.f ]        # same as [d.e.f]
[ g .  h  . i ]  # same as [g.h.i]
[ j . "ʞ" . l ]  # same as [j."ʞ".l]

You don't need to specify all the super-tables if you don't want to. TOML knows how to do it for you.

# [x] you
# [x.y] don't
# [x.y.z] need these
[x.y.z.w] # for this to work

Empty tables are allowed and simply have no key/value pairs within them.

As long as a super-table hasn't been directly defined and hasn't defined a specific key, you may still write to it.

c = 1

d = 2

You cannot define any key or table more than once. Doing so is invalid.


b = 1

c = 2

b = 1

c = 2

All table names and keys must be non-empty.

 = "no key name" # not allowed

Inline Table

Inline tables provide a more compact syntax for expressing tables. They are especially useful for grouped data that can otherwise quickly become verbose. Inline tables are enclosed in curly braces { and }. Within the braces, zero or more comma separated key/value pairs may appear. Key/value pairs take the same form as key/value pairs in standard tables. All value types are allowed, including inline tables.

Inline tables are intended to appear on a single line. No newlines are allowed between the curly braces unless they are valid within a value. Even so, it is strongly discouraged to break an inline table onto multiples lines. If you find yourself gripped with this desire, it means you should be using standard tables.

name = { first = "Tom", last = "Preston-Werner" }
point = { x = 1, y = 2 }

The inline tables above are identical to the following standard table definitions:

first = "Tom"
last = "Preston-Werner"

x = 1
y = 2

Array of Tables

The last type that has not yet been expressed is an array of tables. These can be expressed by using a table name in double brackets. Each table with the same double bracketed name will be an element in the array. The tables are inserted in the order encountered. A double bracketed table without any key/value pairs will be considered an empty table.

name = "Hammer"
sku = 738594937


name = "Nail"
sku = 284758393
color = "gray"

In JSON land, that would give you the following structure.

  "products": [
    { "name": "Hammer", "sku": 738594937 },
    { },
    { "name": "Nail", "sku": 284758393, "color": "gray" }

You can create nested arrays of tables as well. Just use the same double bracket syntax on sub-tables. Each double-bracketed sub-table will belong to the most recently defined table element above it.

  name = "apple"

    color = "red"
    shape = "round"

    name = "red delicious"

    name = "granny smith"

  name = "banana"

    name = "plantain"

The above TOML maps to the following JSON.

  "fruit": [
      "name": "apple",
      "physical": {
        "color": "red",
        "shape": "round"
      "variety": [
        { "name": "red delicious" },
        { "name": "granny smith" }
      "name": "banana",
      "variety": [
        { "name": "plantain" }

Attempting to define a normal table with the same name as an already established array must produce an error at parse time.

  name = "apple"

    name = "red delicious"

  # This table conflicts with the previous table
    name = "granny smith"

You may also use inline tables where appropriate:

points = [ { x = 1, y = 2, z = 3 },
           { x = 7, y = 8, z = 9 },
           { x = 2, y = 4, z = 8 } ]



But why?

Because we need a decent human-readable format that unambiguously maps to a hash table and the YAML spec is like 80 pages long and gives me rage. No, JSON doesn't count. You know why.

Oh god, you're right

Yuuuup. Wanna help? Send a pull request. Or write a parser. BE BRAVE.

Projects using TOML

  • Cargo - The Rust language's package manager.
  • InfluxDB - Distributed time series database.
  • Heka - Stream processing system by Mozilla.
  • Hugo - Static site generator in Go.


If you have an implementation, send a pull request adding to this list. Please note the commit SHA1 or version tag that your parser supports in your Readme.


Language agnostic test suite for TOML decoders and encoders

Editor support