Reading and writing in JSON, Plist, YAML and XML data made simple when the data format is not known at build time. Swift library and command-line tool.

What's New

Github pages docC



  • Online docC documentation with Github pages


  • Bumped to minimum Swift version 5.6 [#265]


  • docC warnings
  • Dead links in the Readme [#268]

Swift package
Swift Package Manager
Mac + Linux


This library aims to make specific formats data values reading and writing simple when the data format is not known at build time. It was inspired by SwiftyJson and all the projects that followed, while trying to cover more ground, like Xml or Plist. It unifies writing and reading for those different formats. Getting a value in a Json format would be the same as getting a value in a Xml format.

Supported formats:

  • JSON
  • Plist
  • YAML
  • XML

Minimum requirements

  • Swift: 5.5+
  • macOS: 10.13+
  • iOS: 10.0+
  • tvOS: 10.0+
  • watchOS: 4.0+



The Swift wiki can be found on the Github pages The command-line wiki can be found on Woody's Findings


  • Checkout what's new in Scout 4.0.0 here.
  • Checkout what’s new in Scout 3.0.0 here.


With the Foundation libraries to encode/decode Json and Plist, one could ask: why would someone need Scout? Simple answer: there are still cases where you do not know the data format. Sometimes, you will just want to read a single value from a Plist file, and you do not want to create the the struct to decode this file. Or you simply cannot know the data format at build time.


I have been working with many Mac admins recently, and many had to deal with Json, Plist and Xml data. While some were using a format-specific library like jq to parse Json, others were using awk. Each approach is valid, though it comes with some tradeoffs.

Using a format-specific library

You can use a library for each format. But I am not aware today of a library that unifies all of them. So, what you learned with jq cannot be reused to parse Plist data. You would have to learn to use PlistBuddy or the defaults command. With Scout, you can parse the same way Json, Plist and Xml data.

Using a generic text-processing tool

Don't get me wrong, awk is a wonderful tool. It can do so many things. But it is not that easy to learn. And you have to find a way to parse each different format. Scout is really easy to use.


  • CRUD functions for JSON, Plist, XML and YAML data format
    • Read, Set, Delete or Add a value at a specific path in the data
    • Subscript dictionary with a dot "."
    • Subscript arrays with an index between brackets [index]. Negative indexes allowed.
    • Set a key name
    • Force a type
    • Dictionary and array count
    • Dictionary keys
    • XML attributes reading
    • Delete array or dictionary when deleting all its values
    • Array slicing for read and delete commands
    • Dictionary filtering for read and delete commands
  • List paths in the data to iterate over the values
  • Stream or file input
  • Find best match in case of a typo
  • Data formats conversion (e.g. JSON -> Plist, YAML -> XML)
  • CSV export for arrays and dictionaries of arrays
  • CSV import with precise data structure shaping
  • Export to a Zsh array or associative array
  • Syntax highlighting
  • Folding at a depth level
  • Auto-completion for commands


The wiki (Swift | Command-line) gives more details to use those features. Also, the Playground folder offers several commands to play with a People file in several formats. The same commands can be found on this page.

CRUD functions for JSON, Plist and XML data format

  • add a value (Create)
  • read a value (Read)
  • set a value (Update)
  • delete a value (Delete)

Subscript dictionary with a dot "." like "dictionary.key"

Subscript arrays with an index between brackets [index] like "array[index]". Negative indexes allowed.

Set key name

Set a key name rather than its value.

Try to force a type

Prevent the automatic inferring of a type and try to force one when setting or adding a value.

Dictionary and array count

Get a dictionary or an array count with the [#] symbol

Dictionary keys list

Get a dictionary keys list with the {#} symbol.

Delete arrays or dictionaries when left empty

With the delete command, it is possible to specify that a dictionary or an array should be deleted when all its keys are also being deleted.

Array slicing

Specify a slice of an array to read it or to delete it with [lower:upper] syntax. Omitting lower bound ~ 0, omitting upper bound ~ last index. Works with negative indexes like [-4:-3] to specify a slice from the last 5th to the last 3rd element. With negative slice, omitting the upper bound ~ last index like [-3:] to get the last 4 elements of the array.

Dictionary filtering

Specify a regular expression between sharp signs '#' to filter the keys of a dictionary, like people.#h.*# to target all the keys starting with "h" in the dictionary 'people'. A key is a valid match when it is entirely validated by the regular expression.

List paths

It's possible to list the paths in the data to iterate over the values. The paths can be retrieved as an array in a shell script to be used in a loop. This list can be filtered to target only single or group values, specific keys or values, or paths starting from a base.

You can learn more about this feature. Also, scripting recipes are provided with use cases using this feature.

Stream or file input

Set the input as a file with the input option -i | --input or as the last process/command output with a pipe:

scout "" -i File.yml -f yaml
# is the same as
cat File | scout "" -f yaml

Find best match in case of a typo

Scout uses the Jaro-Winkler distance to indicate which key is the closest to an unresolved key.

Syntax highlighting

Scout will highlight the output when reading or outputting (with the verbose flag) a dictionary or an array value. This is done with the Lux library. You can try it with the following command.

curl --silent "" | scout

Another example with one of the playground files and the following command:

scout read -i People.plist -f plist "people.Robert.age=2"

When dealing with large files (although it is not recommended to output large files in the terminal), highlighting the output might bring to slowdowns. It's possible to deactivate the colorisation with the flag --no-color or --nc. This is automatic when writing the output in a file or when the program output is piped.

Data formats conversion

The library offer a conversion feature from a supported format to another one like Plist -> JSON or YAML -> XML. Read or modify the data and export it to another format. Learn more

CSV export

Export data when dealing with arrays or a dictionary of arrays.

CSV import

Convert CSV input to one of the available formats. When the CSV has named headers, specify how the data structure should be built (array, dictionary) using paths.

Zsh arrays

Export a 1-dimension array to a Zsh array with the -e array option and to an associative array with the -e dictionary option.

Customise colors

You can specify your own colors set as explained here. Also, some presets for the macOS terminal default styles can be found in the Highlight presets folder


Fold arrays or dictionaries at a certain depth level to make the data more readable

Auto-completion of commands

When auto-completion is enabled on the shell, use scout install-completion-script, then the source command if needed to get auto-completion for scout commands.


Command Line


Use the following command.

brew install ABridoux/formulae/scout

It will download the notarized executable from the latest release.


You can download the latest version of the executable from the releases. Note that the executable is notarized. Also, a scout package is provided.

After having unzipped the file, you can install it if you want to.

$ install scout /usr/local/bin/

Here is a command which downloads the latest version of the program and install it in /usr/local/bin. Run it to download and install the latest version of the program. It erases the current version you may have. The last line is optional and installs the script to auto-complete the commands.

curl -LO && \
unzip && \
rm && \
install scout /usr/local/bin && \
rm scout
  • To find all scout versions, please browse the releases page.
  • When deploying a package (with a MDM for example), it might be useful to add the version to the name. To get scout latest version: simply run scout --version (scout version version < 2.0.0) to get your installed scout version, or curl --silent "" | scout tag_name to get the latest version available on the Github repository.


You can run scout install-completion-script to install the script to auto-complete commands depending on your shell. After this command, you might want to run the source command for the changes to be effective.

Bash: source ~/.bashrc
Zsh: source ~/.zshrc

Swift package

Start by importing the package in your file Packages.swift.

let package = Package (
    dependencies: [
        .package(url: "", from: "3.0.0")

You can then import Scout in a file.



You can find and try examples with one file People using the different available formats in the Playground folder. The folder contains a file so that you can see how to use the same commands with the different formats.

Special thanks

First of all, many thanks to all contributors of this library. Their help is truly appreciated.

To parse and edit XML data, as the standard library does not offer a simple way to do it, Scout uses the wonderful library of Marko Tadić: AEXML. He has done an amazing work. And if several XML parsing and writing libraries exist today, I would definitely recommend his. Marko, you might never read those lines, but thank you! The same goes for the Yams and its contributors. Thank you for this project.

Thanks also to the team at Apple behind the ArgumentParser library. They have done an incredible work to make command line tools in Swift easy to implement.

Finally, thanks to Thijs Xhaflaire and Armin Briegel for their ideas and helpful feedback.


Font used for the logo: Ver Army by Damien Gosset.


Scout is open-source and under a MIT license. If you want to make a change or to add a new feature, please open an issue or a pull request. You can learn more about contributing on this wiki page. Also, feel free to report a bug, an error or even a typo.


  • Swift Tools 5.6.0
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Last updated: Sun Mar 26 2023 02:10:00 GMT-0500 (GMT-05:00)