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Interactive Shell

Ocular provides an interactive shell for code analysis, much like an operating system shell. We base this shell on the popular Scala shell Ammonite. In summary, the shell offers the following major features:

  • Tab-completion
  • GNU readline support for line editing
  • JSON output
  • Pipe operators
  • Inline code browsing with a pager
  • Dynamic library import

Launching the Interactive Shell

The shell can be started by issuing the following command:

sl ocular

Basic Keyboard Commands

The Ocular underlying shell is essentially an interactive Scala shell that supports the following keyboard commands:

CTRL-cCancels current operation/clears shell. Does not quit Ocular
CTRL-dQuits Ocular (shell must be clear)
UPMoves through command history
CTRL-LEFT/RIGHTStep through commands word-by-word (instead of character-by-character)
CTRL-rSearches command history. Use CTRL-r (or UP/DOWN) to cycle through your matches

Exporting Results with Pipe Operators and toJson

The execution directive (see Traversal Basics) toJson can be used at the end of queries in order to convert results into the JSON format. This feature can be combined with the shell's pipe operators to write results out to the file system. For example,

cpg.method.toJson |> "/tmp/foo.json"

writes all methods nodes into the file /tmp/foo.json.

Inline Code Browsing

For an increasing number of languages, the Ocular shell allows you to read code associated with query results directly on the shell. For example, to review all calls to memcpy, you can issue:


res5: List[String] = List(
"memcpy(buf, first, first_len)",
"memcpy(buf + first_len, second, second_len)",
"memcpy(buf, first, first_len)",
"memcpy(buf + first_len, second, second_len)",
"memcpy(buf + first_len, second, second_len)",
"memcpy(buf, first, first_len)"

You can also pipe the result list into a pager as follows:

ocular> browse("memcpy").callIn.code.l)

To study the context in which a result occurs, you can use the .dump method, which will dump the enclosing function’s code for each finding, and point you to the finding via an arrow:


int main() {
unsigned int first_len = UINT_MAX - 256;
unsigned int second_len = 256;
unsigned int buf_len = 256;

char first[first_len], second[second_len], buf[buf_len];
int new_len = (first_len+second_len); // <- IDB (negative)

if(new_len <= 256) {
memcpy(buf, first, first_len);
memcpy(buf + first_len, second, second_len); /* <=== */


You can use this feature together with browse to read code in the pager. Finally, if you want to read the code in your editor of choice, just dump it to a file:"memcpy").callIn.dumpRaw |> "/tmp/foo.c"

We use dumpRaw here to skip syntax highlighting, as your editor will most likely do that for you.


Please make sure source-highlight is installed for the .dump feature to work.

Dynamically Importing Additional Scripts

You can dynamically load additional scripts at any time.

As an example, let's assume there's a file called that contains only val elite = 31337. You can import the script as follows:

import $file.MyScript
res1: Int = 31337

If the file is in a subfolder (e.g. scripts), use dot syntax: import $file.scripts.MyScript.

To go up one directory, use ^.

Adding Dependencies to the JVM classpath Dynamically

// java dependency
import $ivy.`com.michaelpollmeier:versionsort:1.0.1`"2.1.0", "2.0.10")
// res: Int = 1

// scala dependency
import $ivy.`com.michaelpollmeier::colordiff:0.9`
colordiff.ColorDiff(List("a", "b"), List("a", "bb"))
// color coded diff

If the dependencies are not on Maven Central, you can add a resolver:

interp.repositories() ++= Seq(coursierapi.MavenRepository.of(""))

Measuring the Time While Running a Computation

time { 
println("long running computation")
// res: (42, 1000332390 nanoseconds)