With more APIs moving to JSON, being able to parse it at the command line allows you to write more sophisticated shell scripts that can interact with your favorite services. Most first attempts at JSON parsing using some variation of the following to get the job done, which initially seems reasonable:

curl -s http://endpoint.info |python -mjson.tool |grep foo |cut -d: -f2 |sed -e 's/"//g'

However, this can rapidly get out of hand, if you have key duplication, complex nested structures or you need to pull in all of the elements of a list. For awhile, underscore-cli was my favorite fully-featured JSON parser, but I found its documentation somewhat lacking and it hasn’t seen serious development since November 2012. Since then, I found jq which has a beautiful, well-written manual with many usage examples and it is under active development. It also has the benefit of being written in C, which helps speed and it has a fairly concise descriptor language. To install:

brew install jq

Then you can do things like flattening a complex JSON structure into a simple CSV:

PAYLOADS=$( curl -s $URL |jq '.payloads' )
if [ "$PAYLOADS" != "[]" ]; then
    echo $PAYLOADS \
        | jq -r '.[] | .minutes[].payload.items[] | [.actions.actionTime, (.actions | {actions} | .actions.email.state), .sourceInstance, (.actions | {actions} | .actions.email.info )] | @csv'

As a bonus feature, if you have to deal in XML rather than JSON, then xmlstarlet is a good choice for handling it. Naturally, installation:

brew install xmlstarlet

Once you have xmlstarlet, you can do things like pull the build number out of an Atlassian Bamboo HTML page, which was necessary when they did not have an API call available to report the version number of the last known good build for a project:

curl -s --insecure https://bamboo.local/browse/${BUILDKEY}${BUILD} \
      |tidy -asxhtml -numeric --force-output true 2>/dev/null \
      |xmlstarlet sel -N x="http://www.w3.org/1999/xhtml" -t -m "//x:div[@id='sr-build']/x:h2/x:a" -v "." \
      |sed -e "s/#//g"

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16 July 2014