User Manual

Instructions on how to use the slang tool as an end-user.

Quick Start

The slang binary runs a full compilation of given SystemVerilog source files. Eventually it will produce a full simulation binary as output, but for now it serves as a checker of source code syntax, types, and various language rules.

Running it on one or more valid SystemVerilog files will note the top level modules found, and will return zero:

module m;
    struct { logic a; } s;
    int i = s.a + 1;
    initial $display("%d", i);
> slang
Top level design units:

Build succeeded: 0 errors, 0 warnings

> echo $?

Running it on a file with errors will produce nicely formatted diagnostic output:

module m;
    struct { logic a; } s;
    int i = s + 1;
    initial $display("%d", i);
Top level design units:

../ error: invalid operands to binary expression ('<unnamed unpacked struct>' and 'int')
        int i = s + 1;
                ~ ^ ~

Build failed: 1 error, 0 warnings

File Patterns

All inputs to slang that accept a file path also accept a file "pattern", which is a wildcarded pattern that can select zero or more files (or directories, for options like -I). Allowed shortcuts/wildcards are:

  • ? matches any single character
  • * matches zero or more characters
  • ... recursively matches any number of directories
  • .. specifies the parent directory
  • . specifies the current directory

Paths that end in a / include all the files in that directory, identical to /*.

Compilation Units

A "compilation unit" is a one or more input source files that are parsed together as an independent unit (note that preprocessing, including macro expansion, is performed during parsing and so the effects of it are limited in scope to the compilation unit). Because they are self contained, each compilation unit can be parsed in parallel with all other compilation units. Once all compilation units are parsed, elaboration is performed to build the final design. Top-level modules, interfaces, programs, primitives, and packages are visible across compilation units, but other declarations are not.

By default slang treats all input files as separate SystemVerilog compilation units. This is the preferred method both because it keeps the code logically separate (it doesn't require a specific ordering of files on the command line in order to compile correctly) and because internally the tool can parse files in parallel if it knows they don't have to be parsed in a specific order. You can instead choose to have all input files combined into a single compilation unit by using the --single-unit flag, which mirrors the default behavior of many other SystemVerilog tools.

Additionally you can control compilation units at a more fine grained level via several mechanisms. Library units, passed via -v, discovered via Searching for Library Files or specified via a --libmap, are always separate compilation units. Also you can use a Compilation Unit Listing to specify a specific set of files that should form a compilation unit, along with additional flags that control parsing behavior at the level of that specific compilation unit.

Source Libraries

SystemVerilog has a concept of a "source library" which is a named collection of files that can be included in a design. All files are part of a source library – if none is named explicitly for a given file, that file will be part of the default library (named "work").

Library files can be specified on the command line using the -v option, which accepts a file pattern and an optional library name. If the library name is ommitted, the file is placed in the default library. For example:

> slang -v some/ -v "my_lib=some/other/"

This includes three files in the design; is a non-library file (though it is placed in the default "work" library for purposes of having a library name available), is a library file in the "work" library, and is a library file in the "my_lib" library.

The distinction between library files and non-library files is that modules in library files are never automatically instantiated, unused code elements don't cause warnings, and unused modules have no semantic error checking applied (e.g. name lookups don't occur, though the files must still be syntactically correct SystemVerilog code). Also it is assumed that library files are independent from each other even if the --single-unit flag is used (and thus can be loaded and parsed in any order). If you are using --single-unit and need macros declared in the regular files to be visible in library files you can use the --libraries-inherit-macros flag.

Libraries can also be defined using "library map" files, which are passed to slang using the --libmap flag. The format of library map files is specified in the SystemVerilog LRM, section 33.3. An example map file might look like:

include some/other/;

// Declare a library called "my_lib" with some files in it
library my_lib, "all/in/dir/*.sv", other/;

All files specified in a library map are loaded and parsed as if they had been passed using the -v flag.

Command Files

Command files allow specifying tool options in standalone composable files instead of needing to pass all of them on the command line. One or more command files can be used by passing them via the -F or -f command line flags – both flags function identically except in the treatment of file paths in the command file. -F files treat their paths as relative to the command file itself, where as -f files treat paths as relative to the current working directory.

The format of a command file is straightforward; all text is treated as whitespace-delimited arguments, similarly to how they might be passed on the command line. Newlines are treated like any other form of whitespace. Some important features are as follows:

  • Command files can contain comments. '#' starts a line comment that continues to the end of the line, regardless of where the '#' occurs. '//' similarly starts a line comment, but only if preceeded by whitespace. '/∗' and '∗/' form a C-style multiline block comment.
  • Single quotes and double quotes group text in a similar fashion to how they work in Bash and other shells.
  • The backslash character can be used to escape special characters and treat them like normal text.
  • Environment variables in the command file are expanded. Variables can be specified in one of three styles: $VAR, $(VAR), and ${VAR}.
  • Command files can further include other command files by using -f or -F.
  • Arguments set in a command file are overridden by anything set on the command line if they would otherwise conflict.

Compilation Unit Listing

Similar to command files, there exists another type of file called a "compilation unit listing" that can be passed to slang using the -C command line flag. The syntax of the file is the same as for a command file, except that only a limited subset of flags are allowed. The contents of the file are used to specify a complete compilation unit, including the files that should comprise it as well as flags that control how it should be parsed. Note that paths specified in the file are always relative to the file itself.

The flags allowed in compilation unit listings are:

positional arguments

Paths to files (using file patterns) that should be included in the compilation unit.

-I,--include-directory <dir-pattern>[,...]

Add the given directory paths to the list of directories searched by `include directives that use quotes to specify the path.

-D,--define-macro <macro>=<value>

Define <macro> to <value> (or 1 if <value> is ommitted) at the start of all source files.

--library <library-name>

Specifies the name of the library in which the compilation unit should be included. If the library has already been specified elsewhere this appends the compilation unit to that library. If this flag is not provided, the compilation unit is assumed to be in the default library.

Built-in Macros

There are a handful of slang-specific predefined macros that you can reference in your code:

`__slang_major__slang major version number
`__slang_minor__slang minor version number

Nonstandard Built-in Functions

Besides the system tasks and functions specified in the SystemVerilog LRM, slang also provides the following nonstandard built-in functions:

$static_assert(condition[, message])

Performs an elaboration-time check of the provided condition (which must be a constant expression) and fails with an error if the condition is false. This works very similarly to the $error elaboration system task, with the optional message being a string that accepts formatting specifiers in the same style as the $sformatf function. If no message is provided it will print a default message about the failure.

$static_assert is usable in all contexts where $error is allowed, and additionally is supported in other contexts such as packages. It can also be used in task, function, and other statement blocks.

If the assertion fails and the provided condition contains a comparison operator, slang will print additional helpful information about both sides of the comparison to help diagnose the failure.


module m;
    localparam int foo = 12;
    struct packed { logic [4:1] a, b; } bar;
    $static_assert(foo < $bits(bar));
endmodule error: static assertion failed
    $static_assert(foo < $bits(bar));
    ^ note: comparison reduces to (12 < 8)
    $static_assert(foo < $bits(bar));

Driver loop unrolling

SystemVerilog specifies various rules about how nets and variables can be driven. These rules all operate on the principal of "longest static prefixes" which are described in the LRM in section 11.5.3. Unintuitive behavior can result when operating on nested subsets of arrays or structures due to these rules, for example:

module m;
    int foo[10];
        for (int i = 1; i < 10; i += 2) begin : baz
            foo[i] = 2;

    for (genvar i = 0; i < 10; i += 2) begin
        always_comb foo[i] = 1;

Under LRM rules, this results in a compilation error because inside a procedural block the for loop variable i is not constant and therefore the longest static prefix of the assignment is just foo, and so all elements are assumed assigned by the initial block. Most tools, slang included, implement an extension to attempt to unroll all procedural for loops in order to extend the longest static prefix of assignments within those loops, making the above example compile successfully. Such unrolling can be disabled with the --strict-driver-checking command line flag.

The limitations of this feature are as follows:

  • Only for loops are supported – other kinds of loops are not.
  • The for loop must declare its iteration variables and must provide stop and iteration expressions.
  • The number of iterations of all for loops in a block must be less than the limit given by --max-constexpr-steps
  • Only assignment statements are supported – output args from subroutines are not taken into account.
  • Conditional statements inside of for loops that depend on the iteration variable will work as expected.
  • All other forms of flow control inside each for loop (including break / continue) are ignored.


slang supports the following pragma directives as extensions to the base set specified by the LRM:

`pragma once

Files that contain this directive will not be included more than once into any given compilation unit, regardless of how many times they are specified via a `include directive. This is analagous to the #pragma once directive supported widely by C++ compilers, and can replace the more traditional usage of preprocessor header guards via `ifdef.

`pragma diagnostic options...

A set of pragmas that can control diagnostic warning output for various regions of source text. These options mirror those provided on the command line but have the advantage of being scoped to specific parts of your code.

The possible values for options are:

  • push and pop – create a scope via push for further diagnostic options that can later be reverted back to their previous state via a pop option.
  • ignore – One or more warning flags to ignore.
  • warn – One or more warning flags to enable.
  • error – One or more warning flags to turn into errors.
  • fatal – One or more warning flags to turn into hard fatal errors.


module m;
    ; // warn
`pragma diagnostic ignore="-Wempty-member"
    ; // hidden
`pragma diagnostic push
    ; // also hidden
`pragma diagnostic error="-Wempty-member"
    ; // error
`pragma diagnostic warn="-Wempty-member"
    ; // warn
`pragma diagnostic pop
`pragma diagnostic pop  // does nothing
    ; // hidden again

`pragma diagnostic fatal="empty-member" // ok to not use -W
`pragma diagnostic ignore=("default", "empty-member")
    ; // ignored