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YuAo/MetalLibraryArchive 0.0.7
Extract Metal functions from .metallib files.
⭐️ 78
🕓 2 weeks ago
iOS macOS watchOS tvOS macCatalyst
.package(url: "https://github.com/YuAo/MetalLibraryArchive.git", from: "0.0.7")

Metal Library Archive

MetalLibraryArchive is a product of reverse-engineering Apple's metallib file format.

You can use MetalLibraryArchive to get the library type, target platform, Metal functions, etc., from a metallib file.

The extracted information of a Metal function includes:

  • Function name.
  • Function type - vertex, fragment, kernel, extern, etc.
  • Metal Shading Language version of the function.
  • Bitcode of the function which can be converted into human-readable LLVM assembly language using llvm-dis.
  • Source code of the function if the metallib is configured to include source code.

🎈 Usage

Web App

Available at: https://yuao.github.io/MetalLibraryExplorer

Learn more

Explorer App

An executable target called "Explorer" is included in the package. "Explorer" is a GUI app that can open, unpack and disassemble (with the help of llvm-dis) metallib files.

Note llvm-dis is not included, you can get a copy of the binary at https://github.com/llvm/llvm-project/releases

Use the "Disassembler" menu in the app to locate the llvm-dis executable file.



You can also use MetalLibraryArchive as a library:

import MetalLibraryArchive

let archive = try Archive(data: Data(contentsOf: metallibURL))
let libraryType = archive.libraryType
let functions = archive.functions

🚧 Metal Library Archive Binary Layout


Byte Range Type Content
0...3 FourCharCode MTLB
4...5 UInt16 Target platform
6...9 (UInt16, UInt16) Version of the metallib file (major, minor)
10 UInt8 Type of the metallib file
11 UInt8 Target OS
12...15 (UInt16, UInt16) Version of the target OS (major, minor)
16...23 UInt64 Size of the metallib file
24...39 (UInt64, UInt64) Offset and size of the function list
40...55 (UInt64, UInt64) Offset and size of the public metadata section
56...71 (UInt64, UInt64) Offset and size of the private metadata section
72...87 (UInt64, UInt64) Offset and size of the bitcode section
Target Platform Value
macOS 0x8001 (0x01,0x80)
iOS 0x0001 (0x01,0x00)
metallib Type Value
Executable 0x00
Core Image 0x01
Dynamic 0x02
Symbol Companion 0x03
Target OS Value
Unknown 0x00
macOS 0x81
iOS 0x82
tvOS 0x83
watchOS 0x84
bridgeOS (Probably) 0x85
macCatalyst 0x86
iOS Simulator 0x87
tvOS Simulator 0x88
watchOS Simulator 0x89

Function List

Byte Range Type Content
0...3 UInt32 Entry count (the number of functions)
4... Tag Groups Each tag group holds some information about a Metal function

The number of tag groups equals the number of functions.

Tag Group

Byte Range Type Content
0...3 UInt32 Size of the tag group
4... Tags


Byte Range Type Content
0...3 FourCharCode Name of the tag
4...5 UInt16 Size of the tag
6... Bytes Content of the tag

Function Information Tags

Name Content Data Type Content
NAME NULL-terminated C-style string Name of the function
MDSZ UInt64 Size of the bitcode
TYPE UInt8 Type of the function
HASH SHA256 Digest Hash of the bitcode data (SHA256)
OFFT (UInt64, UInt64, UInt64) Offsets of the information about this function in the public metadata section, private metadata section, and bitcode section
SOFF UInt64 Offset of the source code archive of the function in the embedded source code section
VERS (UInt16, UInt16, UInt16, UInt16) Bitcode and language versions (air.major, air.minor, language.major, language.minor)
LAYR UInt8 Metal type of the render_target_array_index (for layered rendering)
TESS UInt8 Patch type and number of control points per-patch (for post-tessellation vertex function)
ENDT End of the tag group
Function Type Value Note
Vertex 0x00
Fragment 0x01
Kernel 0x02
Unqualified 0x03 Functions in Metal dynamic library
Visible 0x04 Functions with [[visible]] or [[stitchable]] attributes
Extern 0x05 Extern functions complied with -fcikernel option
Intersection 0x06

Content of the TESS tag:

// Patch types:
//   - triangle: 1
//   - quad: 2

let content: UInt8 = controlPointCount << 2 | patchType

Public Metadata

Contains information about function constants, tessellation patches, return types, etc.


Private Metadata

Contains paths to the shader source (DEBI tag) and .air (DEPF tag) files.

Header Extension

Only exists if FunctionListOffset + FunctionListSize + 4 != PublicMetadataOffset

Byte Range Type Content
FunctionListOffset + FunctionListSize + 4... Tags Header extension tags

Header Extension Tags

Name Type Content
HDYN (UInt64, UInt64) Offset and size of the dynamic header section
VLST (UInt64, UInt64) Offset and size of the exported variable list
ILST (UInt64, UInt64) Offset and size of the imported symbol list
HSRD/HSRC (UInt64, UInt64) Offset and size of the embedded source code section
UUID UUID UUID of the Metal library.
ENDT End of the header extension

Dynamic Header Section Tags

Name Content Data Type Content
NAME NULL-terminated C-style string Install name of the library
DYNL NULL-terminated C-style string Linked dynamic library

Variable List & Imported Symbol List

Variable list and imported symbol list have structures that are similar to that of the function list.

Embedded Source Code Section

Only exists if the metallib build process is configured to include source code.

Byte Range Type Content
0...1 UInt16 Number of items in this section
2...n NULL-terminated C-style string Link options of the metallib file
n...m NULL-terminated C-style string Working directory
m... Tag Group SARC tag

Note "Working directory" only exists in HSRD.

Note SARC tag uses 4-bytes (UInt32) content size.

Content of the SARC tag:

Byte Range Type Content
0...n NULL-terminated C-style string ID of the source code archive
n... BZh Bzip2 compressed source code archive

Metal Data Type Table

Value Type Value Type
0x00 None 0x01 Struct
0x02 Array 0x03 Float
0x04 Float2 0x05 Float3
0x06 Float4 0x07 Float2x2
0x08 Float2x3 0x09 Float2x4
0x0A Float3x2 0x0B Float3x3
0x0C Float3x4 0x0D Float4x2
0x0E Float4x3 0x0F Float4x4
0x10 Half 0x11 Half2
0x12 Half3 0x13 Half4
0x14 Half2x2 0x15 Half2x3
0x16 Half2x4 0x17 Half3x2
0x18 Half3x3 0x19 Half3x4
0x1A Half4x2 0x1B Half4x3
0x1C Half4x4 0x1D Int
0x1E Int2 0x1F Int3
0x20 Int4 0x21 UInt
0x22 UInt2 0x23 UInt3
0x24 UInt4 0x25 Short
0x26 Short2 0x27 Short3
0x28 Short4 0x29 UShort
0x2A UShort2 0x2B UShort3
0x2C UShort4 0x2D Char
0x2E Char2 0x2F Char3
0x30 Char4 0x31 UChar
0x32 UChar2 0x33 UChar3
0x34 UChar4 0x35 Bool
0x36 Bool2 0x37 Bool3
0x38 Bool4 0x3A Texture
0x3B Sampler 0x3C Pointer
0x3E R8Unorm 0x3F R8Snorm
0x40 R16Unorm 0x41 R16Snorm
0x42 RG8Unorm 0x43 RG8Snorm
0x44 RG16Unorm 0x45 RG16Snorm
0x46 RGBA8Unorm 0x47 RGBA8Unorm_sRGB
0x48 RGBA8Snorm 0x49 RGBA16Unorm
0x4A RGBA16Snorm 0x4B RGB10A2Unorm
0x4C RG11B10Float 0x4D RGB9E5Float
0x4E RenderPipeline 0x4F ComputePipeline
0x50 IndirectCommandBuffer 0x51 Long
0x52 Long2 0x53 Long3
0x54 Long4 0x55 ULong
0x56 ULong2 0x57 ULong3
0x58 ULong4 0x59 Double
0x5A Double2 0x5B Double3
0x5C Double4 0x5D Float8
0x5E Float16 0x5F Half8
0x60 Half16 0x61 Int8
0x62 Int16 0x63 UInt8
0x64 UInt16 0x65 Short8
0x66 Short16 0x67 UShort8
0x68 UShort16 0x69 Char8
0x6A Char16 0x6B UChar8
0x6C UChar16 0x6D Long8
0x6E Long16 0x6F ULong8
0x70 ULong16 0x71 Double8
0x72 Double16 0x73 VisibleFunctionTable
0x74 IntersectionFunctionTable 0x75 PrimitiveAccelerationStructure
0x76 InstanceAccelerationStructure 0x77 Bool8
0x78 Bool16

❤️ Contributing

If you think there's a mistake, please open an issue. You can also choose to open a pull request with the failure test included.

👾 The Story

This project would not have started without zhuowei's research which revealed the basic binary layout of a metallib file, the function list as well as the bitcode section. Thanks, @zhuowei!

What the assembly can tell

I tried to continue the research to get a complete structure of the metallib file, but found it too hard to move forward based on guesswork alone. So I turned my attention to the Metal.framework hoping to find out how the framework loads a metallib file. Fortunately, it's not too hard after dragging Metal.framework/Metal to Hopper Disassembler.

Metal.framework uses MTLLibraryDataWithArchive::parseArchiveSync(...) to load metallib files. There is a lot of information hidden in the assembly of MTLLibraryDataWithArchive. For example:

  • The file starts with 0x424c544d(MTLB); The size of the file is recorded at offset 0x10.

    int __ZN25MTLLibraryDataWithArchive16parseArchiveSyncEPP7NSErrorb(void * * arg0, bool arg1) {
      r12 = rdx;
      r14 = arg1;
      r13 = arg0;
      (*(*arg0 + 0xb8))(arg0, 0x0); //LibraryWithFile::setPosition(...)
      r15 = r13 + 0x78;
      rbx = (*(*r13 + 0xc0))(r13, r15, 0x58);  //LibraryWithFile::readBytes(...)
      rax = *r13;
      rax = (*(rax + 0xc8))(r13); //LibraryWithFile::getFileSize(...)
      // 0x424c544d - MTLB
      // File size field offset: 0x88 - 0x78 = 0x10
      if (((rbx != 0x58) || (*(int32_t *)(r13 + 0x78) != 0x424c544d)) || (*(r13 + 0x88) != rax)) goto loc_6a65b;
      if (r14 == 0x0) goto loc_6a6c5;
      rdx = @"Invalid library file";
  • An Int16 value at offset 0x4 is related to the target platform.

    // 0x7c - 0x78 = 0x4
    rax = *(int16_t *)(r13 + 0x7c) & 0xffff;
    if ((rax >= 0x0) || (r12 == 0x0)) goto loc_6a6ea;
    if (r14 == 0x0) goto loc_6a6c5;
    rdx = @"This library format is not supported on this platform (or was built with an old version of the tools)";
    goto loc_6a689;
  • There is a "Header Extension Section" that contains information about the "Dynamic Header Section", "Imported Symbol List" and "Variable List":

    if (MTLLibraryDataWithArchive::parseHeaderExtension(r13, r13 + 0x100, r14) != 0x0) {
        if (MTLLibraryDataWithArchive::parseDynamicHeaderSection(r13) != 0x0) {
            if (MTLLibraryDataWithArchive::parseImportedSymbolListSection(r13) != 0x0) {
                rax = MTLLibraryDataWithArchive::parseVariableListSection(r13);
            } else {
                rax = 0x0;
        } else {
            rax = 0x0;
    } else {
        rax = 0x0;
  • The bitcode is validated using SHA256.

    int ____ZN25MTLLibraryDataWithArchive15validateBitCodeEmmPK6NSDataRK12MTLUINT256_t_block_invoke(int arg0) {
        CC_SHA256_Update(&var_B0, r14, *(int32_t *)(r15 + 0x38));
        CC_SHA256_Final(&var_48, &var_B0);
  • A lot of FourCC codes:

    // 0x454e4454 - ENDT
    if (rax == 0x454e4454) goto loc_6a871;
    // 0x54595045 - TYPE
    if (rax == 0x54595045) goto loc_6a9dc;
    // 0x44594e4c - DYNL
    if (rax != 0x44594e4c) goto loc_6b002;
    // 0x56455253 - VERS
    if (rax == 0x56455253) goto loc_6b81c;

After some digging around I was able to get an overview of the metallib file's structure:

  • The file has a 88 bytes header that contains the file version, target platform, library type, section indices, etc.

  • There are 4 sections recorded in the file header:

    • Function list

    • Public metadata

    • Private metadata

    • Bitcode modules

    Each section is recorded with an offset and a size. This means sections can be non-contiguous, which allows Apple to introduce new sections in between without breaking the compatibility. And Apple did that exactly for the "header extension" section - it lies between the function list and the public metadata section.

  • Most of the sections (except the bitcode section) resemble a "tag" based structure:

    • FourCharCode is used as the tag's name/type.

    • An UInt16 (in most cases) value of size follows the tag's name.

      The source archive data tag SARC unsurprisingly uses an UInt32 value for its size - a source archive can easily exceed 65KB.

    • Tags are grouped:

      • Each group represents a set of properties of an item.

      • The tag group ends with an ENDT tag.

TDG - "Test Driven Guessing"

Next, I need to figure out what information each tag/field holds. This can be hard to get from the assembly of the Metal.framework because:

  • Some fields may be designed purely for tooling or debugging, so MTLLibraryDataWithArchive may just ignore them.

  • The assembly is platform dependent. For example, the iOS version of MTLLibraryDataWithArchive may only check whether the metallib is built for iOS and cannot tell if the library is built for macOS.

  • Some fields are just hard to analyze and follow. Examples:

    • There are 3 offsets in the OFFT tag of the function, where are they pointing to? and how are they finally used?

    • What are the possible values of the function type? What does each value mean?

It seems that the quickest way to get this information is through experiments.

I started by manually compiling metal files with different shaders, options, and SDKs, then inspecting each field I was interested in. My desktop was quickly flooded with metallib files and HexFiend windows, but I didn't find much useful information. I need something that can automatically build metallib and presents me only the field that I'm interested in.

I came up with the "Test Driven Guessing":

  1. Write a metallib parser based on the binary structure overview at hand.

  2. In the parser, log the value of a field/tag (or some related fields) that is currently unknown.

  3. Create tests that produce metallib files using different kinds of shaders and compile options that may affect the value of the field, and use the parser to parse the file data.

  4. Run tests and analyze the log to make hypotheses.

  5. Update the parser based on hypotheses.

  6. Run tests again to verify.

After a few rounds, I was able to get the function type table, target OS table, and the meaning of 3 offsets in the OFFT tag.

I also found a few things interesting in this process:

  • Metal does not support watchOS, however, it is possible to build a metallib targeting watchOS. And Apple does include some metallibs in the watchOS SDK. (e.g. Xcode.app/Contents/Developer/Platforms/WatchOS.platform/Library/Developer/CoreSimulator/Profiles/Runtimes/watchOS.simruntime/Contents/Resources/RuntimeRoot/System/Library/Frameworks/CoreImage.framework/ci_filters.metallib)

  • Empty metallibs targeting old versions of iOS are mistakenly marked as targeting macOS.

  • I cannot build a metallib that has the target OS value 0x85. At first I thought it might be reserved for the concealed realityOS, but later found out it is more likely for the bridgeOS.


Apr 10, 2022

Tags like LAYR, VATY, CNST, etc., contain UInt8 values of Metal data types. The corresponding description for each data type value can be retrieved using a private class in Metal.framework - MTLTypeInternal

id value = [[NSClassFromString(@"MTLTypeInternal") alloc] initWithDataType:0x06];
NSLog(@"%@", value.description); // MTLDataTypeFloat4

I created a command line tool to generate the Metal data type table.

cd Utilities
swift run metal-data-type-tools gen-markdown --columns 2 # generate a markdown table
swift run metal-data-type-tools gen-swift # generate a Swift enum for Metal data types.

Mar 31, 2022

The air-lld (Xcode.app/Contents/Developer/Toolchains/XcodeDefault.xctoolchain/usr/metal/ios/bin/air-lld) also provides a lot of information about how the metallib file is built. Some section names and descriptions are updated.

int __ZN4llvm3air20MetalLibObjectWriter5writeEv() {
    r14 = rdi;
    rax = llvm::air::MetalLibObjectWriter::writeHeader();
    if (rax != 0x0) goto loc_1000351b9;

    rax = llvm::air::MetalLibObjectWriter::writeFunctionList();
    if (rax != 0x0) goto loc_1000351b9;

    rax = llvm::air::MetalLibObjectWriter::writeHeaderExtension();
    if (rax != 0x0) goto loc_1000351b9;

    rax = llvm::air::MetalLibObjectWriter::writePublicMetadata();
    if (rax != 0x0) goto loc_1000351b9;

    rax = llvm::air::MetalLibObjectWriter::writePrivateMetadata();
    if (rax != 0x0) goto loc_1000351b9;

    rax = llvm::air::MetalLibObjectWriter::writeModuleList();
    if (rax != 0x0) goto loc_1000351b9;

    rax = llvm::air::MetalLibObjectWriter::writeSources();
    if (rax != 0x0) goto loc_1000351b9;

    rax = llvm::air::MetalLibObjectWriter::writeDynamicHeader();
    if (rax != 0x0) goto loc_1000351b9;

    rax = llvm::air::MetalLibObjectWriter::writeVariableList();
    if (rax != 0x0) goto loc_1000351b9;

    rax = llvm::air::MetalLibObjectWriter::writeImportedSymbolList();
    if (rax != 0x0) goto loc_1000351b9;

    rax = llvm::air::MetalLibObjectWriter::computeUUID();
    if (rax != 0x0) goto loc_1000351b9;

    rax = llvm::air::MetalLibObjectWriter::backpatchAllLocations();
    if (rax == 0x0) goto loc_1000351c2;

    rbx = rax;
    goto loc_1000351bb;

    rax = rbx;
    return rax;

    rbx = 0x0;
    goto loc_1000351bb;


Stars: 78
Last commit: 2 weeks ago
jonrohan Something's broken? Yell at me @ptrpavlik. Praise and feedback (and money) is also welcome.


Release Notes

1 week ago

Swiftpack is being maintained by Petr Pavlik | @ptrpavlik | @swiftpackco | API | Analytics