Basic usage

Serializing and deserializing with cbor2 is pretty straightforward:

from cbor2 import dumps, loads

# Serialize an object as a bytestring
data = dumps(['hello', 'world'])

# Deserialize a bytestring
obj = loads(data)

# Efficiently deserialize from a file
with open('input.cbor', 'rb') as fp:
    obj = load(fp)

# Efficiently serialize an object to a file
with open('output.cbor', 'wb') as fp:
    dump(obj, fp)

Some data types, however, require extra considerations, as detailed below.

String/bytes handling on Python 2

The str type is encoded as binary on Python 2. If you want to encode strings as text on Python 2, use unicode strings instead.

Date/time handling

The CBOR specification does not support naïve datetimes (that is, datetimes where tzinfo is missing). When the encoder encounters such a datetime, it needs to know which timezone it belongs to. To this end, you can specify a default timezone by passing a tzinfo instance to dump()/dumps() call as the timezone argument. Decoded datetimes are always timezone aware.

By default, datetimes are serialized in a manner that retains their timezone offsets. You can optimize the data stream size by passing datetime_as_timestamp=False to dump()/dumps(), but this causes the timezone offset information to be lost.

Cyclic (recursive) data structures

If the encoder encounters a shareable object (ie. list or dict) that it has seen before, it will by default raise CBOREncodeError indicating that a cyclic reference has been detected and value sharing was not enabled. CBOR has, however, an extension specification that allows the encoder to reference a previously encoded value without processing it again. This makes it possible to serialize such cyclic references, but value sharing has to be enabled by passing value_sharing=True to dump()/dumps().


Support for value sharing is rare in other CBOR implementations, so think carefully whether you want to enable it. It also causes some line overhead, as all potentially shareable values must be tagged as such.

Tag support

In addition to all standard CBOR tags, this library supports many extended tags:

Tag Semantics Python type(s)
0 Standard date/time string / datetime.datetime
1 Epoch-based date/time / datetime.datetime
2 Positive bignum int / long
3 Negative bignum int / long
4 Decimal fraction decimal.Decimal
5 Bigfloat decimal.Decimal
28 Mark shared value N/A
29 Reference shared value N/A
30 Rational number fractions.Fraction
35 Regular expression _sre.SRE_Pattern (result of re.compile(...))
36 MIME message email.message.Message
37 Binary UUID uuid.UUID
258 Set of unique items set

Arbitary tags can be represented with the CBORTag class.

Use Cases

Here are some things that the cbor2 library could be (and in some cases, is being) used for:

  • Experimenting with network protocols based on CBOR encoding
  • Designing new data storage formats
  • Submitting binary documents to ElasticSearch without base64 encoding overhead
  • Storing and validating file metadata in a secure backup system
  • RPC which supports Decimals with low overhead