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    Displaying propagated value of metavariables

    This document provides information about experimental syntax supplement to Displaying matched metavariables in rule messages. Semgrep enables you to display values of matched metavariables in rule messages. However, in some cases, the matched value of the metavariable is not the real value you were looking for.

    See the following rule message and part of a Semgrep rule (formula):

    - message: >-
    Creating a buffer using $X
    - patterns:
    - pattern: byte[] buf = new byte[$X];
    - metavariable-comparison:
    metavariable: $X
    comparison: $X < 2048

    Testing code:

    int size = 512;
    byte[] buf = new byte[size];

    Semgrep matches this code because it performs constant propagation. Therefore, Semgrep recognizes that the value of size is 512. Consequently, Semgrep evaluates that the buffer size is less than 2048. But what is the value of $X?

    If the rule message states Creating a buffer using $X, the resulting message output is not helpful in this particular case:

    Creating a buffer using size

    This is caused by the value of $X within the code, which is size. However, the underlying value of size is 512. The goal of the rule message is to access this underlying value in our message.

    To retrieve the correct value in the case described above, use value($X) in the rule message (for example (Creating a buffer using value($X)). Semgrep replaces the value($X) with the underlying propagated value of the metavariable $X if it computes one (otherwise, Semgrep uses the matched value).


    Regular Semgrep syntax for displaying matched metavariables in rule messages is for example $X. For specific propagated values, use experimental syntax value($X) instead. For more information about the standard syntax, see Displaying matched metavariables in rule messages.

    Run the following example in Semgrep Playground to see the message (click Open in Editor, and then Run, unroll the 1 Match to see the message):

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