Unicode characters as operators in a programming language¿

Wouldn’t it be cool to use Unicode characters as operators and maybe even function names?

if a ≠ b { ... }

range = 0…10

all_above_ten = myarr ∀ F(x) x > 10

Looks good, concise, expressive. Perl 6, Julia, Scala appear to support Unicode operators.

Why don’t I add Unicode operators and function names to NGS then?

If NGS would allow Unicode, it would be optional as I don’t want additional entry barrier or possible problems typing Unicode using remote connection. If I do add optional Unicode to NGS, here is what I think will happen next:

Some people start using Unicode in NGS while others don’t. Mixed code style emerges. It’s easy to imagine such mixed code style even in the same file as someone without the Unicode setup on his/her keyboard  is doing a quick fix. ViralBShah sums it up pretty well.

What do you think? Your comments are welcome.

 

Ruby’s do block in NGS experiment

Ruby has a very nice feature – a special syntax to pass a block of code as an argument to a method. I did want something like this NGS. Background, reasons and what this feature became follow.

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Background

NGS – Next Generation Shell is a language and a shell I’m working on for a few years now.

This article is about new NGS syntax inspired by and compared to the counterpart  Ruby’s do ... end syntax. The new syntax provides more convenient way of passing anonymous function to another function. Passing functions to other functions is (sometimes) considered to be a “functional programming” feature of a language.

In NGS, up until recently you had to pass all of your arguments (except for the first argument which can be passed before .method() ) inside the parenthesis of the method call syntax:

mymethod(arg1, arg2, ... argN)

or syntactically equivalent

arg1.mymethod(arg2, arg3, ... argN)

Passing an anonymous function could look like the following in NGS:

required_props.each(F(prop_name) {
    prop_name not in rd.anchor throws InvalidArgument("...")
})

The problem

In the code snippet above I don’t like the closing }) part. A single } would look much better. You could use the each operator % to get rid of the closing ).  So the code above becomes

required_props % F(prop_name) {
    prop_name not in rd.anchor throws InvalidArgument("...")
}

Which is shorter but not very clear (at least for newcomers) because of the % operator. I prefer to use the each operator in small expressions such as myarr % echo and not to use it in bigger expressions such as the snippet above. The closing ) syntax issue is not solved for the general case then so I wanted something like Ruby’s do block syntax.

Importing the “do” block

I’ve made quite a few modifications to fit NGS and to fit some OCD-ness:

The keyword

I prefer “with” because in my opinion, it’s much clearer that it links left-hand-side and right-hand-side. mymethod() with { ... some code ... } looks more clear to me than mymethod() do { ... some code ... }. It might be that I was affected by constructing a mini test framework where test("my feature") with { test code } looks very good.

Not only for code blocks

I don’t like “special” things so whatever comes after with can be any expression.

required_props.each() with F(prop_name) {
    prop_name not in rd.anchor throws InvalidArgument("...")
}

or

results = mylist.map() with my_super_mapper_func_name

Note than when using each it could probably be clearer to have the do keyword. I’m still unsure that with is the right choice

Code blocks syntax

You might ask how test("my feature") with { test code } works if what’s after with is any expression.

The test("my feature") with { test code } syntax works because { ... } is a syntax for anonymous function (with 3 optional parameters called A, B and C) and not because it’s part of the with syntax. You could get the same result using test("my feature", { test code }) .

Not just one

I don’t see any reason why with would be limited to one occurrence.

finally()
    with {
        while entry = c_readdir(d) {
            ...
        }
    }
    with {
        r = c_closedir(d)
        r != 0 throws DirFail('...')
    }

Not a special parameter

As compared to Ruby, the finally() method does not use the special yield keyword to run the given arguments nor parameter should be declared with &. Here is the definition of finally() method (including the bug that cleanup can run twice, which I intend to fix).

F finally(body:Fun, cleanup:Fun) {
    try {
        ret = body()
        cleanup()
        ret
    } catch(e) {
        cleanup()
        throw e
    }
}

Not special at all, just an additional syntax for arguments

The with syntax allows to write method call arguments outside the parenthesis. That’s all. What follows from this definition is the possibility of using keyword arguments:

finally()
        with body = {
                while entry = c_readdir(d) {
                        ...
                }
        }
        with cleanup = {
                r = c_closedir(d)
                r != 0 throws DirFail('...')
        }

Let’s shorten the syntax

The with name = val argument syntax looked a bit too verbose for me and with was stealing attention focus from the name. I’ve added the fat arrow syntax to combat that.

finally()
    body => {
        while entry = c_readdir(d) {
            ...
        }
    }
    cleanup => {
        r = c_closedir(d)
        r != 0 throws DirFail('...')
    }

How the feature looks like now?

The snippet above refers to real code in stdlib. Additional examples of the with syntax follow:

Stdlib’s retry()

Definition:

F body_missing_in_retry() throw InvalidArgument("...")

F retry(times=60, sleep=1, ..., progress_cb={null}, success_cb={A},
    fail_cb=null, body:Fun=body_missing_in_retry) {
...
}

Usage:

F assert_resolvable(h:Str, title="Resolve host", times=45, sleep=2) {
	retry(times=times, sleep=sleep, title=title)
		body       => { `dig "+short" $h`.lines() }
		success_cb => { log_test_ok("...") }
		fail_cb    => { throw TestFail("...") }
}

test() mini framework for … tests!

Definition:

F test(name:Str, f:Fun) {
...
}

Usage:

test("Resolving gateway FQDN $gw_fqdn") with {
    assert_resolvable(gw_fqdn, "Resolve gateway FQDN")
}

Have your own ideas?

Please comment with your ideas regarding this, other and proposed NGS features, they can make it into the language. Or fork/improve/pull request.


Have a nice weekend!