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Chapter 17: Using Aldor interactively

17.1 How to use the interpreter

17.2 Directives for the interactive mode

17.3 Using the interactive mode

This chapter describes how to use a built-in interpreter to run Aldor programs interactively. We shall assume that the reader is familiar with at least the basic concepts of the Aldor programming language.

17.1 : Using Aldor interactively

17.1.1 Running programs with the interpreter (-g interp)

17.1.2 Interactive mode (-g loop)

The interpreter is built into the Aldor compiler. It is used iin two differnet contexts:

17.1.1 : Running programs with interpreter (-g interp)

Suppose you write an Aldor program One way to get it running is with the command:

When you call the compiler with this option, it compiles the program into a device-independent intermediate format called Foam (in this case, in the file, which is then translated into C code (foo.c) and compiled with the C compiler available on your platform. Finally, the executable code generated by the C compiler is executed. If you call the compiler with the -g interp option, e.g,

the intermediate file is executed without any call to the C compiler. Since the instructions are interpreted, and not pure machine code instructions as when using -g run, execution will generally be slower than in the first case. Despite the low execution speed, there are reasons to use the interpreter instead of the compiler:

Using the interpreter is suggested especially for those who are learning Aldor, as it provides a quick way of testing small programs. Note that all the compiler options can be used with -g interp. All optimizations except -Qcc are still effective, because all optimizations in Aldor are performed on the intermediate code. So, for example, if the compiler is called using the -Q3 option, as in:

the program will generally run faster than without the -Q3 option.

Note that the semantics of the language are fully preserved by the interpreter. The interpreter provides all of the Aldor language features.

17.1.2 : Interactive mode (-g loop)

The interactive mode provides an interactive environment in which it is possible to define functions and domains, to use operations provided by the library, to evaluate expressions and to use other features. Users who are familiar with programming in languages that are usually interpreted, such as Lisp, already know the feeling of an interactive environment and how it can be used to gain confidence in the language.

Note that the interactive environment provided with this version of the compiler is still not completely reliable, partially due to the difficulties met in making interactive a language originally designed to be compiled. Despite these problems, it is a very useful tool for learning basic Aldor concepts, as well as developing and debugging complex Aldor programs. The command line to start the compiler in interactive mode is:

A prompt will appear:

At this point, you start typing the first line of your program, for example:

After a few seconds the prompt appears again (the delay is due to the interpreter loading the base library):

The number that appears immediately after % which is incremented with each input line from the user. As will be seen, this is useful when the history mode is on. Now type:

At this point the expression 1 + 1 will be evaluated and the answer is:

in which 2 is the result of the expression and @ SingleInteger means that its type is SingleInteger. To quit the interactive mode type:

When the intepreter starts, it looks in the current directory (the directory from which the command line is being entered) for an initialization file. An initialization file is any Aldor program named If this file is present in the current directory, it will be loaded and executed before the prompt appears.

An example initialization file could be:

Note: the interpreter will display a message: Reading if an initialization file is read.

The majority of command line options are still active when -g loop is used. For example, the optimization option:

will invoke the optimizer before interpreting the generated Foam intermediate code, thereby affecting the execution speed.

We will now try a simple interactive session. Note that all the lines which do not start with the prompt have not been typed, but are part of the output.

17.2 : Directives for the interactive mode

This section provides a full description of some language directives available only in interactive mode.

The options available specifically for interactive mode are requested using #int. A brief help message displaying all available options may be obtained with:

The options are as follows:

These are described in detail below.

Default is: on. When verbose is on, the interpreter prints, if possible, the value and the type of the current expression.


If the value of the expression is not printable (that is, its domain does not export <<:( value at all (for instance, in import from statements), nothing is displayed.

Default is: off.

When history is on, the interpreter wraps, if possible, an assignment around the current expression. If, for example, %5 is the current interpretation step, the prompt will change from %5 >> to %5 :=

which means that, if the current expression has a value, this is assigned to a new variable named %5. The variable %5 is implicitly declared and its type is inferred from the type of the right hand side.



At interpretation step 9, the right association rule for the SPMquot:=" operator in Aldor is observed.
At steps 5 and 6, since no value is assigned to %5 or %6, the variable names %5 and %6 are not introduced and trying to use them would generate an error message.

Default is: on.

When confirm is on, the interpreter asks for confirmation before executing some operations that are illegal in the compiled Aldor language. Typical cases are the redefinition of constants and functions: according to the language definition, these cannot be redefined -- but it may be useful to relax this rule in interactive mode.

Suppose, for example, that you write a definition for a function foo, later adding other functions using foo; at some point you want to provide a better implementation for foo: if your program is going to be compiled, then you can simply edit the file where foo is defined and change it but, unfortunately, this cannot be done if you wrote foo interactively. This is why, in interactive mode, you can enter a new definition for foo: a message will appear because you are doing something that is not normally allowed in Aldor and, at this point, you can confirm that you want to replace the old definition with the new one. If you do not want the message asking for a confirmation, you can enter:

#int confirm off

in which case a positive answer is assumed for each situation in which a confirmation would be needed.



In Aldor operators can be overloaded, so the definition at step %6 is legal and does not need confirmation. A function is redefined only if a new definition with exactly the same signature is provided.
Answering n causes the previous definition to be kept.

It is useful to set this option off when, for some reason, a file is included a second time. If this file contains some function definitions, you will not then be prompted to confirm each of them.

Default is: 0 (no limit).

Set the maximum length, in characters, of Aldor messages. This is useful because some of them, such as error messages, could consist of several lines. A value of 0 means that there is no limit. The characters ... at the end of the message will warn you that it has been truncated.

Note that, if you limit the message length, then you will get incomplete messages when you use the interactive mode as a browser (see section section 17.3.5). You may also see long type-names cut off with ... in error messages. To see the types in full, use

This command explicitly calls the garbage collector. After the execution, a message showing the amount of memory not released is shown, with additional details if the verbose option is on. This operation may take several seconds if the hardware is slow. Note that the garbage collection may occur as needed at other times, even though you have not specifically requested it.

Set one or more of the options normally available when the compiler is called -- for example, optimizations.


sets the optimizations on. Note that, since the interactive mode will be slower for simple expressions if all the optimizations are active but the functions defined are considerably faster, you might want to turn optimizations such as -Q3 on before defining time-intensive functions and to turn them off or reset them to a lower level (such as -Q1 or -Q0) after the definition.

#int cd new-directory

Change the current directory. This is useful if, for example, you want to include files from another directory without typing the path in the #include directive.

Example: #int cd /tmp

Execute the quoted string as a shell command. This is useful, for example, to start an editor session without exiting the interpreter.

Example: #int shell "vi"

will start the vi editor under Unix.

You can also start an inferior shell passing it as a command. Under Unix, for example, you can say:

to start a csh inferior shell. To return to the interpreter, type exit.

17.3 : Using the interactive mode

17.3.1 Multi-line input

17.3.2 Initialization file

17.3.3 Macros

17.3.4 Running inside an editor

17.3.5 Using the interactive mode as a browser

17.3.6 Loading an Aldor file

17.3.7 The # symbol

17.3.8 Labels

17.3.1 : Multi-line input

In order to provide as comfortable an interactive mode as possible, the syntax of the Aldor language, as used interactively, differs slightly from that of the compiled language.

Interactive mode is, by default, indentation sensitive. As a consequence, you do not need a semicolon (;) at the end of each statement -- the newline is identified as a separator. This is different from non-interactive use, where you need to use SPMquot#pile" to get indentation sensitivity.

Multi-line input can be performed using braces or with a == as the last symbol on a line.

If you begin a definition with the line

then the definition will be considered complete when number of closing braces (}) matches the number of opening braces ({) that you entered. In this case, you must remember that braces always turn off indentation sensitivity so you must use a semicolon (;) to separate your statements.

If you enter

Aldor interactive mode is smart enough to understand that you are going to write the body of the function, so the line is not analysed as a complete statement. In this case you need to use spaces or tabs to write your definition with appropriate indentation. The definition will be complete when you start again writing at indentation level 0. A quick way to terminate the definition of a function when in indentation sensitive mode is to type - (an empty comment) at the beginning of the line.

We can show some examples. In the first one, a function arrToList is defined using the indentation sensitive mode. Note that == is last symbol at the end of line 8.

In the second example the same function is defined using braces to get multi-line input:

Note that, since the definition is processed only when complete, all the errors will be issued at that point. So, for example, if you forget a terminator in the body of the function in the second example, you will get a syntax error only when you type }. This is true when using either braces or indentation.

Note: With interactive input it is often convenient to cut and paste to and from a file (for example under X11 and Emacs). If you are going to compile the file and you want to use fragments of code from the interative mode, you must either insert #pile at the top of your file or use braces when you (interactively) define multi-line functions.

When you are using the indentation sensitive mode, the interpreter will start to process the code when you add a line with indentation level 0, unless this line starts another definition. This makes cutting and pasting of code easier. For example:

From the previous example we can also see that: (1) you can type <Enter> before defining the function (as in the first line), so that the indentation is much nicer; (2) the interactive mode is currently unable to print a list of multiple definitions, so you get a strange message when you close the double definition.

Note: when the construct with {...} = add {...} is typed on multiple lines, the braces must be placed as in:

as this will cause a syntax error.

17.3.2 : Initializatino file

As explained above, when Aldor starts in interactive mode, it looks in the current directory for a file called If this file is found, it will be read before the prompt appears. Note that this only happens when Aldor starts in interactive mode (-g loop), and not for the other modes, such as -g run and -g interp.

The most common use of the initialization file is to define macros in order to abbreviate the names of commonly used domains; another use would be to set interactive options (such as #int history on) that are off by default. An example initialization file was given earlier.

There is also an alternative method to initialize the interactive environment that, under certain circumstances, is more convenient. You may set the shell environment variable INCPATH to point to a directory containing an Aldor initialization file. Suppose that you call this file; then, when you start Aldor with -g loop you may type:

It is usually convenient to add the line:

in the file, so that you need to include only this file when you start the interactive mode. Therefore you can initialize the interactive environment by using a file in your current directory (that will be loaded automatically when you start) or by using a file in the include path that must be explicitly included when you start (or both).

Two observations:

You do not need to type the .as suffix when you include a file.

You do not need to type the directory part of the name when including a file in the include path. Otherwise you do need to specify its directory.

Here is another example of an initialization file:

17.3.3 : Macros

There are no restrictions for macros. They can be defined and used at top level, as in:

We recommend defining a set of macros to abbreviate long domain names. These macros, which can be placed, for example, in the initialization file (see above), can reduce the number of typing errors.

17.3.4 : Running inside an editor

If you use editors such as Emacs, we suggest running the interactive mode in an editor inferior shell. This will allow cutting and pasting of definitions into your text and maintaining a history of what was typed, so that in the event of a crash occurring during the interactive mode session you do not lose what you typed.

17.3.5 : Using the interactive mode as a browser

The interactive mode also may be used for finding the exports from domains and categories. Suppose that you want to use the Integer domain. If you want to know its exports, simply type:

You will get:

to get:

and so on.

17.3.6 : Loading an Aldor file

If you have an Aldor file, you can load it into the interactive environment, so that, for example, you can interactively call and test defined programs. There are two ways to do this:

You can use the #include "myfile" directive. For example, when you start, instead of typing:
    #include "aldor"

you could type:

    #include ""

(your file should then contain the #include "aldor" directive).

If your operating system allows input redirection, you can use this to read a file. For example, in Unix or DOS, you could type:
    % Aldorcmd -g loop <

(Note that must respect the braces conventions for the interactive mode, as explained before.)

17.3.7 : The # symbol

In Aldor the # symbol is a legal operator: some domains (such as Array) export operations named #. The problem is that # is also used to identify a preprocessor directive, such as #include or #int. This can generate confusion. Suppose, for example, that you type:

at this point you will get the message:

because the preprocessor is trying to interpret #a as a directive. To ensure the correct behaviour, you can simply add a space before # when it is not intended as a preprocessor directive, since a line containing a preprocessor directive must start with the # (note that the prompt is not considered by the preprocessor). In our case, a space will be the first character of the line. So, if you type:

that is, the correct answer.

17.3.8 : Labels

Labels cannot be defined at top level. An input of the following kind is not allowed in interactive mode:

Note: Actually, the interactive environment does not check if the user is trying to jump to a label defined at the top level, so you generally get a segmentation fault if you try to do this. Labels can be used within function definitions.

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