[erlang-questions] compile module from string, containing macro definitions

Chris Newcombe <>
Fri Jul 20 18:38:33 CEST 2007

A while back I asked about compiling code on the fly from a string.
Mats Cronqvist kindly posted some working code.

On 3/9/07, Mats Cronqvist <> wrote:
>   btw, i would appreciate if you feed back your improvements.

I forgot to post my changes at the time, so here they are now.

I didn't add very much, but it does now support -include directives,
and supports at least one more type of macro usage.

Caveat Emptor: the -include support (and macro expansion) does not yet
detect/prevent cycles; it will spin until it exhausts memory.  This is
obviously fairly easy to fix, but I couldn't justify the time to
enhance this any more than I absolutely needed.

Also I didn't finish support for standard macros like ?FILE, ?MODULE,
etc.  There is some support for ?LINE but it's mostly untested (e.g. I
didn't check that it behaves correctly in included files).

So it's far from complete, but it is still pretty useful.


%%% File    : compile_module_from_string.erl
%%% Description :
%%% TODO
%%% - add support for
%%%     limit include-file depth (and prevent circular references)
%%%     prevent circular macro expansion
%%%     set FILE correctly when -module() is found
%%%     -include_lib
%%%     support $ENVVAR in include filenames
%%%     substitute-stringize (??MACRO)
%%%     -undef/-ifdef/-ifndef/-else/-endif
%%%     -file(File, Line)

%% API
         compile/2, % takes Options as for compile:forms/2


%% API
%% Function:
%% Description:
%%   Returns a binary that can be used with
%%           code:load_binary(Module, ModuleFilenameForInternalRecords, Binary).

compile(CodeStr) ->
    compile(CodeStr, []).

compile(CodeStr, CompileFormsOptions) ->

    %% Initialise the macro dictionary with the default predefined macros,
    %% (adapted from epp.erl:predef_macros/1

    Filename = "compiled_from_string",
    %%Machine  = list_to_atom(erlang:system_info(machine)),

    Ms0    = dict:new(),

%%     Ms1    = dict:store('FILE',          {[], "compiled_from_string"}, Ms0),
%%     Ms2    = dict:store('LINE',          {[], 1},
   Ms1),  % actually we might add special code for this
%%     Ms3    = dict:store('MODULE',        {[], undefined},              Ms2),
%%     Ms4    = dict:store('MODULE_STRING', {[], undefined},              Ms3),
%%     Ms5    = dict:store('MACHINE',       {[], Machine},                Ms4),
%%     InitMD = dict:store(Machine,         {[], true},                   Ms5),

    InitMD = Ms0,

    %% From the docs for compile:forms:
    %%    When encountering an -include or -include_dir directive, the
compiler searches for header files in the following directories:
    %%      1. ".", the current working directory of the file server;
    %%      2. the base name of the compiled file;
    %%      3. the directories specified using the i option. The
directory specified last is searched first.
    %% In this case, #2 is meaningless.

    IncludeSearchPath = ["." | reverse([Dir || {i, Dir} <-

    {RevForms, _OutMacroDict} = scan_and_parse(CodeStr, Filename, 1,
[], InitMD, IncludeSearchPath),
    Forms = reverse(RevForms),

    %% note: 'binary' is forced as an implicit option, whether it is
provided or not.
    case compile:forms(Forms, CompileFormsOptions) of

        {ok, ModuleName, CompiledCodeBinary} when
is_binary(CompiledCodeBinary) ->
            {ModuleName, CompiledCodeBinary};

        {ok, ModuleName, CompiledCodeBinary, []} when
is_binary(CompiledCodeBinary) ->  % empty warnings list
            {ModuleName, CompiledCodeBinary};

        {ok, _ModuleName, _CompiledCodeBinary, Warnings} ->
            throw({?MODULE, warnings, Warnings});

        Other ->
            throw({?MODULE, compile_forms, Other})

%% Internal functions

%%% Code from Mats Cronqvist
%%% See http://www.erlang.org/pipermail/erlang-questions/2007-March/025507.html

%%%## 'scan_and_parse'
%%% basically we call the OTP scanner and parser (erl_scan and
%%% erl_parse) line-by-line, but check each scanned line for (or
%%% definitions of) macros before parsing.

%% returns {ReverseForms, FinalMacroDict}
scan_and_parse([], _CurrFilename, _CurrLine, RevForms, MacroDict,
_IncludeSearchPath) ->
    {RevForms, MacroDict};

scan_and_parse(RemainingText, CurrFilename, CurrLine, RevForms,
MacroDict, IncludeSearchPath) ->

    case scanner(RemainingText, CurrLine, MacroDict) of

	{tokens, NLine, NRemainingText, Toks} ->
	    {ok, Form} = erl_parse:parse_form(Toks),
	    scan_and_parse(NRemainingText, CurrFilename, NLine, [Form |
RevForms], MacroDict, IncludeSearchPath);

	{macro, NLine, NRemainingText, NMacroDict} ->
	    scan_and_parse(NRemainingText, CurrFilename, NLine, RevForms,
NMacroDict, IncludeSearchPath);

        {include, NLine, NRemainingText, IncludeFilename} ->
            IncludeFileRemainingTextents =
read_include_file(IncludeFilename, IncludeSearchPath),
            %%io:format("include file ~p contents: ~n
~p~nRemainingText = ~p~n", [IncludeFilename,
IncludeFileRemainingTextents, RemainingText]),

            %% Modify the FILE macro to reflect the filename
            %%IncludeMacroDict = dict:store('FILE',
{[],IncludeFilename}, MacroDict),
            IncludeMacroDict = MacroDict,

            %% Process the header file (inc. any nested header files)
            {RevIncludeForms, IncludedMacroDict} =
scan_and_parse(IncludeFileRemainingTextents, IncludeFilename, 1, [],
IncludeMacroDict, IncludeSearchPath),
            %io:format("include file results = ~p~n", [R]),

            %% Restore the FILE macro in the NEW MacroDict (so we keep
any macros defined in the header file)
            %%NMacroDict = dict:store('FILE', {[],CurrFilename},
            NMacroDict = IncludedMacroDict,

            %% Continue with the original file
	    scan_and_parse(NRemainingText, CurrFilename, NLine,
RevIncludeForms ++ RevForms, NMacroDict, IncludeSearchPath);

        done ->
	    scan_and_parse([], CurrFilename, CurrLine, RevForms, MacroDict,

scanner(Text, Line, MacroDict) ->

    case erl_scan:tokens([],Text,Line) of

        {done, {ok,Toks,NLine}, LeftOverChars} ->

            case pre_proc(Toks, MacroDict) of
                {tokens,  NToks}      -> {tokens,  NLine, LeftOverChars, NToks};
                {macro,   NMacroDict} -> {macro,   NLine,
LeftOverChars, NMacroDict};
                {include, Filename}   -> {include, NLine,
LeftOverChars, Filename}

        {more, _Continuation} ->
            %% This is supposed to mean "term is not yet complete"
(i.e. a '.' has
            %% not been reached yet).
            %% However, for some bizarre reason we also get this if
there is a comment after the final '.' in a file.
            %% So we check to see if Text only consists of comments.
            case is_only_comments(Text) of
                true  ->
                false ->
                    throw({incomplete_term, Text, Line})

is_only_comments(Text) -> is_only_comments(Text, not_in_comment).

is_only_comments([],       _)              -> true;
is_only_comments([$   |T], not_in_comment) -> is_only_comments(T,
not_in_comment); % skipping whitspace outside of comment
is_only_comments([$\t |T], not_in_comment) -> is_only_comments(T,
not_in_comment); % skipping whitspace outside of comment
is_only_comments([$\n |T], not_in_comment) -> is_only_comments(T,
not_in_comment); % skipping whitspace outside of comment
is_only_comments([$%  |T], not_in_comment) -> is_only_comments(T,
in_comment);     % found start of a comment
is_only_comments(_,        not_in_comment) -> false;
            % found any significant char NOT in a comment
is_only_comments([$\n |T], in_comment)     -> is_only_comments(T,
not_in_comment); % found end of a comment
is_only_comments([_   |T], in_comment)     -> is_only_comments(T,
in_comment).     % skipping over in-comment chars

%%%## 'pre-proc'
%%% have to implement a subset of the pre-processor, since epp insists
%%% on running on a file.
%%% only handles 2 cases;
%% -define(MACRO, something).
%% -define(MACRO(VAR1,VARN),{stuff,VAR1,more,stuff,VARN,extra,stuff}).

pre_proc([{'-',_},{atom,_,define},{'(',_},{_,_,Name}|DefToks],MacroDict) ->
    false = dict:is_key(Name, MacroDict),
    case DefToks of
	[{',',_} | Macro] ->
	    {macro, dict:store(Name, {[], macro_body_def(Macro, [])},  MacroDict)};
	[{'(',_} | Macro] ->
	    {macro, dict:store(Name, macro_params_body_def(Macro, []), MacroDict)}

pre_proc([{'-',_}, {atom,_,include}, {'(',_}, {string,_,Filename},
{')',_}, {dot,_}], _MacroDict) ->
    {include, Filename};

pre_proc(Toks,MacroDict) ->
    {tokens, subst_macros(Toks, MacroDict)}.

macro_params_body_def([{')',_},{',',_} | Toks], RevParams) ->
    {reverse(RevParams), macro_body_def(Toks, [])};
macro_params_body_def([{var,_,Param} | Toks], RevParams) ->
    macro_params_body_def(Toks, [Param | RevParams]);
macro_params_body_def([{',',_}, {var,_,Param} | Toks], RevParams) ->
    macro_params_body_def(Toks, [Param | RevParams]).

macro_body_def([{')',_}, {dot,_}], RevMacroBodyToks) ->
macro_body_def([Tok|Toks],         RevMacroBodyToks) ->
macro_body_def(Toks, [Tok | RevMacroBodyToks]).

subst_macros(Toks, MacroDict) ->
    reverse(subst_macros_rev(Toks, MacroDict, [])).

%% returns a reversed list of tokes
subst_macros_rev([{'?',_}, {_,LineNum,'LINE'} | Toks], MacroDict, RevOutToks) ->
    %% special-case for ?LINE, to avoid creating a new MacroDict for
every line in the source file
    subst_macros_rev(Toks, MacroDict, [{integer,LineNum,LineNum}] ++

subst_macros_rev([{'?',_}, {_,_,Name}, {'(',_} = Paren | Toks],
MacroDict, RevOutToks) ->

    case dict:fetch(Name, MacroDict) of
        {[], MacroValue} ->
            %% This macro does not have any vars, so ignore the fact
that the invocation is followed by "(...stuff"

            %% Recursively expand any macro calls inside this macro's value
            %% TODO: avoid infinite expansion due to circular
references (even indirect ones)
            RevExpandedOtherMacrosToks = subst_macros_rev(MacroValue,
MacroDict, []),

            subst_macros_rev([Paren|Toks], MacroDict,
RevExpandedOtherMacrosToks ++ RevOutToks);

        ParamsAndBody ->
            %% This macro does have vars.
            %% Collect all of the passe arguments, in an ordered list
            {NToks, Arguments} = subst_macros_get_args(Toks, []),

            %% Expand the varibles
            ExpandedParamsToks =
subst_macros_subst_args_for_vars(ParamsAndBody, Arguments),

            %% Recursively expand any macro calls inside this macro's value
            %% TODO: avoid infinite expansion due to circular
references (even indirect ones)
            RevExpandedOtherMacrosToks =
subst_macros_rev(ExpandedParamsToks, MacroDict, []),

            subst_macros_rev(NToks, MacroDict,
RevExpandedOtherMacrosToks ++ RevOutToks)

subst_macros_rev([{'?',_}, {_,_,Name} | Toks], MacroDict, RevOutToks) ->

    %% This macro invocation does not have arguments.
    %% Therefore the definition should not have parameters
    {[], MacroValue} = dict:fetch(Name, MacroDict),

    %% Recursively expand any macro calls inside this macro's value
    %% TODO: avoid infinite expansion due to circular references (even
indirect ones)
    RevExpandedOtherMacrosToks = subst_macros_rev(MacroValue, MacroDict, []),

    subst_macros_rev(Toks, MacroDict, RevExpandedOtherMacrosToks ++ RevOutToks);

subst_macros_rev([Tok|Toks], MacroDict,  RevOutToks) ->
subst_macros_rev(Toks, MacroDict, [Tok|RevOutToks]);
subst_macros_rev([],         _MacroDict, RevOutToks) -> RevOutToks.

subst_macros_get_args([{')',_} | Toks], RevArgs) ->
    {Toks, reverse(RevArgs)};
subst_macros_get_args([{',',_}, {var,_,ArgName} | Toks], RevArgs) ->
    subst_macros_get_args(Toks, [ArgName| RevArgs]);
subst_macros_get_args([{var,_,ArgName} | Toks], RevArgs) ->
    subst_macros_get_args(Toks, [ArgName | RevArgs]).

subst_macros_subst_args_for_vars({[], BodyToks}, []) ->
subst_macros_subst_args_for_vars({[Param | Params], BodyToks}, [Arg|Args]) ->
    NBodyToks = keyreplace(Param, 3, BodyToks, {var,1,Arg}),
    subst_macros_subst_args_for_vars({Params, NBodyToks}, Args).

read_include_file(Filename, IncludeSearchPath) ->
    case file:path_open(IncludeSearchPath, Filename, [read, raw, binary]) of
        {ok, IoDevice, FullName} ->
            {ok, Data} = file:read(IoDevice, filelib:file_size(FullName)),
        {error, Reason} ->
            throw({failed_to_read_include_file, Reason, Filename,

%% TODO: support $ENVVAR in Filename
%% File name may start with a path component $VAR, for some string
VAR. If that is the case, the value of the environment variable VAR as
returned by os:getenv(VAR) is substituted for $VAR. If os:getenv(VAR)
returns false, $VAR is left as is.
%% TODO: support -include_lib
%% include_lib is similar to include, but should not point out an
absolute file. Instead, the first path component (possibly after
variable substitution) is assumed to be the name of an application.
%% -include_lib("kernel/include/file.hrl").
%% The code server uses code:lib_dir(kernel) to find the directory of
the current (latest) version of Kernel, and then the subdirectory
include is searched for the file file.hrl.

More information about the erlang-questions mailing list