[erlang-questions] idea: ml9 (sort of) in the erlang shell

Ulf Wiger <>
Tue Nov 13 16:52:31 CET 2007

No one commented on my output filters for the shell.
Oh well, perhaps it wasn't weird enough... (:
Personally, I love them. Working with dicts in the shell has
become much more pleasant.

Here's a more outlandish idea:

Allow for arbitrary syntax to be inserted in the shell, by
catching lines starting with '@' (only because this is what
Joe used in his ML9).

Here's an example:

Eshell V5.5.4  (abort with ^G)
1> @ syntax(erlang),import(X,Y).

f() -> ?X.

Env = [{call,1,{atom,1,syntax},[{atom,1,erlang}]},
String = "-module(a).\n-define(X,x).\n\nf() -> ?X.\n\n"

(This was as far as I have come. The shell only prints out
what it collected.)

If a '@' is entered (with an optional sequence of erlang
expressions describing what will follow, terminated by
a period), the shell will just collect whatever text follows,
and return this, instead of calling erl_parse:parse_erl_exprs().

My initial thought was that the default behaviour would be
to preprocess String, accepting macro definitions etc, and
then expanding macros in the source. This would be configurable
in the environment:

2> @ pp(false).
L = [a,b,c].

Eventually, this might evolve into accepting a module declaration,
but that would require first deciding what to do with the module,
once parsed. Compile to binary and then load it?

A few ideas about what could be done with this:

- by default, no variables would be imported, but selective
  import might be possible:

4> L = [1,2,3].
5> @ import(L).

- It would be easy to also declare which variables to remember,

- An obvious use of this would be to make it easier to deal with multi-
  line expressions in the shell. Ever had to copy a multi-line expression
  *from* the shell, and having to edit away all the garbage?

- QuickCheck uses macros a lot. This could offer a way to use
  QuickCheck with the useful macros from within the shell.
  (Mats Cronqvist already wrote a preprocessor that pretty much
  works for this purpose.)

- There are a few X-to-Erlang parsers (scheme, haskell, ...) that could
  be plugged in and used with this. Plug in your own parser.
  (Should it be possible to import/export variables...? Why not?)

I'd have to write some more code to make it reasonably useful,
but not too much. It won't break any of the existing stuff. (:

Thoughts, flames?

Ulf W

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