Boost logo

Boost :

From: Jonathan Turkanis (technews_at_[hidden])
Date: 2004-09-23 00:01:16

"Jonathan Turkanis" <technews_at_[hidden]> wrote in message
> "John Torjo" <john.lists_at_[hidden]> wrote in message
> > Dear boosters,
> >
> > The FORMAL Review of "Output Formatter" library begins today,
> > Sept 12, 2004.
> Hi, I hope I didn't miss the deadline.
> Let me start by saying that this is a library I know and love (warts and all).
> examined all the source code thouroughly at several points in its development,
> helped port the library to several compilers, and even contributed little
> So I'm sorry I don't have time to write a really detailed review. The review
> came at a bad time for me -- right after the review of my iostreams library.
> review is based on reading (most of) the current thread and on my previous
> experience with the library.
> I'll reorder the basic review questions:
> > 4. What is your evaluation of the potential usefulness of the library?
> Extremely useful.
> > 3. What is your evaluation of the documentation?
> I haven't read the current docs, but the last time I read them I found them
> insufficient, for reasons many have pointed out. There needs to be a general
> introduction explaining the scope of the library, lots of examples, and clear
> instuctions on how to extend the library. In order to learn about the library,
> had to ask Reece a lot of questions and read the source.
> > 2. What is your evaluation of the implementation?
> The implementation is very good, especially those little parts attributed
> someone named Jonathan ;-)
> > 5. Did you try to use the library?
> Yes, I used it extensively when I was porting it to Borland 5.x,
> Comeau, Intel and (with limited success) to VC6.
> > 6. How much effort did you put into your evaluation?
> I think I've already answered this one.
> > 7. Are you knowledgeable about the problem domain?
> It's hard to say exactly what the problem domain is. If it's logging or
> debugging, then no, I'm not an expert, but I do know more than a little.
> I think the library potentially has much wider applications.
> > 1. What is your evaluation of the design?
> I have some serious issues with the design, which I raised with Reece at
> early stage. I really don't have any right to complain about them now,
> since I offered to collaborate on the library some time ago but then got busy
> with other things.
> I will explain what I think the purpose of the library should be, skecth
> concepts and give some example uses. Let me note that I have implemented most
> the following ideas, but only as a proof of concept.
> I see the library as the inverse of Spirit. Spirit takes a linear text and
> builds complex objects, while the output formatting library takes complex
> objects and renders them as linear text. Just as an abstract syntax tree does
> not preserve all the information in the input text, in many cases it will be
> desirable to loose information when an object is formatted using the present
> library. For example, sometime you might want a dog to be formatted as follows
> [ Dog; name: rover; breed: terrier mix; weight: 80 lb; daily habits:
> unspecified ]
> Other times, you might just want: [Dog: rover]. Therefore, I think the library
> should handle output only.
> I see the library as consiting of three components:
> I. Type classification for standard and Boost types, including
> A) a system for classifying types as
> 1. variable-length sequences of objects of a single type (example:
> std::vector)
> 2. heterogenous fixed length sequences of objects (example:
> boost::tuple)
> 3. types with more elaborate structure, something like XML Schema
> content models -- but I never gave this part much thought, so igore it ;-)
> B) function templates for extracting the elements from instances of the
> types with the above structures
> II. A system for allowing user-defined type to advertise their internal
> structure, so that they can be accessed like the types in I. For example, a
> class might advertise that it consists of a string name and a float weight.
> There are a number of ways that this could be done, such as with
> members-pointers, default-constuctible functors which extract the information,
> etc. Any combination of these techniques should be allowed.
> III A framework of composable formatting objects (I'm using the term
> than the current library does) used to customize how complex types are output.
> A. The main building block is the concept of a Formatter (sketched below).
> There will be a number of built-in formatters, such as
> 1. sequence_formatter, for formatting objects of a type I.A.1. using
> specified opening, closing and separator strings
> 2. nary_formatter<N>, for formatting objects of a type I.A.2. Nary
> formatters can be specified with expression templates -- e.g.,
> str("[") << _2 << " : " << _1 << ")"
> would format a pair (a, b) as [b : a). (Note the reversed order.) I've also
> expeirmented with the following notation, for formatting user-defined types:
> str("Dog:") << member(dog_name)
> << ","
> << member(dog_height)
> << "]"
> B. Styles will be composed from formatters. Formatters can be added to a
> style without qualification or with the stipulation that they apply only to
> objects of a given type or only to objects of types which satisfy a given mpl
> lambda expression. The order in which formatters are specified can create a
> cascading effect as in CSS.
> C. A single function boost::io::format, which takes an arbitrary type and
> returns an object which can be output using operator<<. Examples:
> cout << boost::io::format(obj); // Uses the default style
> cout << boost::io::format(obj).with(dog_format()) // Doggy-style
> cout << boost::io::format(obj) // Uses a complex style
> .use< is_vector<_> >( sequence_format("[", ",", "]")
> .use< is_pair<_> >( str("(") << _1 << ":" << _2 << "]" );
> In the last example, nested objects which are standard vectors will be
> [a, b, c, d...], while std::pairs will be formatted (a:b]. So a pair of
> will look like this:
> ([a,s,d,f,g]:[a,w,w,e,r]],
> while a vector of pairs will look like this:
> [(a:b],(c:d],(e:f],(g:h],(i:j]]
> This last example suggests that it would be useful to compose formatters and
> store them so that they can be reused. Unfortunately, once the static type it
> lost, the compex formatting objects are useless in many cases. Ideally one
> use 'auto':
> auto style = cajun_style().use< is_string<_> >( ... )
> .use< ... >
> .etc
> With the current language, the best way to store styles is to define functions
> which return instances of them. This means you have to explicitly describe the
> return type, but only once.
> [unspecified style type] cajun_style();
> cout << boost::io::format(obj).with(cajun_style()).
> ----------------------
> Finally, let me describe what a formatter looks like. It is a class type with
> templated member function format having the following signature
> template<typename Ch, typename Tr, typename T, typename Context>
> basic_ostream<Ch, Tr>&
> format(basic_ostream<Ch, Tr>& out, const T& t, Context& ctx);
> Here T is the type whose instance is to be formatted, and ctx contains the
> prevailing Style (a combination of formatters) as well as contextual
> like depth of nesting and level of indentation. Formatters can specify that
> are able to handle any type or only certain types (such as 3-ary types or
> staisfying an mpl lambda expression).
> > 8. Do you think the library should be accepted as a Boost library?
> > Be sure to say this explicitly so that your other comments don't obscure
> > your overall opinion.
> This is difficult. But here goes ...
> I think the library should be ACCEPTED, but *only* if it can be done without
> major changes. I wouldn't mind some of the ideas that I or others have
> being incorporated into a future version of the library. However, if any major
> redesign is to be done, I believe another review is crucial, since the various
> proposed changes by Reece and others have not been spelled out in sufficient
> detail for them to be scrutinized.
> Best Regards,
> Jonathan
> _______________________________________________
> Unsubscribe & other changes:

Boost list run by bdawes at, gregod at, cpdaniel at, john at