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Subject: [boost] [vmd] Library review
From: Matt Calabrese (rivorus_at_[hidden])
Date: 2014-08-31 00:23:01

As a set of utility macros, there is not too much to be said. The macros
that are presented are generally useful and fill some needs that are
encountered when doing preprocessor metaprogramming.

I admittedly haven't examined the implementation itself too closely, but I
have used the library in practice with both clang and gcc without problems
on a considerably large preprocessor project (~50k lines preprocessor
programming), albeit a few years ago.

I read through the entirety of the documentation and it is fairly good at
describing some of the problems faced when doing preprocessor
metaprogramming, such as the lack of truly being able to detect emptiness
and the implementation weaknesses of certain non-compliant preprocessors.

That said, I feel like it focuses a lot on the hairiness of the
preprocessor and not enough on the functionality that the library itself
provides. For example, the tuple-related macros (being able to deal with
something that is a tuple with more tokens after the tuple, for instance)
are very useful in preprocessor metaprogramming, but the documentation
doesn't do much to explain why. As well, while what to expect from
expansion of the macros is described, examples are absent.

To be more specific, take these two bits of the documentation:


Although the macros are described, a set of examples could go a long way.
For instance something as simple as the following can go quite a long way:
BOOST_VMD_AFTER_TUPLE( (int a, float b, char c) const ) // yields: const

The above both more directly shows what you can expect from the macro and
also may better explain the usefulness.

To people experienced with [ab]using the preprocessor, why you want to use
these macros is often obvious, but most people are not very familiar with
preprocessor metaprogramming and I think the docs sort of need to be aware
of that. Examples and a motivation explaining why the particular set of
macros provided is important. Perhaps what might be best is to start the
documentation with a tutorial that takes the user through the uses that
come up in practice when I.E. designing a simple EDSL through preprocessor

Years ago I used the VMD library when developing [not a boost lib]
Boost.Generic. Prior to VMD being around, I had hand-rolled much of the
functionality into Boost.Generic that VMD provides, though I very quickly
stopped caring about VC++ support. When VMD was in the boost sandbox, I
swapped out everything I could with invocations to VMD's macros and it
freed me of the maintenance burden of trying to support noncompliant
compilers. Needless to say, VMD "just worked" and I find it likely that
other people who use the preprocessor in these ways would find VMD just as
useful as I have. For my project I was testing with both GCC and Clang and
had no problems with anything that VMD provided.

Domain familiarity:
I've done an embarrassingly large amount of preprocessor metaprogramming
and, again, I find this library useful.


Overall, I'd say that this library should make it into boost. The biggest
thing that it lacks is motivation in documentation, lack of examples, and a
practical tutorial, but these should be able to be added before the library
would make it into a release. Other than that, I do think there might be
some way to roll this into Boost.Preprocessor, but I have no strong
feelings on the matter and it's really up to Paul.

So this a +1 from me, as long as the documentation gets some improvement.

-Matt Calabrese

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