[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]

deep nesting and Trailing parens

Summary: There are lots of ways to minimize the cognitive costs of deep
nesting and multiple trailing delimiters, and they don't all necessarily
mean you have to give up the ability to define macros.

Using parens to enclose every semantic grouping does cause expressions
to be deeply nested and this is hard for programmers to sift through --
particularly newbies.  There are several things that can be done to
alleviate this:

* Common Lisp uses plist pairings for defining name/value pairs of
keyword arguments.  The destructuring mechanism for macros
(destructuring-bind) builds-in the ability to deal with this.

* 'let' does NOT have to surround the scope of the variables introduced
with delimiters.  In C, Java, and Curl, the scope of lexical variables
runs to the end of the enclosing code sequence.   This alone cuts down a
huge amount of nesting, indentation, and closing delimiters.

* Noise words can be used to separate expressions rather than nesting. 
For example, various kinds of parameters are separated in Common Lisp
lambda-lists using lambda-list-keywords (&key, &optional, etc.) Here's a
'try' expression in Curl that shows how noise words are used rather than
parentheses or other delimiters for the three code sequences:

  catch e:MyException do

* As mentioned by others, a variety of delimiters can be used for
different purposes, which MAY help newbies with the
bunched-trailing-delimiters problems.  This shouldn't affect macro

* For the special problem of bunched up trailing delimiters, the C/Java
world prefers hanging delimiters.  I don't like it, but this thread was
about what newbies have trouble with, and it seems newbies deal with
hanging delimiters better than bunched delimiters.  Macro authors don't
care either way.

It remains to be demonstrated (as far as I know) that macro-definition
can be made easy enough in the face of things like using noise keywords
instead of balanced delimiters:

  Can destructuring syntax be defined so that subexpressions can easily
be identified within the body of a macro definition?

  Can template syntax be defined so that such source fragments can
easily be brought together?

I haven't tried, for example, Bachrach and Playford's stuff, and I admit
it doesn't seem immediately obvious that it's easy enough to write
macros in the face of the above techniques.  But it does seem to me like
we're within striking distance.