(c) Software Lab. Alexander Burger
This document demonstrates some aspects of the PicoLisp system in detail and example. For a general description of the PicoLisp kernel please look at the PicoLisp Reference.
This is not a Lisp tutorial, as it assumes some basic knowledge of programming, Lisp, and even PicoLisp. Please read these sections before coming back here: Introduction and The PicoLisp Machine. This tutorial concentrates on the specificities of PicoLisp, and its differences with other Lisp dialects.
If not stated otherwise, all examples assume that PicoLisp was started from a global installation (see Installation) from the shell prompt as
$ pil + :
It loads the PicoLisp base system and the debugging environment, and waits
for you to enter input lines at the interpreter prompt (
:). You can
terminate the interpreter and return to the shell at any time, by either hitting
Ctrl-D key, or by executing the function
Input editing is done via the
readline(3) library. You will want
to configure it according to your taste via your "~/.inputrc" file. Useful value
for PicoLisp are
In addition to the above, I (preferring vi-style) do also have
set keyseq-timeout 40 set blink-matching-paren on TAB: menu-complete C-y: menu-complete-backward
set editing-mode vi set keymap vi-command v: ""
If you are new to PicoLisp, you might want to read the following sections in the given order, as some of them assume knowledge about previous ones. Otherwise just jump anywhere you are interested in.
PicoLisp provides some functionality for inspecting pieces of data and code within the running system.
But you will appreciate some more powerful tools like:
match, a predicate which compares S-expressions with bindable wildcards when matching,
The most commonly used tool is probably the
show function. It takes a symbolic argument,
and shows the symbol's name (if any), followed by its value, and then the
contents of the property list on the following lines (assignment of such things
to a symbol can be done with
: (setq A '(This is the value)) # Set the value of 'A' -> (This is the value) : (put 'A 'key1 'val1) # Store property 'key1' -> val1 : (put 'A 'key2 'val2) # and 'key2' -> val2 : (show 'A) # Now 'show' the symbol 'A' A (This is the value) key2 val2 key1 val1 -> A
show accepts an arbitrary number of arguments which are
processed according to the rules of
get, resulting in a symbol which is showed then.
: (put 'B 'a 'A) # Put 'A' under the 'a'-property of 'B' -> A : (setq Lst '(A B C)) # Create a list with 'B' as second argument -> (A B C) : (show Lst 2 'a) # Show the property 'a of the 2nd element of 'Lst' A (This is the value) # (which is 'A' again) key2 val2 key1 val1 -> A
If you pass one or more symbols as a list to
vi, they are written to a temporary file in a
format similar to
Vip is started with that
: (vi '(A B))
Vip window will look like
A (This is the value) key1 val1 key2 val2 (=======) B NIL a A # (This is the value) (=======)
A convenient shortcut is the non-evaluating version
vi. An equivalent call to the above is:
(v A B)
Now you can modify values or properties. You should not touch the
parenthesized hyphens, as they serve as delimiters. If you position the cursor
on the first character of a symbol name and type '
lookup"), the editor will be restarted with that symbol added to the editor
Q' (for "Quit") will bring you back to the previous view.
If you exit Vip with e.g. ":x", any changes you made in your editing session will be communicated back to the REPL.
In-memory editing is also very useful to browse in a database. You can follow
the links between objects with '
K', and even - e.g. for low-level
repairs - modify the data (but only if you are really sure about what you are
doing, and don't forget to
when you are done).
The pretty-print function
takes a symbol that has a function defined (or two symbols that specify message
and class for a method definition), and displays that definition in a formatted
and indented way.
: (pp 'pretty) (de pretty (X N) (setq N (abs (space (or N 0)))) (while (and (pair X) (== 'quote (car X))) (prin "'") (pop 'X) ) (cond ... (T (prtty0 X N)) ) ) -> pretty
The style is the same as we use in source files:
sizeis greater than 12), pretty-print the CAR on the current line, and each element of the CDR recursively on its own line.
more is a simple tool that displays
the elements of a list one by one. It stops after each element and waits for
input. If you just hit ENTER,
more continues with the next element,
otherwise (usually I type a dot (
.) followed by ENTER) it
: (more (1 2 3 4 5 6)) 1 # Hit ENTER 2 . # Hit '.' and ENTER -> T # stopped
more takes a function as a second argument and
applies that function to each element (instead of the default
pp (see below) is used.
: (more '(A B)) # Step through 'A' and 'B' A B -> NIL : (more '(A B) show) # Step through 'A' and 'B' with 'show' A (This is the value) # showing 'A' key2 val2 key1 val1 # Hit ENTER B NIL # showing 'B' a A -> NIL
what function returns a list of
all internal symbols in the system which match a given pattern (with
@' wildcard characters).
: (what "prin@") -> (prin print prinl print> printsp println)
who returns "who
contains that", i.e. a list of symbols that contain a given argument
somewhere in their value or property list.
: (who 'print) -> (query _pretty spPrt prtty1 prtty2 prtty3 pretty ("syms>" . "+Buffer") msg more show view (print> . +Date) rules select (print> . +relation) pico)
A dotted pair indicates either a method definition or a property entry. So
(print> . +relation) denotes the
print> method of
who can be conveniently combined with
: (more (who 'print) pp) (de query ("Q" "Dbg") # Pretty-print these functions one by one (use "R" (loop (NIL (prove "Q" "Dbg")) (T (=T (setq "R" @)) T) (for X "R" (space) (print (car X)) (print '=) (print (cdr X)) (flush) ) (T (line)) ) ) ) (de pretty (X N) ...
The argument to
who may also be a pattern list (see
: (who '(print @ (less (val @)))) -> (show) : (more (who '(% @ 7)) pp) (de day (Dat Lst) (when Dat (get (or Lst *DayFmt) (inc (% (inc Dat) 7)) ) ) ) (de _week (Dat) (/ (- Dat (% (inc Dat) 7)) 7) )
can returns a list
which indicates which classes can accept a given message. Again, this
list is suitable for iteration with
: (can 'del>) # Which classes accept 'del>' ? -> ((del> . +List) (del> . +Entity) (del> . +relation)) : (more (can 'del>) pp) # Inspect the methods with 'pp' (dm (del> . +List) (Obj Old Val) (and ((<> Old Val) (delete Val Old)) ) (dm (del> . +Entity) (Var Val) (when (and Val (has> (meta This Var) Val (get This Var)) ) (let Old (get This Var) (rel> (meta This Var) This Old (put This Var (del> (meta This Var) This Old @)) ) (when (asoq Var (meta This 'Aux)) (relAux This Var Old (cdr @)) ) (upd> This Var Old) ) ) ) (dm (del> . +relation) (Obj Old Val) (and ((<> Old Val) Val) )
dep shows the dependencies in a
class hierarchy. That is, for a given class it displays the tree of its
(super)class(es) above it, and the tree of its subclasses below it.
To view the complete hierarchy of input fields, we start with the root class
: (dep '+relation) +relation +Bag +Any +Blob +Link +Joint +Bool +Symbol +String +Number +Time +Date -> +relation
If we are interested in
: (dep '+Link) +relation +Link +Joint -> +Link
This says that
+Link is a subclass of
+relation, and has a single subclass
Most of the time during programming is spent defining functions (or methods).
In the following we will concentrate on functions, but most will be true for
methods as well except for using
The notorious "Hello world" function must be defined:
: (de hello () (prinl "Hello world") ) -> hello
() in the first line indicates a function without arguments.
The body of the function is in the second line, consisting of a single
statement. The last line is the return value of
de, which here is
the defined symbol. From now on we will omit the return values of examples when
they are unimportant.
Now you can call this function this way:
: (hello) Hello world
A function with an argument might be defined this way:
: (de hello (X) (prinl "Hello " X) ) # hello redefined -> hello
PicoLisp informs you that you have just redefined the function. This might be a useful warning in case you forgot that a bound symbol with that name already existed.
: (hello "world") Hello world
: (hello "Alex") Hello Alex
Normally, PicoLisp evaluates the arguments before it passes them to a function:
: (hello (+ 1 2 3)) Hello 6
: (setq A 1 B 2) # Set 'A' to 1 and 'B' to 2 -> 2 : (de foo (X Y) # 'foo' returns the list of its arguments (list X Y) ) -> foo : (foo A B) # Now call 'foo' with 'A' and 'B' -> (1 2) # -> We get a list of 1 and 2, the values of 'A' and 'B'
In some cases you don't want that. For some functions (
setq for example) it is better if the function
gets all arguments unevaluated, and can decide for itself what to do with them.
For such cases you do not define the function with a list of parameters, but give it a single atomic parameter instead. PicoLisp will then bind all (unevaluated) arguments as a list to that parameter.
: (de foo X (list (car X) (cadr X)) ) # 'foo' lists the first two arguments : (foo A B) # Now call it again -> (A B) # -> We don't get '(1 2)', but '(A B)' : (de foo X (list (car X) (eval (cadr X))) ) # Now evaluate only the second argument : (foo A B) -> (A 2) # -> We get '(A 2)'
As a logical consequence, you can combine these principles. To define a function with 2 evaluated and an arbitrary number of unevaluated arguments:
: (de foo (X Y . Z) # Evaluate only the first two args (list X Y Z) ) : (foo A B C D E) -> (1 2 (C D E)) # -> Get the value of 'A' and 'B' and the remaining list
More common, in fact, is the case where you want to pass an arbitrary number
of evaluated arguments to a function. For that, PicoLisp recognizes the
@ as a single atomic parameter and remembers all evaluated
arguments in an internal frame. This frame can then be accessed sequentially
: (de foo @ (list (next) (next)) ) # Get the first two arguments : (foo A B) -> (1 2)
Again, this can be combined:
: (de foo (X Y . @) (list X Y (next) (next)) ) # 'X' and 'Y' are fixed arguments : (foo A B (+ 3 4) (* 3 4)) -> (1 2 7 12) # All arguments are evaluated
These examples are not very useful, because the advantage of a variable number of arguments is not used. A function that prints all its evaluated numeric arguments, each on a line followed by its squared value:
: (de foo @ (while (args) # Check if there are some args left (let N (next) (println N (* N N)) ) ) ) : (foo (+ 2 3) (- 7 1) 1234 (* 9 9)) 5 25 6 36 1234 1522756 81 6561 -> 6561
This next example shows the behaviour of
: (de foo @ (while (args) (println (next) (args) (rest)) ) ) : (foo 1 2 3) 1 T (2 3) 2 T (3) 3 NIL NIL
Finally, it is possible to pass all these evaluated arguments to another
: (de foo @ (pass println 9 8 7) # First print all arguments preceded by 9, 8, 7 (pass + 9 8 7) ) # Then add all these values : (foo (+ 2 3) (- 7 1) 1234 (* 9 9)) 9 8 7 5 6 1234 81 # Printing ... -> 1350 # Return the result
quotewill do what you want (see also this FAQ entry).
: ((quote (X) (* X X)) 9) -> 81
: (setq f '((X) (* X X))) # This is equivalent to (de f (X) (* X X)) -> ((X) (* X X)) : f -> ((X) (* X X)) : (f 3) -> 9
There are two major ways to debug functions (and methods) at runtime: Tracing and single-stepping.
In this section we will use the REPL to explore the debugging facilities, but in the Scripting section, you will learn how to launch PicoLisp scripts with some selected functions debugged:
$ pil app/file1.l -"trace 'foo" -main -"debug 'bar" app/file2.l +
Tracing means letting functions of interest print their name and arguments when they are entered, and their name again and the return value when they are exited.
For demonstration, let's define the unavoidable factorial function:
(de fact (N) (if (=0 N) 1 (* N (fact (dec N))) ) )
trace we can put it in trace
: (trace 'fact) -> fact
fact now will display its execution trace.
: (fact 3) fact : 3 fact : 2 fact : 1 fact : 0 fact = 1 fact = 1 fact = 2 fact = 6 -> 6
As can be seen here, each level of function call will indent by an additional
space. Upon function entry, the name is separated from the arguments with a
:), and upon function exit with an equals sign
=) from the return value.
trace works by modifying the function body, so generally it
works only for functions defined as lists (lambda expressions, see Evaluation). Tracing a built-in function (SUBR) is
possible, however, when it is a function that evaluates all its arguments.
So let's trace the functions
: (trace '=0) -> =0 : (trace '*) -> *
If we call
fact again, we see the additional output:
: (fact 3) fact : 3 =0 : 3 =0 = NIL fact : 2 =0 : 2 =0 = NIL fact : 1 =0 : 1 =0 = NIL fact : 0 =0 : 0 =0 = 0 fact = 1 * : 1 1 * = 1 fact = 1 * : 2 1 * = 2 fact = 2 * : 3 2 * = 6 fact = 6 -> 6
To reset a function to its untraced state, call
: (untrace 'fact) -> fact : (untrace '=0) -> =0 : (untrace '*) -> *
or simply use
: (mapc untrace '(fact =0 *)) -> *
Single-stepping means to execute a function step by step, giving the
programmer an opportunity to look more closely at what is happening. The
debug inserts a breakpoint
into each top-level expression of a function. When the function is called, it
stops at each breakpoint, displays the expression it is about to execute next
(this expression is also stored into the global variable
^) and enters a read-eval-loop. The programmer
(d)to recursively debug the next expression (looping through subexpressions of this expression)
(e)to evaluate the next expression, to see what will happen without actually advancing on
Thus, in the simplest case, single-stepping consists of just hitting ENTER repeatedly to step through the function.
To try it out, let's look at the
stamp system function. You may need to have a
time(grab system date and time)
pack(kind of concatenation), and
tim$(date and time formats)
: (pp 'stamp) (de stamp (Dat Tim) (and (=T Dat) (setq Dat (date T))) (default Dat (date) Tim (time T)) (pack (dat$ Dat "-") " " (tim$ Tim T)) ) -> stamp
: (debug 'stamp) # Debug it -> T : (stamp) # Call it again (and (=T Dat) (setq Dat (date T))) # stopped at first expression ! # ENTER (default Dat (date) Tim (time T)) # second expression ! # ENTER (pack (dat$ Dat "-") " " (tim$ ... # third expression ! Tim # inspect 'Tim' variable -> 41908 ! (time Tim) # convert it -> (11 38 28) ! # ENTER -> "2004-10-29 11:38:28" # done, as there are only 3 expressions
Now we execute it again, but this time we want to look at what's happening inside the second expression.
: (stamp) # Call it again (and (=T Dat) (setq Dat (date T))) ! # ENTER (default Dat (date) Tim (time T)) ! # ENTER (pack (dat$ Dat "-") " " (tim$ ... # here we want to look closer ! (d) # debug this expression -> T ! # ENTER (dat$ Dat "-") # stopped at first subexpression ! (e) # evaluate it -> "2004-10-29" ! # ENTER (tim$ Tim T) # stopped at second subexpression ! (e) # evaluate it -> "11:40:44" ! # ENTER -> "2004-10-29 11:40:44" # done
The breakpoints still remain in the function body. We can see them when we pretty-print it:
: (pp 'stamp) (de stamp (Dat Tim) (! and (=T Dat) (setq Dat (date T))) (! default Dat (date) Tim (time T)) (! pack (! dat$ Dat "-") " " (! tim$ Tim T) ) ) -> stamp
To reset the function to its normal state, call
: (unbug 'stamp)
Often, you will not want to single-step a whole function. Just use
v (see above) to insert a single breakpoint (the exclamation mark
followed by a space) as CAR of an expression, and run your program. Execution
will then stop there as described above; you can inspect the environment and
continue execution with ENTER when you are done.
Input and output in PicoLisp is functional, in the sense that there are not variables assigned to file descriptors, which need then to be passed to I/O functions for reading, writing and closing. Instead, these functions operate on implicit input and output channels, which are created and maintained as dynamic environments.
Standard input and standard output are the default channels. Try reading a single expression:
: (read) (a b c) # Console input -> (a b c)
To read from a file, we redirect the input with
in. Note that comments and whitespace are
automatically skipped by
: (in "@lib.l" (read)) -> (de task (Key . Prg) (nond (...
skip function can also be used
directly. To get the first non-white character in the file with
: (in "@lib.l" (skip "#") (char)) -> "("
from searches through the input
stream for given patterns. Typically, this is not done with Lisp source files
(there are better ways), but for a simple example let's extract all items
fact in the file,
: (in "@lib.l" (while (from "nond") (println (read)))) (Prg (del (assoc Key *Run) '*Run)) ((pair "X") (or (pair (getd "X")) (expr "X"))) ("Prg" (caar (idx "Var" "K")))
or the word following "(de " with
: (in "@lib.l" (from "(de ") (till " " T)) -> "task"
To read the contents of a whole file (or the rest of it starting from the current position):
: (in "f.l" (till NIL T)) -> "... file contents ..."
line, a line of characters is
read, either into a single transient symbol
(the type used by PicoLisp for strings),
: (in "@doc/tut.html" (line T)) -> "<!DOCTYPE HTML PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://..."
or into a list of symbols (characters):
: (in "@doc/tut.html" (line)) -> ("<" "!" "D" "O" "C" "T" "Y" "P" "E" " " "H" "T" "M" "L" ...
line is typically used to read tabular data from a file.
Additional arguments can split the line into fixed-width fields, as described in
reference manual. If, however, the
data are of variable width, delimited by some special character, the
split function can be used to extract the
fields. A typical way to import the contents of such a file is:
(in '("bin/utf2" "importFile.txt") # Pipe: Convert to UTF-8 (until (eof) # Process whole file (let L (split (line) "\t") # TAB-delimited data ... # process them
Some more examples with
(in "a" # Copy the first 40 Bytes (out "b" # from file "a" to file "b" (echo 40) ) ) (in "@doc/tut.html" # Show the HTTP-header (line) (echo "<body>") ) (out "file.mac" # Convert to Macintosh (in "file.txt" # from Unix or DOS format: (while (char) (prin (case @ ("\r" NIL) # ignore CR ("\n" "\r") # convert LF to CR (T @) ) ) ) ) ) # otherwise no change (out "c" # Merge the contents of "a" (in "b" # and "b" into "c" (in "a" (while (read) # Read an item from "a", (println @ (in -1 (read))) ) ) ) ) # print it with an item from "b"
There are two possibilities to get the PicoLisp interpreter into doing useful work: via command line arguments, or as a stand-alone script.
The command line can specify either files for execution, or arbitrary Lisp
expressions for direct evaluation (see Invocation):
if an argument starts with a hyphen, it is evaluated, otherwise it is
loaded as a file. A typical invocation might
$ pil app/file1.l -main app/file2.l +
It loads the debugging environment, an application source file, calls the main function, and then loads another application source. In a typical development and debugging session, this line is often modified using the shell's history mechanisms, e.g. by inserting debugging statements:
$ pil app/file1.l -"trace 'foo" -main -"debug 'bar" app/file2.l +
Another convenience during debugging and testing is to put things into the command line (shell history) which would otherwise have to be done each time in the application's user interface:
$ pil app/file1.l -main app/file2.l -go -'login "name" "password"' +
The final production release of an application usually includes a shell script, which initializes the environment, does some bookkeeping and cleanup, and calls the application with a proper command line. It is no problem if the command line is long and complicated.
For small utility programs, however, this is overkill. Enter full PicoLisp scripts.
#!", the operating system kernel will pass this file to an interpreter program whose pathname is given in the first line (optionally followed by a single argument). This is fast and efficient, because the overhead of a subshell is avoided.
Let's assume you installed PicoLisp in the directory "/home/foo/pil21/", and put links to the executable and the installation directory as:
Then a simple hello-world script might look like:
$ ln -s /home/foo/pil21 /usr/lib/picolisp $ ln -s /usr/lib/picolisp/bin/picolisp /usr/bin
#!/usr/bin/picolisp /usr/lib/picolisp/lib.l (prinl "Hello world!") (bye)
If you write this into a text file, and use
chmod to set it to
"executable", it can be executed like any other command. Note that (because
# is the comment character in PicoLisp) the first line will not be
interpreted, and you can still use that file as a normal command line argument
to PicoLisp (useful during debugging).
The fact that a hyphen causes evaluation of command line arguments can be
used to implement command line options. The following script defines two
f, and then calls
(load T) to process the rest of the command line
(which otherwise would be ignored because of the
#!/usr/bin/picolisp /usr/lib/picolisp/lib.l (de a () (println '-a '-> (opt)) ) (de f () (println '-f '-> (opt)) ) (load T) (bye)
optretrieves the next command line option)
Calling this script (let's say we named it "testOpts") gives:
$ ./testOpts -f abc -f -> "abc" $ ./testOpts -a xxx -f yyy -a -> "xxx" -f -> "yyy"
We have to be aware of the fact, however, that the aggregation of arguments like
$ ./testOpts -axxx -fyyy
$ ./testOpts -af yyy
cannot be achieved with this simple and general mechanism of command line processing.
Utilities are typically used outside the context of the PicoLisp environment. All examples above assumed that the current working directory is the PicoLisp installation directory, which is usually all right for applications developed in that environment. Command line file arguments like "app/file1.l" will be properly found.
To allow utilities to run in arbitrary places on the host file system, the
concept of home directory substitution was introduced. The interpreter
remembers internally at start-up the pathname of its first argument (usually
"lib.l"), and substitutes any leading "
@" character in subsequent
file names with that pathname. Thus, to run the above example in some other
place, simply write:
$ /home/foo/pil21/pil @app/file1.l -main @app/file2.l +
that is, supply a full path name to the initial command (here 'pil'), or put
it into your
PATH variable, and prefix each file which has to be
loaded from the PicoLisp home directory with a
"Normal" files (not prefixed by
@) will be opened or created
relative to the current working directory as usual.
Stand-alone scripts will often want to load additional modules from the PicoLisp environment, beyond the "lib.l" we provided in the first line of the hello-world script. Typically, at least a call to
(note the home directory substitution) will be included near the beginning of the script.
As a more complete example, here is a script which extracts the date, name and size of the latest official PicoLisp release version from the download web site, and prints it to standard output:
#!/usr/bin/picolisp /usr/lib/picolisp/lib.l (load "@lib/misc.l" "@lib/http.l") (use (@Date @Name @Size) (when (match '(@Date ~(chop " - <a href=\"") @Name "\"" ">" @Name ~(chop "</a> (") @Size ) (client "software-lab.de" 80 "down.html" (from "Release Archive") (from "<li>") (till ",") ) ) (prinl @Name) (prinl @Date " -- " @Size) ) ) (bye)