Julia Language Metaprogramming Guide


Example

π's Metaprogramming bits & bobs

Goals:

  • Teach through minimal targeted functional/useful/non-abstract examples (e.g. @swap or @assert) that introduce concepts in suitable contexts

  • Prefer to let the code illustrate/demonstrate the concepts rather than paragraphs of explanation

  • Avoid linking 'required reading' to other pages -- it interrupts the narrative

  • Present things in a sensible order that will making learning easiest

Resources:

julialang.org
wikibook (@Cormullion)
5 layers (Leah Hanson)
SO-Doc Quoting (@TotalVerb)
SO-Doc -- Symbols that are not legal identifiers (@TotalVerb)
SO: What is a Symbol in Julia (@StefanKarpinski)
Discourse thread (@p-i-) Metaprogramming

Most of the material has come from the discourse channel, most of that has come from fcard... please prod me if I had forgotten attributions.

Symbol

julia> mySymbol = Symbol("myName")  # or 'identifier'
:myName

julia> myName = 42
42

julia> mySymbol |> eval  # 'foo |> bar' puts output of 'foo' into 'bar', so 'bar(foo)'
42

julia> :( $mySymbol = 1 ) |> eval
1

julia> myName
1

Passing flags into functions:

function dothing(flag)
  if flag == :thing_one
    println("did thing one")
  elseif flag == :thing_two
    println("did thing two")
  end
end
julia> dothing(:thing_one)
did thing one

julia> dothing(:thing_two)
did thing two

A hashkey example:

number_names = Dict{Symbol, Int}()
number_names[:one] = 1
number_names[:two] = 2
number_names[:six] = 6

(Advanced) (@fcard) :foo a.k.a. :(foo) yields a symbol if foo is a valid identifier, otherwise an expression.

# NOTE: Different use of ':' is:
julia> :mySymbol = Symbol('hello world')

#(You can create a symbol with any name with Symbol("<name>"), 
# which lets us create such gems as:
julia> one_plus_one = Symbol("1 + 1")
Symbol("1 + 1")

julia> eval(one_plus_one)
ERROR: UndefVarError: 1 + 1 not defined
...

julia> valid_math = :($one_plus_one = 3)
:(1 + 1 = 3)

julia> one_plus_one_plus_two = :($one_plus_one + 2)
:(1 + 1 + 2)

julia> eval(quote
           $valid_math
           @show($one_plus_one_plus_two)
       end)
1 + 1 + 2 = 5
...

Basically you can treat Symbols as lightweight strings. That's not what they're for, but you can do it, so why not. Julia's Base itself does it, print_with_color(:red, "abc") prints a red-colored abc .

Expr (AST)

(Almost) everything in Julia is an expression, i.e. an instance of Expr, which will hold an AST.

# when you type ...
julia> 1+1
2

# Julia is doing: eval(parse("1+1"))
# i.e. First it parses the string "1+1" into an `Expr` object ...
julia> ast = parse("1+1")
:(1 + 1)

# ... which it then evaluates:
julia> eval(ast)
2

# An Expr instance holds an AST (Abstract Syntax Tree).  Let's look at it:
julia> dump(ast)
Expr
  head: Symbol call
  args: Array{Any}((3,))
    1: Symbol +
    2: Int64 1
    3: Int64 1
  typ: Any
  
# TRY: fieldnames(typeof(ast))
 
julia>      :(a + b*c + 1)  ==
       parse("a + b*c + 1") ==
       Expr(:call, :+, :a, Expr(:call, :*, :b, :c), 1)
true

Nesting Exprs:

julia> dump( :(1+2/3) )
Expr
  head: Symbol call
  args: Array{Any}((3,))
    1: Symbol +
    2: Int64 1
    3: Expr
      head: Symbol call
      args: Array{Any}((3,))
        1: Symbol /
        2: Int64 2
        3: Int64 3
      typ: Any
  typ: Any
  
# Tidier rep'n using s-expr
julia> Meta.show_sexpr( :(1+2/3) ) 
(:call, :+, 1, (:call, :/, 2, 3))

multiline Exprs using quote

julia> blk = quote
           x=10
           x+1
       end
quote  # REPL[121], line 2:
    x = 10 # REPL[121], line 3:
    x + 1
end

julia> blk == :( begin  x=10; x+1  end )
true

# Note: contains debug info:
julia> Meta.show_sexpr(blk)
(:block,
  (:line, 2, Symbol("REPL[121]")),
  (:(=), :x, 10),
  (:line, 3, Symbol("REPL[121]")),
  (:call, :+, :x, 1)
)

# ... unlike:
julia> noDbg = :( x=10; x+1 ) 
quote 
    x = 10
    x + 1
end

... so quote is functionally the same but provides extra debug info.

(*) TIP: Use let to keep x within the block

quote -ing a quote

Expr(:quote, x) is used to represent quotes within quotes.

Expr(:quote, :(x + y)) == :(:(x + y))

Expr(:quote, Expr(:$, :x)) == :(:($x))

QuoteNode(x) is similar to Expr(:quote, x) but it prevents interpolation.

eval(Expr(:quote, Expr(:$, 1))) == 1

eval(QuoteNode(Expr(:$, 1))) == Expr(:$, 1)

(Disambiguate the various quoting mechanisms in Julia metaprogramming

Are $ and :(…) somehow inverses of one another?

:(foo) means "don't look at the value, look at the expression" $foo means "change the expression to its value"

:($(foo)) == foo. $(:(foo)) is an error. $(...) isn't an operation and doesn't do anything by itself, it's an "interpolate this!" sign that the quoting syntax uses. i.e. It only exists within a quote.

Is $foo the same as eval(foo) ?

No! $foo is exchanged for the compile-time value eval(foo) means to do that at runtime

eval will occur in the global scope interpolation is local

eval(:<expr>) should return the same as just <expr> (assuming <expr> is a valid expression in the current global space)

eval(:(1 + 2)) == 1 + 2

eval(:(let x=1; x + 1 end)) == let x=1; x + 1 end

macro s

Ready? :)

# let's try to make this!
julia> x = 5; @show x;
x = 5

Let's make our own @show macro:

macro log(x)
  :(
    println( "Expression: ", $(string(x)), " has value: ", $x )
  )
end

u = 42
f = x -> x^2
@log(u)       # Expression: u has value: 42
@log(42)      # Expression: 42 has value: 42
@log(f(42))   # Expression: f(42) has value: 1764
@log(:u)      # Expression: :u has value: u

expand to lower an Expr

5 layers (Leah Hanson) <-- explains how Julia takes source code as a string, tokenizes it into an Expr-tree (AST), expands out all the macros (still AST), lowers (lowered AST), then converts into LLVM (and beyond -- at the moment we don't need to worry what lies beyond!)

Q: code_lowered acts on functions. Is it possible to lower an Expr? A: yup!

# function -> lowered-AST
julia> code_lowered(*,(String,String))
1-element Array{LambdaInfo,1}:
 LambdaInfo template for *(s1::AbstractString, ss::AbstractString...) at strings/basic.jl:84

# Expr(i.e. AST) -> lowered-AST
julia> expand(:(x ? y : z))
:(begin
        unless x goto 3
        return y
        3:
        return z
    end)

julia> expand(:(y .= x.(i)))
:((Base.broadcast!)(x,y,i))

# 'Execute' AST or lowered-AST
julia> eval(ast)

If you want to only expand macros you can use macroexpand:

# AST -> (still nonlowered-)AST but with macros expanded:
julia> macroexpand(:(@show x))
quote
    (Base.println)("x = ",(Base.repr)(begin  # show.jl, line 229:
                #28#value = x
            end))
    #28#value
end

...which returns a non-lowered AST but with all macros expanded.

esc()

esc(x) returns an Expr that says "don't apply hygiene to this", it's the same as Expr(:escape, x). Hygiene is what keeps a macro self-contained, and you esc things if you want them to "leak". e.g.

Example: swap macro to illustrate esc()

macro swap(p, q)
  quote
    tmp = $(esc(p))
    $(esc(p)) = $(esc(q))
    $(esc(q)) = tmp
  end
end

x,y = 1,2
@swap(x,y)
println(x,y)  # 2 1

$ allows us to 'escape out of' the quote. So why not simply $p and $q? i.e.

    # FAIL!
    tmp = $p
    $p = $q
    $q = tmp

Because that would look first to the macro scope for p, and it would find a local p i.e. the parameter p (yes, if you subsequently access p without esc-ing, the macro considers the p parameter as a local variable).

So $p = ... is just a assigning to the local p. it's not affecting whatever variable was passed-in in the calling context.

Ok so how about:

    # Almost!
    tmp = $p          # <-- you might think we don't 
    $(esc(p)) = $q    #       need to esc() the RHS
    $(esc(q)) = tmp

So esc(p) is 'leaking' p into the calling context. "The thing that was passed into the macro that we receive as p"

julia> macro swap(p, q)                  
         quote                           
           tmp = $p                      
           $(esc(p)) = $q                
           $(esc(q)) = tmp               
         end                             
       end                               
@swap (macro with 1 method)              

julia> x, y = 1, 2                       
(1,2)                                    

julia> @swap(x, y);                      

julia> @show(x, y);                      
x = 2                                    
y = 1                                    

julia> macroexpand(:(@swap(x, y)))       
quote  # REPL[34], line 3:               
    #10#tmp = x # REPL[34], line 4:      
    x = y # REPL[34], line 5:            
    y = #10#tmp                          
end                                      

As you can see tmp gets the hygiene treatment #10#tmp, whereas x and y don't. Julia is making a unique identifier for tmp, something you can manually do with gensym, ie:

julia> gensym(:tmp)
Symbol("##tmp#270")

But: There is a gotcha:

julia> module Swap
       export @swap

       macro swap(p, q)
         quote
           tmp = $p
           $(esc(p)) = $q
           $(esc(q)) = tmp
         end
       end
       end
Swap

julia> using Swap

julia> x,y = 1,2
(1,2)

julia> @swap(x,y)
ERROR: UndefVarError: x not defined

Another thing julia's macro hygiene does is, if the macro is from another module, it makes any variables (that were not assigned inside the macro's returning expression, like tmp in this case) globals of the current module, so $p becomes Swap.$p, likewise $q -> Swap.$q.

In general, if you need a variable that is outside the macro's scope you should esc it, so you should esc(p) and esc(q) regardless if they are on the LHS or RHS of a expression, or even by themselves.

people have already mentioned gensyms a few times and soon you will be seduced by the dark side of defaulting to escaping the whole expression with a few gensyms peppered here and there, but... Make sure to understand how hygiene works before trying to be smarter than it! It's not a particularly complex algorithm so it shouldn't take too long, but don't rush it! Don't use that power until you understand all the ramifications of it... (@fcard)

Example: until macro

(@Ismael-VC)

"until loop"
macro until(condition, block)
    quote
        while ! $condition
            $block
        end
    end |> esc
end

julia> i=1;  @until(  i==5,  begin; print(i); i+=1; end  )
1234

(@fcard) |> is controversial, however. I am surprised a mob hasn't come to argue yet. (maybe everyone is just tired of it). There is a recommendation of having most if not all of the macro just be a call to a function, so:

macro until(condition, block)
    esc(until(condition, block))
end

function until(condition, block)
    quote
        while !$condition
            $block
        end
    end
end

...is a safer alternative.

##@fcard's simple macro challenge

Task: Swap the operands, so swaps(1/2) gives 2.00 i.e. 2/1

macro swaps(e)
    e.args[2:3] = e.args[3:-1:2]   
    e
end
@swaps(1/2)
2.00

More macro challenges from @fcard here


Interpolation and assert macro

http://docs.julialang.org/en/release-0.5/manual/metaprogramming/#building-an-advanced-macro

macro assert(ex)
    return :( $ex ? nothing : throw(AssertionError($(string(ex)))) )
end

Q: Why the last $? A: It interpolates, i.e. forces Julia to eval that string(ex) as execution passes through the invocation of this macro. i.e. If you just run that code it won't force any evaluation. But the moment you do assert(foo) Julia will invoke this macro replacing its 'AST token/Expr' with whatever it returns, and the $ will kick into action.

A fun hack for using { } for blocks

(@fcard) I don't think there is anything technical keeping {} from being used as blocks, in fact one can even pun on the residual {} syntax to make it work:

julia> macro c(block)
         @assert block.head == :cell1d
         esc(quote
           $(block.args...)
         end)
       end
@c (macro with 1 method)

julia> @c {
         print(1)
         print(2)
         1+2
       }
123

*(unlikely to still work if/when the {} syntax is repurposed)


So first Julia sees the macro token, so it will read/parse tokens until the matching end, and create what? An Expr with .head=:macro or something? Does it store "a+1" as a string or does it break it apart into :+(:a, 1)? How to view?

?

(@fcard) In this case because of lexical scope, a is undefined in @Ms scope so it uses the global variable... I actually forgot to escape the flipplin' expression in my dumb example, but the "only works within the same module" part of it still applies.

julia> module M
       macro m()
         :(a+1)
       end
       end
M

julia> a = 1
1

julia> M.@m
ERROR: UndefVarError: a not defined

The reason being that, if the macro is used in any module other than the one it was defined in, any variables not defined within the code-to-be-expanded are treated as globals of the macro's module.

julia> macroexpand(:(M.@m))
:(M.a + 1)

ADVANCED

###@Ismael-VC

@eval begin
    "do-until loop"
    macro $(:do)(block, until::Symbol, condition)
        until ≠ :until && 
            error("@do expected `until` got `$until`")
        quote
            let
                $block
                @until $condition begin
                    $block
                end
            end
        end |> esc
    end
end
julia> i = 0            
0                       

julia> @do begin        
           @show i      
           i += 1       
       end until i == 5 
i = 0                   
i = 1                   
i = 2                   
i = 3                   
i = 4

Scott's macro:

"""
Internal function to return captured line number information from AST

##Parameters
- a:     Expression in the julia type Expr

##Return

- Line number in the file where the calling macro was invoked
"""
_lin(a::Expr) = a.args[2].args[1].args[1]

"""
Internal function to return captured file name information from AST

##Parameters
- a:     Expression in the julia type Expr

##Return
- The name of the file where the macro was invoked
"""
_fil(a::Expr) = string(a.args[2].args[1].args[2])

"""
Internal function to determine if a symbol is a status code or variable
"""
function _is_status(sym::Symbol)
    sym in (:OK, :WARNING, :ERROR) && return true
    str = string(sym)
    length(str) > 4 && (str[1:4] == "ERR_" || str[1:5] == "WARN_" || str[1:5] == "INFO_")
end

"""
Internal function to return captured error code from AST

##Parameters
- a:     Expression in the julia type Expr

##Return
- Error code from the captured info in the AST from the calling macro
"""
_err(a::Expr) =
    (sym = a.args[2].args[2] ; _is_status(sym) ? Expr(:., :Status, QuoteNode(sym)) : sym)

"""
Internal function to produce a call to the log function based on the macro arguments and the AST from the ()->ERRCODE anonymous function definition used to capture error code, file name and line number where the macro is used

##Parameters
- level:     Loglevel which has to be logged with macro
- a:         Expression in the julia type Expr
- msgs:      Optional message

##Return
- Statuscode
"""
function _log(level, a, msgs)
    if isempty(msgs)
        :( log($level, $(esc(:Symbol))($(_fil(a))), $(_lin(a)), $(_err(a)) )
    else
        :( log($level, $(esc(:Symbol))($(_fil(a))), $(_lin(a)), $(_err(a)), message=$(esc(msgs[1]))) )
    end
end

macro warn(a, msgs...)  ; _log(Warning, a, msgs) ; end

junk / unprocessed ...

view/dump a macro

(@p-i-) Suppose I just do macro m(); a+1; end in a fresh REPL. With no a defined. How can I ‘view’ it? like, is there some way to ‘dump’ a macro? Without actually executing it

(@fcard) All the code in macros are actually put into functions, so you can only view their lowered or type-inferred code.

julia> macro m()  a+1  end
@m (macro with 1 method)

julia> @code_typed @m
LambdaInfo for @m()
:(begin 
        return Main.a + 1
    end)

julia> @code_lowered @m  
CodeInfo(:(begin
        nothing
        return Main.a + 1
    end))
# ^ or: code_lowered(eval(Symbol("@m")))[1] # ouf!

Other ways to get a macro's function:

julia> macro getmacro(call) call.args[1] end
@getmacro (macro with 1 method)

julia> getmacro(name) = getfield(current_module(), name.args[1])
getmacro (generic function with 1 method)

julia> @getmacro @m
@m (macro with 1 method)

julia> getmacro(:@m)
@m (macro with 1 method)
julia> eval(Symbol("@M"))
@M (macro with 1 method)

julia> dump( eval(Symbol("@M")) )
@M (function of type #@M)

julia> code_typed( eval(Symbol("@M")) )
1-element Array{Any,1}:
 LambdaInfo for @M()

julia> code_typed( eval(Symbol("@M")) )[1]
LambdaInfo for @M()
:(begin 
        return $(Expr(:copyast, :($(QuoteNode(:(a + 1))))))
    end::Expr)

julia> @code_typed @M
LambdaInfo for @M()
:(begin 
        return $(Expr(:copyast, :($(QuoteNode(:(a + 1))))))
    end::Expr)

^ looks like I can use code_typed instead

How to understand eval(Symbol("@M"))?

(@fcard) Currently, every macro has a function associated with it. If you have a macro called M, then the macro's function is called @M. Generally you can get a function's value with e.g. eval(:print) but with a macro's function you need to do Symbol("@M"), since just :@M becomes an Expr(:macrocall, Symbol("@M")) and evaluating that causes a macro-expansion.

Why doesn't code_typed display params?

(@p-i-)

julia> code_typed( x -> x^2 )[1]
LambdaInfo for (::##5#6)(::Any)
:(begin 
        return x ^ 2
    end)

^ here I see one ::Any param, but it doesn't seem to be connected with the token x.

 julia> code_typed( print )[1]
LambdaInfo for print(::IO, ::Char)
:(begin 
        (Base.write)(io,c)
        return Base.nothing
    end::Void)

^ similarly here; there is nothing to connect io with the ::IO So surely this can't be a complete dump of the AST representation of that particular print method…?

(@fcard) print(::IO, ::Char) only tells you what method it is, it's not part of the AST. It isn't even present in master anymore:

julia> code_typed(print)[1]
CodeInfo(:(begin
        (Base.write)(io,c)
        return Base.nothing
    end))=>Void

(@p-i-) I don't understand what you mean by that. It seems to be dumping the AST for the body of that method, no? I thought code_typed gives the AST for a function. But it seems to be missing the first step, i.e. setting up tokens for params.

(@fcard) code_typed is meant to only show the body's AST, but for now it does give the complete AST of the method, in the form of a LambdaInfo (0.5) or CodeInfo (0.6), but a lot of the information is omitted when printed to the repl. You will need to inspect the LambdaInfo field by field in order to get all the details. dump is going to flood your repl, so you could try:

macro method_info(call)
  quote
    method = @code_typed $(esc(call))
    print_info_fields(method)
  end
end

function print_info_fields(method)
  for field in fieldnames(typeof(method))
    if isdefined(method, field) && !(field in [Symbol(""), :code])
      println("  $field = ", getfield(method, field))
    end
  end
  display(method)
end

print_info_fields(x::Pair) = print_info_fields(x[1])

Which gives all the values of the named fields of a method's AST:

julia> @method_info print(STDOUT, 'a')
  rettype = Void
  sparam_syms = svec()
  sparam_vals = svec()
  specTypes = Tuple{Base.#print,Base.TTY,Char}
  slottypes = Any[Base.#print,Base.TTY,Char]
  ssavaluetypes = Any[]
  slotnames = Any[Symbol("#self#"),:io,:c]
  slotflags = UInt8[0x00,0x00,0x00]
  def = print(io::IO, c::Char) at char.jl:45
  nargs = 3
  isva = false
  inferred = true
  pure = false
  inlineable = true
  inInference = false
  inCompile = false
  jlcall_api = 0
  fptr = Ptr{Void} @0x00007f7a7e96ce10
LambdaInfo for print(::Base.TTY, ::Char)
:(begin
        $(Expr(:invoke, LambdaInfo for write(::Base.TTY, ::Char), :(Base.write), :(io), :(c)))
        return Base.nothing
    end::Void)

See the lil' def = print(io::IO, c::Char)? There you go! (also the slotnames = [..., :io, :c] part) Also yes, the difference in output is because I was showing the results on master.

???

(@Ismael-VC) you mean like this? Generic dispatch with Symbols

You can do it this way:

julia> function dispatchtest{alg}(::Type{Val{alg}})
           println("This is the generic dispatch. The algorithm is $alg")
       end
dispatchtest (generic function with 1 method)

julia> dispatchtest(alg::Symbol) = dispatchtest(Val{alg})
dispatchtest (generic function with 2 methods)

julia> function dispatchtest(::Type{Val{:Euler}})
           println("This is for the Euler algorithm!")
       end
dispatchtest (generic function with 3 methods)

julia> dispatchtest(:Foo)
This is the generic dispatch. The algorithm is Foo

julia> dispatchtest(:Euler)

This is for the Euler algorithm! I wonder what does @fcard thinks about generic symbol dispatch! ---^ :angel:

Module Gotcha

@def m begin
  a+2
end

@m # replaces the macro at compile-time with the expression a+2

More accurately, only works within the toplevel of the module the macro was defined in.

julia> module M
       macro m1()
         a+1
       end
       end
M

julia> macro m2()
         a+1
       end
@m2 (macro with 1 method)

julia> a = 1
1

julia> M.@m1
ERROR: UndefVarError: a not defined

julia> @m2
2

julia> let a = 20
         @m2
       end
2

esc keeps this from happening, but defaulting to always using it goes against the language design. A good defense for this is to keep one from using and introducing names within macros, which makes them hard to track to a human reader.