Tool of Thought

APL for the Practical Man

A Document Object Model in APL

September 21, 2022

With a web browser now effectively built into the interpreter, constructing and manipulating HTML and the DOM in a simple and consistent way has never been more important. Explicitly catenating strings is no way to go through life. Lots of (my) old code looks like:

                 '<h1>',t,'</h1>'

        

or barely better we might define tag as:

                  tag←{'<',⍺,'>',⍵,'</',⍺,'>'}

        

And then tag this, that and the other, which all has to be catenated up. And then we enhance tag to take an argument with attributes. It doesn't get better. And when we are done, we have a horrific string, probably nested in various places by mistake, of hopefully valid HTML that we cannot manipulate in any meaningful way.

Consider instead a single simple function New :

             New←{
     ⍝ ⍺ ←→ [Parent, 0 - no parent]
     ⍝ ⍵ ←→ Tag [Content [Attributes]]
     ⍝ ← ←→ Element
     ⍺←0
     s←IsString ⍵
     t c a←s⊃(3↑⍵,⊂⍬)(⍵''⍬)
     e←⎕NS''
     e.Tag←,t
     e.Parent←⍺
     e.Content←''
     _←a SetAttributes e
     e⊣Add/⍺ e c
 }

        

We can now create an object for an element, and produce HTML from it:

                h←New 'h1' 'My Title'
      DOM2HTML h
<h1>My Title</h1>

        

Attributes may be specified by assignment:

                h.class←'chapter'
      DOM2HTML h
<h1 class="chapter">My Title</h1>

        

Elements can be created as children:

                d←New 'html'
      b←d New 'body'
      m←b New 'main'
      DOM2HTML d
<!DOCTYPE html>
<html>
  <body>
    <main></main>
  </body>
</html>

        

Content may be directly assigned:

                m.Content←h
      DOM2HTML d
<!DOCTYPE html>
<html>
  <body>
    <main>
      <h1 class="chapter">My Title</h1>
    </main>
  </body>
</html>
~~~      

        

Producing HTML without explicit catenation is only a small part of the benefit. Consider the function Elements :

          Elements←{
     ⍝ ⍵ ←→ Element
     ⍝ ← ←→ Vector of ⍵ and all sub elements
     326≠⎕DR ⍵:⍬
     ⍵,{c←{0=≢⍵:⍬ ⋄ ⍵/⍨326=⎕DR¨⍵}⍵.Content
         0=≢c:⍬
         ⊃,/c,¨∇¨c}⍵
 } 

        

This traverses the DOM and yields a simple vector of all the elements:

                e←Elements d
      e.Tag
┌────┬────┬────┬──┐
│html│body│main│h1│
└────┴────┴────┴──┘

        

With this function in hand, various covers like ElementByID or ElementsByTag are trivial to write. Now its easy to find all the h1 headers and change, say, their class.

Tables are especially painful to deal with without the proper tooling. With a few helper functions to extract cells, we can manipulate HTML tables like an array programmer should:

               t←NewTable ⍕¨3 4⍴⍳12
     c←BodyCells t
     c[;2].class←⊂'char'
     DOM2HTML t
<table>                       
  <tbody>                     
    <tr>                      
      <td>0</td>              
      <td>1</td>              
      <td class="char">2</td> 
      <td>3</td>              
    </tr>                     
    <tr>                      
      <td>4</td>              
      <td>5</td>              
      <td class="char">6</td> 
      <td>7</td>              
    </tr>                     
    <tr>                      
      <td>8</td>              
      <td>9</td>              
      <td class="char">10</td>
      <td>11</td>             
    </tr>                     
  </tbody>                    
</table>                      
~~~ 

        

Finally we can take HTML and get back the DOM:

                 html←DOM2HTML t
       t2←HTML2DOM html
       html≡DOM2HTML t2
1

        

Where HTML2DOM is:

          HTML2DOM←{
     ⍝ ⍵ ←→ HTML
     ⍝ ← ←→ DOM
     0=≢⍵:⍬
     {⍵⌷⍨⍳1=⍴⍵}0{
         m←⍵
         0=≢m:⍺
         b←m[;0]=0
         p←⍺{⍺ New 3↑1↓⍵}¨↓b⌿m
         m[;0]-←1
         p⊣p ∇¨1↓¨b⊂[0]m
     }⎕XML ⍵
 }

        

Once you start creating HTML this way, patterns arise and utility functions fall out naturally. These utilities return content that can be manipulated and injected anywhere.