Tool of Thought

APL for the Practical Man

The Problem with Namespace Scripts

April 6, 2021

In my list of Dyalog APL Don'ts I have Don't use namespace scripts. Why? Namespace scripts are strange beasts. Like classes, they are a combination of code and stuff that gets executed and who knows what else. It's even hard to talk about namespace scripts - you would thinks they would be scripts that define a namespace, but they define a namespace script, not a namespace. Maybe they are not really scripts at all.

However, I would like to use namespace scripts to have a text file that represents an arbitrary namepace or even an entire workspace. Unfortunately, this does not quite work for a number of reasons.

Consider the following script:

:Namespace Parent
          Child1.Child1Foo ⍵
    :Namespace Child1
              GrandChild.GrandChildFoo ⍵
        :Namespace GrandChild
    :Namespace Child2 
              GrandChild.GrandChildFoo ⍵

Here we have a namespace, with two child namespaces, one of which has a child itself. All well and good. When this is fixed, however, references are injected all over the place:


By inspection we can see that every namespace has a reference to it injected into every sibling and direct ancestor (grandparent, great grandparent, etc.)

And indeed, the Dyalog documentation somewhat incompletely, and I think incorrectly, and definitely unclearly, states this as:

The names of Classes defined within a Namespace Script which are parents, children, or siblings are visible both to one another and to code and expressions defined in the same script, regardless of the namespace hierarchy within it. Names of Classes which are nieces or nephews and their descendants are however not visible.

Classes rather than plain namespace scripts were probably the motivating factor to this design (See Don't use a naked ⎕NEW, another APL Don't.) Regardless, the interpreter should not be injecting references to things when fixing.

I cannot imagine that anyone relies on this behavior, but a simple non-breaking fix would be to allow some additional values as the left argument of ⎕FIX, which already allows 0, 1 or 2.

I would propose that a value of 3 would fix the namespace as 1 does now, with the exception that is does no reference injection. Even more useful, and perhaps in addition or instead, a value of 4 would fix everthing, do no reference injection, and then disassociate the code from the script. In other words, after fixing the namespace script, the workspace contains regular namespaces, not a namespace script.

In addition, we should be able to specifiy the root, currently illegal, so an entire worksapce may be represented in a single file:

:Namespace #
    :Namespace Rumba
    :Namespace XL2APL

A few other issues arise as well. There are at least two conditions where a function that happily exists in a namespace is unhappy to be in a namespace script. First, if the function has unmatched quotes. Second, if the function has :Implements Constructor, but not :Access Public. The interpreter is happy to fix these functions all by themselves, but not within a namespace script. Thus the rules for fixing functions within a script are different and tighter than fixing normal functions in the workspace.

With these enhancements and fixes to ⎕FIX, namespace scripts can fulfill their proper purpose.