Organization of Findlib Packages

There are a bunch of findlib packages. Maybe too many and too confusing, I can’t tell. But the general idea is that for each rewriter or group of rewriters, there are two packages:

  1. the package for linking into a program, viz. pa_ppx.deriving_plugins.show.link

2. the package for loading into the toplevel or adding to camlp5 during preprocessing, viz. pa_ppx.deriving_plugins.show

Note the .link at the end there. These are separated like this so we can specify “preprocess with the show plugin, but don’t link it into the program” and separately “link the show plugin into the program, but don’t preprocess with it”.

[I thought of having a “virtual package” that just required the both, but it turns out that findlib doesn’t support that (and I can see the reasoning there – it could be a source of hard-to-understand bugs).

Using pa_ppx PPX Rewriters

Batch compilation with Make

To use pa_ppx PPX rewriters, let’s start with a really simple file that works with the standard PPX rewriters (simple_show.ml):

type a1 = int * int [@@deriving show]
let _ = print_string ([%show: a1] (5,6))

and we compile it thus:

ocamlfind ocamlc -package ppx_deriving.show simple_show.ml  -o simple_show.byte

Running it yields:

$ ./simple_show.byte
(5, 6)

To compile with pa_ppx:

ocamlfind ocamlc -package pa_ppx.deriving_plugins.show -syntax camlp5o simple_show.ml -linkpkg  -o simple_show.byte

with identical output:

$ ./simple_show.byte
(5, 6)

There’s really only two important differences:

  1. need to specify the syntax (-syntax camlp5o)
  2. instead of ppx_deriving.show specify pa_ppx.deriving_plugins.show

The other linking flags, I just haven’t figured out precisely how to get rid of.

Sometimes more packages must be specified (e.g. for expect_test and inline_test) because dune is adding those under-the-covers, and these instructions are all Makefile-friendly.

Batch compilation with Dune

Dune requires that we provide a command that will preprocess, but not compile. Since this is cumbersome to do with ocamlfind, pa_ppx builds a number of such preprocessors (basically, one for each subdirectory, and one that includes them all) and installs them as part of the package. In the case of simple_show.ml, we want the deriving plugins, which can be invoked thus:

ocamlfind pa_ppx/camlp5o.pa_ppx_deriving_plugins  ./simple_show.ml

[BTW, this command was built using mkcamlp5, and you can see the build command in the pa_ppx/pa_deriving.plugins Makefile.]

With this command, we can modify a dune file pretty easily. Here’s the modification for Yara:

@@ -2,7 +2,13 @@
  (name yara)
  (public_name yara)
  (wrapped false)
- (preprocess
-  (pps ppx_deriving.std))
+;; (preprocess
+;;  (pps ppx_deriving.std))
+ (preprocess (action
+      (run ocamlfind pa_ppx/camlp5o.pa_ppx_deriving_plugins %{input-file})
+    ))

and here’s a dunefile that will compile test_deriving_show.ml:

    (flags (:standard -w -27 -w -32))))

 (name simple_show)
 (libraries fmt pa_ppx.runtime ppx_deriving.runtime)
 (preprocess (action
      (run ocamlfind pa_ppx/camlp5o.pa_ppx_deriving_plugins %{input-file})

[The warnings must be silenced b/c the test itself elicits warnings, and I didn’t want to modify it. OTOH, I didn’t silence all warnings b/c if there are warnings produced by the generated code, I’d like to know about them.]

In the toplevel

It’s also straightforward to use pa_ppx PPX rewriters in the toplevel:

        OCaml version 4.10.0
#use "topfind.camlp5";;
- : unit = ()
# #camlp5o ;;
     Camlp5 parsing version 8.00-alpha01
# #require "pa_ppx.deriving_plugins.show";;

# type a1 = int * int [@@deriving show] ;;
type a1 = int * int
val pp_a1 : a1 Fmt.t = <fun>
val show_a1 : a1 -> String.t = <fun>
# let _ =
  print_string ([%show: a1] (5,6)) ;;
(5, 6)- : unit = ()

And again, just the ocaml toplevel phrases:

#use "topfind.camlp5";;
#camlp5o ;;
require "pa_ppx.deriving_plugins.show";;
 type a1 = int * int [@@deriving show] ;;
let _ =
  print_string ([%show: a1] (5,6)) ;;

Writing new PPX Rewriters upon Pa_ppx

In this section, we’ll describe at a high level the process of PPX rewriter execution in Pa_ppx, and how that results in the process for writing new ones.

In Pa_ppx rewriters are “installed” into the camlp5 preprocessor (which loads them all, unlike with standard PPX rewriters, which are sometimes run in separate processes). The Pa_ppx_base module accumulates the list of all loaded rewriters, and just before applying them to an AST, it topologically sorts them based on declared constraints. Then each rewriter is called with a “context” object (where it can stash information for later passes, or as a form of inherited or synthesized attribute (loosely as in attribute-grammars) and the AST; it returns a (possibly) rewritten AST. This AST is then passed along to the next rewriter, and so on until a final AST is produced, which is then output to the Ocaml main compiler process.

Each rewriter in turn is passed an AST. The Camlp5 ML AST has a number of “important” types (e.g. expr, patt, module_expr, module_type, ctyp, etc). A function much like what would be generated by ppx_deriving.map is called on the AST, and it recursively walks the entire AST. But at each of these major types, there is an “extensible function” that gets called before calling the (as-if-)generated “map” function, and that extensible function can rewrite the AST (or decline and do nothing).

So to implement a rewriter typically means to add some code to the extension-points that correspond to the AST types that might need to be rewritten. For example, in the next section we present an example where the sole extension point would be expr. In pa_ppx.deriving, the types str_item (structure-item) and sig_item (signature-item) are rewritten. Typically, a single rewriter only rewrites AST nodes of a few types, and then only when they match certain criteria. So in both extensible functions, and normal code that does rewriting, we’ll make extensive use of camlp5 “quotations” (text that looks like ML surface syntax, but is expanded by camlp5 into ML code for patterns or expressions, depending on context).

Now we can describe the steps in writing a PPX rewriter:

1. write some code that, for the specific AST nodes of interest, pattern-matches and generates rewritten nodes, assuming that the nodes are suitable. Perhaps access lookaside information in the “context”, or maybe stash information there for other code.

2. Extend the specific extensible-functions for the AST node types we need to rewrite, using pattern-matching to select suitable nodes and then calling our rewrite functions from step 1.

3. Then install these extensible functions into Pa_ppx_base with indications of when they should be run (before/after which other PPX rewriters).

An Example PPX Rewriter based on Pa_ppx

NOTE WELL: This code is taken from pa_ppx/pa_here_original, an “original syntax” version of pa_ppx/pa_here . The function of these two PPX rewriters is identical: pa_here_original is written in original syntax to show that it’s straightforward to do so (no revised syntax required (except in quotations)).

In this section, we will describe the simplest rewriter (pa_ppx.here_original). This rewriter replaces the extension point [%here] with code that produces a Lexing.position of the position in the file where the extension-point was found. So a line (in a file “test_here.ml”):

let here = [%here]

is rewritten to:

let here =
  let open Lexing in
  {pos_fname = "test_here.ml"; pos_lnum = 4; pos_bol = 32;
   pos_cnum = 43}

We won’t go into excruciating detail, because this depends on a number of camlp5 and pa_ppx facilities that are described in more detail either in the camlp5 documentation, or elsewhere in this documentation.

1. Open necessary libraries (Pa_ppx_base contains support infrastructure for all PPX rewriters):

open Pa_ppx_base
open Pa_passthru
open Ppxutil

2. Implement a function that rewrites the simple extension-point, using camlp5 “quotations”. The function quote_position uses quotations for expressions that themselves have anti-quotations (“holes”) for expressions we want to fill with bits from the Lexing.position:

let quote_position loc p =
  let open Lexing in
  <:expr< let open Lexing in {
  pos_fname = $str:p.pos_fname$ ;
  pos_lnum = $int:string_of_int p.pos_lnum$ ;
  pos_bol = $int:string_of_int p.pos_bol$ ;
  pos_cnum = $int:string_of_int p.pos_cnum$ } >>

Next we write a function that pattern-matches on an expression (expected to be [%here]) and rewrites it using quote_position:

let rewrite_expr arg = function
  <:expr:< [%here] >> ->
    let pos = start_position_of_loc loc in
    quote_position loc pos
| _ -> assert false

And finally, we add this function to the “extensible function” for expressions. Notice the fallback argument below: if rewriting of subtrees of this AST node were needed after this pa_here_original rewrite, we could call that to make it happen. The type EF.t is a dispatch table of “extension points”, one for each important type in the Camlp5 ML AST. All these extension-points start off empty, and we want to add our function to the extension-point for expressions (notice the keyword “extfun”). Then we “install” this table in the Pa_passthru module, giving it a name. We can specify that it comes before or after other rewriters, or specify a pass number (0..99), though this is almost never used. Instead, by specifying which rewriters to run before or after, we give Pa_passthru the information to topologically sort all loaded rewriters before running them:

let install () =
let ef = EF.mk () in
let ef = EF.{ (ef) with
            expr = extfun ef.expr with [
    <:expr:< [%here] >> as z ->
    fun arg fallback ->
      Some (rewrite_expr arg z)
  ] } in
  Pa_passthru.(install { name = "pa_here"; ef =  ef ; pass = None ; before = [] ; after = [] })


An example of a rewriter that specifies a “before” constraint would be pa_ppx.import, which should be run before pa_ppx.deriving, so that a type can be imported, and then have type-based code derived from that imported type.

Troubleshooting PPX Rewriter Invocations

Everybody eventually uses a PPX rewriter that doesn’t produce the results they desire. There are two ways of debugging that issue:

  1. using not-ocamlfind preprocess
  2. using the toplevel

Debugging using not-ocamlfind preprocess

Suppose that the ocamlfind ocamlc invocation above didn’t produce the results we desired. For instance, suppose that we forgot the -syntax camlp5o:

ocamlfind ocamlc -package pa_ppx.deriving_plugins.show -c simple_show.ml
File "simple_show.ml", line 5, characters 18-22:
5 |   print_string ([%show: a1] (5,6))
Error: Uninterpreted extension 'show'.

We could start to debug the preprocessing process by using not-ocamlfind preprocess:

not-ocamlfind preprocess -package pa_ppx.deriving_plugins.show simple_show.ml
ppx_execute: ocamlfind not-ocamlfind/papr_official.exe -binary-output -impl simple_show.ml /tmp/simple_show4d8e59
format output file: ocamlfind not-ocamlfind/papr_official.exe -binary-input -impl /tmp/simple_show4d8e59
type a1 = (int * int)[@@deriving show]
let _ = print_string (([%show :a1]) (5, 6))

This tells us we didn’t actually invoke camlp5 (or any PPX rewriters). Instead, we use “papr_official.exe” to convert text to binary AST, and then back to text. A different kind of information is given by adding -verbose:

ocamlfind ocamlc -verbose -package pa_ppx.deriving_plugins.show -c simple_show.ml
Effective set of compiler predicates: pkg_result,pkg_rresult,pkg_seq,pkg_stdlib-shims,pkg_fmt,pkg_sexplib0,pkg_pa_ppx.runtime,pkg_pa_ppx.deriving_plugins.show,autolink,byte

This also tells us that camlp5 isn’t being invoked (no mention of “preprocessor predicates”), and this would tell us that we needed to add -syntax camlp5o (and maybe the camlp5 package):

not-ocamlfind preprocess -package pa_ppx.deriving_plugins.show -syntax camlp5o simple_show.ml

will produce binary output, because we didn’t specify what syntax we wanted to print (official or revised); adding camlp5.pr_o will fix that:

not-ocamlfind preprocess -package pa_ppx.deriving_plugins.show,camlp5.pr_o -syntax camlp5o simple_show.ml

Basically, any ocamlfind ocamlc command can be converted to not-ocamlfind preprocess by removing any flags/arguments that are meant only for ocamlc (so: linking, warnings, -c, etc) and adding a camlp5 printing package (so: camlp5.pr_o or camlp5.pr_r).

Debugging using the ocaml toplevel

The other way to debug a Pa_ppx rewriter is via the Ocaml toplevel. Camlp5 and pa_ppx packages can be loaded into the toplevel in the usual way.

  1. Load supporting modules:

    #use "topfind.camlp5";;
    #require "camlp5.pa_o";;
    #require "camlp5.pr_o";;
    #directory "../tests-ounit2";;
    (* these are needed by this example, not by pa_ppx *)
    #require "compiler-libs.common" ;;
    #require "bos";;
    #load "../tests-ounit2/papr_util.cmo";;
    open Papr_util ;;
  2. Load the PPX rewriter:

    #require "pa_ppx.deriving_plugins.show";;
  3. And run it on a file:

    "simple_show.ml" |> Fpath.v |> Bos.OS.File.read
    |> Rresult.R.get_ok |> PAPR.Implem.pa1
    |> PAPR.Implem.pr |> print_string ;;
    type a1 = int * int[@@deriving_inline show]let rec (pp_a1 : a1 Fmt.t) =
      fun (ofmt : Format.formatter) arg ->
        (fun (ofmt : Format.formatter) (v0, v1) ->
           let open Pa_ppx_runtime.Runtime.Fmt in
           pf ofmt "(@[%a,@ %a@])"
             (fun ofmt arg ->
                let open Pa_ppx_runtime.Runtime.Fmt in pf ofmt "%d" arg)
             (fun ofmt arg ->
                let open Pa_ppx_runtime.Runtime.Fmt in pf ofmt "%d" arg)
          ofmt arg[@@ocaml.warning "-39"] [@@ocaml.warning "-33"]
    and (show_a1 : a1 -> Stdlib.String.t) =
      fun arg -> Format.asprintf "%a" pp_a1 arg[@@ocaml.warning "-39"] [@@ocaml.warning "-33"][@@@end]let _ = print_string ((fun arg -> Format.asprintf "%a" pp_a1 arg) (5, 6))- : unit = ()