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LeMP: Help Wanted

Task: make EC# real

Like Pinocchio, Enhanced C# wants to be real: not just a single-file generator, but its own proper project type with member completion and all that! Then again, maybe people really do prefer the single-file generator approach - if it’s officially a C# project, a “virgin” copy of Visual Studio 2015 will be able to open it - it’s just that they just want IntelliSense, and red squiggly underlined errors in the EC# file.

In either case, the first thing we need is someone to help make a Roslyn back-end for LeMP. In other words, I want to convert the output of LeMP into a Microsoft Roslyn syntax tree and compile it with the Roslyn C# 6 compiler. Once that exists, the next step might be to write a Visual Studio extension that introduces a new “Enhanced C# project type” that uses LeMP as the front-end and Roslyn C# as the backend. An EC# project type could allow *.ecs files to enjoy IntelliSense just like plain C#! It should also allow mixed C#-EC# projects, in which the *.cs files use Roslyn directly; both file types should be first-class citizens.

I do not have time to do all of this myself, my TO-DO list is full, so if nobody else volunteers, it won’t happen. If you want to do this project, I will happily teach you whatever you need to now about LeMP; learning about Roslyn will be your responsibility, and I only know the basics of writing Visual Studio extensions (having written the syntax highlighter for *.ecs).

Task: write VB.NET printer

Write a class that prints Enhanced C# Loyc trees as VB.NET code. Since VB.NET and C# have the same type system (including generics), this will mostly be a straightforward (if time-consuming) task. There are a few differences where VB.NET allows something that Enhanced C# doesn’t or vice versa; we should discuss these issues on GitHub as they come up.

Once a VB.NET printer exists, two cool things will be possible:

  1. In a VB project, you can insert C# code in a .ecs file and it will almost seamlessly integrate with the VB code - the VB code can call the C# code and vice versa, with no need to create a separate assembly for your C# code.
  2. You will be able to use all the features of LeMP in your VB project (albeit you’ll have to use C# syntax, unless somebody writes a VB parser too… alternately, one could use the Roslyn VB parser and write a converter from Roslyn VB trees to Loyc trees).

The best example of an existing printer is Les3Printer (EcsNodePrinter is much too complex to base your printer on, and if I were to write it again, there would be some simplifications). Of course, now that matchCode exists, your printer can take advantage of it to deconstruct Loyc trees… or you could extend the existing validation code in EcsValidators to do deconstruction, too (e.g. extracting the class name and base classes from a class/struct/enum or other so-called “space declaration”).

Task: write Javascript or C++ printer

Write a class that prints Loyc trees as C++, Javascript or Swift code, so that in the future LLLPG and LeMP can produce code in those languages. Since no one has defined a mapping between Loyc trees and these languages before, the first step is to plan out how each Javascript or C++ or Swift construct will be represented as a Loyc tree.

Sometimes you can just use the same mapping as Enhanced C#, and sometimes you’ll have to extend it or modify it. For example, a C# class has a Loyc tree like this:

class ClassName : BaseClass { Body; }           // EC# code
`#class`(ClassName, `#`(BaseClass), { Body; }); // LESv3 code

a very similar mapping might work well for C++:

class ClassName : public BaseClass { Body; };           // C++ code
`#class`(ClassName, `#`(@public BaseClass), { Body; }); // LESv3 code

but what to do about ClassName {} Foo;? One possible solution is to nest the class declaration inside a variable declaration:

class ClassName : public BaseClass { Body; } Foo;
#var(#class(ClassName, #(public BaseClass), { Body; }), Foo);

Designing a good and complete mapping could be pretty hard for C++, but Javascript by contrast should be quite straightforward.

Consider Les3Printer as a template for how to write a printer.

Task: catalog bugs in EC# parser

Could someone write a test program that looks for bugs in the Enhanced C# parser?

  1. Recursively searches a directory for *.cs files and
  2. Parses each one with code like this, printing out all errors to the console:
var stream = File.Open(path, FileMode.Open, FileAccess.Read)
var chars = new StreamCharSource(stream);
IListSource<LNode> statements = EcsLanguageService.Parse(
   chars, path, MessageSink.Console, ParsingService.File);
  1. Copy all files to a second folder, but with all *.cs files replaced by the output of EcsLanguageService.Parse (something like File.WriteAllText(newPath, EcsLanguageService.Value.Print (chars, MessageSink.Console)). This way you can try compiling the output, to verify that the printer works properly.

Task: documentation system

XML doc comments are really clunky (I can’t use &? Can’t write List<T>?!), and the tools for making documentation out of them are equally clunky. Doxygen isn’t a great alternative either, since it often misinterprets XML doc comments by assuming you really wanted to use doxygen parsing rules (sometimes an @ is just an @).

We should allow developers to transition to a new doc comment system by supporting both xml doc comments, and a new system of some kind, perhaps one based on Markdown.

Now that comments are associated with nodes in the syntax tree, the next step is to write a program that scans a directory full of source files and either

  1. Builds a tree of namespaces, classes, methods, fields, properties, and events; this tree can be used for lookup by the documentation system, but it would also help with other code analysis tasks.
  2. Alternately, if someone writes a Roslyn back-end, Roslyn will build its own tree of namespaces, classes, methods, fields, properties, and events.

Once this tree exists, you can scan it for doc comments and produce nice HTML and/or Markdown output.

Task: talk to the lonely guy

What’s missing from Enhanced C#? Can that feature be done with a macro? Tell me about your ideas or any macros you’ve made. My email address is on the home page.

P.S. a shout out to the srclib project. I wish I had time to implement the Visual Studio version!