Package takeover: indents
Published on December 22, 2016 under the tag haskell
Parsers are one of Haskell’s indisputable strengths. The most well-known library is probably Parsec. This parser combinator library has been around since at least 2001, but is still widely used today, and it has inspired new generations of general purpose parsing libraries.
Parsec makes it really easy to prototype parsers for certain classes of grammars. Lots of grammars in use today, however, are whitespace-sensitive. There are different approaches for dealing with that. One of the most commonly used approaches is to add explicit
DEDENT tokens. But that usually requires you to add a separate lexing phase – not a bad idea by itself, but a bit annoying if you are just writing a quick prototype.
That is why I like the indents package – it sits in a sweet spot because it is a straightforward package that allows you turn any Parsec parser into an indentation-based one without having to change too many types.
It offers a bunch of semi-cryptic operators like
<*/> which I would personally avoid in favor of their named variants, but other than that I would consider it a fairly “easy” package.
Unfortunately, I found a few bugs an inconveniences in the old package. One interesting bug would allow failing branches of the parse to still affect the indentation’s internal state, which is very bad 1. Additionally, the package fixed the underlying monad, which prevented you from using transformers.
Because I didn’t want to confuse people by creating yet another package, I took over the package which is a very smooth process nowadays. I can definitely recommend this to anyone who discovers issues like these in unmaintained packages. The hackage trustees are doing great and valuable work there.
I have now uploaded a new version which fixes these issues. To celebrate that, let’s create a toy parser for indentation-sensitive taxonomies such as the big tea taxonomy 2:
tea green korean pucho-cha chung-cha vietnamese snow-green-tea japanese roasted ... black georgian traditional caravan-blend african kenyan tanzanian ...
We need some imports to get rolling. After all, this blogpost is a literate haskell file which can be loaded in
import Control.Applicative ((*>), (<*), (<|>)) import qualified Text.Parsec as Parsec import qualified Text.Parsec.Indent as Indent
We just store a single term in the category as a
type Term = String
A taxonomy is then recursively defined as a
Term and its children taxonomies.
data Taxonomy = Taxonomy Term [Taxonomy] deriving (Eq, Show)
A parser for a term is easy. We just parse an identifier and then skip the spaces following that.
pTerm :: Indent.IndentParser String () String = pTerm <* Parsec.spaces Parsec.many1 allowedChar where = Parsec.alphaNum <|> Parsec.oneOf ".-" allowedChar
In the parser for a
Taxonomy, we use the
withPos is used to “remember” the indentation position. After doing that, we can use combinators such as
indented to check if we are indented past that point.
pTaxonomy :: Indent.IndentParser String () Taxonomy = Indent.withPos $ do pTaxonomy <- pTerm term <- Parsec.many $ Indent.indented *> pTaxonomy subs return $ Taxonomy term subs
Now we have a simple main to function to put it all together;
readTaxonomy :: FilePath -> IO Taxonomy = do readTaxonomy filePath <- readFile filePath txt let errOrTax = Indent.runIndentParser parser () filePath txt case errOrTax of Left err -> fail (show err) Right tax -> return tax where = pTaxonomy <* Parsec.eof parser
And we can verify that this works in GHCi:
*Main> readTaxonomy "taxonomy.txt" Taxonomy "tea" [Taxonomy "green" [Taxonomy "korean" [... *Main>
Special thanks to Sam Anklesaria for writing the original package.
The interesting tea taxonomy can be found in this blogpost: https://jameskennedymonash.wordpress.com/mind-maps/amazing-tea-taxonomy/.↩︎