[% setvar title Beyond the amnesic eval %]

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Beyond the amnesic eval


  Maintainer: Stéphane Payrard <stef@francenet.fr>
  Date: 29 Sep 2000
  Mailing List: perl6-language@perl.org
  Number: 351
  Version: 1
  Status: Developing


An unscoped eval is needed. It is part of the necessary steps to make Perl palatable as an interactive shell.


A perl shell, beyond its intrinsic utility, will be a great interactive learning tool. The absence of unscoped eval makes perl based shells unattractive because they must be implemented as a scoped eval around each command line. As a result most of the interesting context is lost.

In command line mode, an interpretor reads a line typed by the user then evaluates it. And so for the next lines, ad nauseam. It is only natural to propagate the context from one line to another. This is what make possible inteesting interactive uses.

This is not what happens in perl5 because eval is always scoped. The lost context is: the current package, special variables sets by regexp ($1...), scoped variables (lexical and local).

A basic CLI can be built as a oneliner in classic Perl, the perl debugger invoked by perl -de 0 is a glorified but specialized command line. But without unscoped eval. It does not cut it.

An example of a frustrating session where a naive user expect a unscoped eval:

    DB<1> package FOO

    DB<2> print __PACKAGE__
    DB<3> $_='foo'

    DB<4> print m/(foo)/
    DB<5> print $1

    DB<6> my $foo = 'bar'

    DB<7> print $foo

    DB<8> local $foo = 'bar'

    DB<9> print $foo

Certainly, one can get away by cramming a lot of stuff in one line. But the idea of granular interactivity is lost:

    DB<13> package FOO;  print __PACKAGE__
    DB<14>  $_='foo'; print m/(foo)/
    DB<15> local $foo = 'bar'; print $foo
    DB<16> my  $foo = 'bar'; print $foo


I propose the unary + as a marker that differentiates unscoped eval from classic (scoped) eval. Or one may consider a explicit keyword. I can't find a satisfactory one.

Classic eval:

 eval {}
 eval ""

Unscoped eval

 +eval {}
 +eval ""



Refeences to forthcoming RFCs.

There are other features needed to make perl6 a good shell. They can be mode-dependant so as not to interfere with perl as a programming language.

Command line languages make heavy usage of litterals. In perl6 command line mode, the default should be to interpret most strings as litteral. For example /etc/ should be a string that will interpreted as a filename. "Taking things litterally" will describe what change of syntax this implies.

"User defined microsyntax" goes one step further and will propose user defined litterals to avoid writing complex constructors.