Working Practices - Phil Last
I started APL in 1981 in my first computing job using IBM's VSAPL. I moved on to APL2 when it came out in '83 or '84, to Dyalog in '88, added APL*PLUS/PC in '89 and since the mid '90s have worked almost exclusively in Dyalog.
Since '97 when Dyalog first implemented dfns (direct functions & operators) I use almost nothing else. So far I've found very few places where I need to.
- I make more than common use of operators. I have 38 in my current project only one of which is application specific.
- If one of my functions approaches the size of the screen it needs to be broken up.
- I always have a set of common utilities in a sub-namespace of the project and use them.
- I like to keep local names short so they don't obscure the algorithm.
- I like to put at least four to seven comments at the bottom of each function or operator so they don't get in the way of the tracer:
⍝ a one to five word description ⍝ ⍺ - specify left argument ⍝ ⍺⍺ - specify left operand ⍝ ⍵⍵ - specify right operand ⍝ ⍵ - specify right argument ⍝ ← - specify result ⍝ anything else worth mentioning
These should be sufficiently precise that my successor can rewrite the function without having to read the APL!
- I make almost no use of control structures because:
- I saw them as already redundant when they were first introduced into APL in the eighties because I had a full set of operators that did the same thing only using infix notation.
- I believe they obscure the flow of a function by emphasising trivialities.
- Dynamic functions and operators preclude their use.
So far I've made little use of Dyalog's object/class extensions. I'm waiting for the unscripted version to appear! I do use my own object/class framework (a three-line dfn) on those few occasions when it seems applicable. I've written the first draft of a facility to let me write classes using only dfns and have it auto-generate the script. (since abandoned given that the only really useful aspect of OO is encapsulation and namespaces are perfect for that.)
I don't like Select lists. They masquerade as a set of equivalents belying the fact that they are progressively restrictive
this set of conditions | is not a set but a sequence: case c0 | case c0 case c1 | case c1>c0 case c2 | case c2>c1∨c0Their sheer verticality invites us to sort them into a more attractive order. My distaste is not restricted to the control structure version. The same argument can be brought against a sequence of dfn guards.
My distaste for scripts grows apace. I recently had to convert a namespace tree of about one hundred functions in about ten namespaces into a script. Easily done with a short recursive dfn. But maintaining the thing as a script was hell. If I compose an expression that seems familiar I search for something similar. If I find I already have a simple function (f00) to do the task I call it. If not I create one and call it. And call it again the next time I need it. If I find a close but inexact match I might decide to refactor f00 to enhance it. I need to check that all calls to f00 will still be valid and amend them as needs. For which task what can be better than getting them all on the screen in their own floating windows simultaneously? Try doing that with a script!
-- PhilLast 2014-10-01 13:02:20