Nigel Metheringham edited this page Nov 25, 2012 · 1 revision
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MagnusHolmgren_ posted this to the mailing list:

Hello everybody! This is my vision of and suggestion for a reform of the string expansion language:

  • The distinction between items, operators, and conditions is eliminated. Instead there are only functions.

    • All functions can be used as conditions. The truth value is the same as with the "condition" ACL condition and router precondition today.
    • Any punctuation character except $ can be used as the argument delimiter. The character following the function name determines the delimiter.
      • Characters that come in matching pairs - () [] {} <> - are used together (like in Perl).

      • Single and double quotes could possibly be used the the same way, with single quote turning off expansion.

      • Space can be the delimiter. If the first nonblank character after the function name is not a valid punctuation character, then any amount of consecutive whitespace separates arguments, except when the function already has enough arguments.

      • In fact, all bracketing delimiters and no delimiters can be used interchangeably, so that this is no special case:

        ${if ${match_address $sender_address
             {The address matches}
             [No match]}
      • I don't think following nesting of bracketing delimiters that do not enclose expansion functions or their arguments, like Perl does, is worth it, though.

      • Examples:

    • The special operators that take arguments separated by underscores have to become normal: ${substr:3:2:$local_part}
  • The list is a special data type. Some expansion functions return lists (for example lookup, perl, and list, which is the generic list constructor). The colon, or other delimiter, is only used as such in the configuration file, not internally. Also, expansions are parsed when parsing list settings. This avoids the need to double colons inside expansions in e.g. require_files, as well as ${sg{<password>}{:}{::}} in places where an expansion result might contain colons that are not intended as list separators.

    This breaks with the principle that expansions are simple string substitutions, but I think it can implemented quite easily by passing a list_context flag to string_expand_internal() and converting to a string before returning when a list isn't wanted (either by simply concatenating the elements, concatenating with colons between, or by returning the number of elements (like in Perl).

This should give the following advantages:

  • The syntax becomes more coherent.
  • Fewer braces overall.
  • You can say ${eq $foo bar} instead of ${if eq{$foo}{bar}} :-).
  • The code becomes simpler, even if there are more ways for the user to express the same thing.
  • The current syntax for most expansion items and operators is still valid.

But is this too much of a reform? Just how incompatible can the changes be? Much should be auto-convertable and there were huge changes between Exim 3 and Exim 4 that required manual attention.