A Javascript-to-Javascript compiler
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README.md

Caterwaul

Caterwaul is two different things. First, and most importantly, it is a powerful low-level Javascript code manipulation library with a Javascript parser, AST, in-process compiler, and replication. Second, it is a programming language implementation that uses this library to transform your code in various arcane ways that I happen to find useful.

The whole project is MIT-licensed, and in the unlikely event that you want to use it you are free to email me with any questions/issues.

What follows is a ten-minute introduction to caterwaul's core concepts. It covers about 5% of what caterwaul does.

Caterwaul as a library

Caterwaul is implemented in pure Javascript, so you can use it to live-compile your code in a browser, or you can use the waul precompiler to compile your code up-front. You can see the live compiler in action by going to the caterwaul website. This site embeds a caterwaul compiler configured to use the standard macro library; this causes it to compile what I refer to as the caterwaul programming language. The website documents this language in some detail, as does Caterwaul by Example - though some of the examples will fail since Caterwaul 1.2.3, which introduces a breaking change to the seq library.

If you're interested in using caterwaul as a compiler library, I recommend reading the caterwaul reference manual, which covers its core API in significantly more detail than this readme. You can also read through the caterwaul source code, which contains copious documentation, some of which is up to date.

Parsing things

Caterwaul's Javascript parser takes anything with a valid toString() method as input, including Javascript functions.

var tree = caterwaul.parse('3 + 4');
tree.toString()           // '3 + 4'
tree.data                 // '+'
tree.length               // 2
tree[0].data              // '3'
tree[1].data              // '4'

Detecting patterns

If you're serious about this stuff, I recommend writing this code in the caterwaul programming language. It supports a lot of advanced features that make syntax trees much easier to work with; in particular, preparsed quoted constructs (similar to the ' operator in Lisp). These will give you a significant performance advantage and better notation.

var pattern = caterwaul.parse('_x + _y');
var match   = pattern.match(tree);
match._x.data             // '3'
match._y.data             // '4'
var template = caterwaul.parse('f(_x, _y)');
var new_tree = template.replace(match);
new_tree.toString()       // 'f(3, 4)'

Compiling things

Caterwaul's compiler does a lot, but the basic case works like eval:

var f = function (x, y) {return x * y};
caterwaul.compile(new_tree)       // 12

You can also bind variables from the compiling environment:

var new_f = function (x, y) {return x + y};
caterwaul.compile(new_tree, {f: new_f})   // 7

You can only compile things that return values (technically, things which are expressions; the litmus test is whether you could legally wrap it in parentheses), so stuff like var x = 10 won't work. This is different from Javascript's eval function. If you want to execute imperative code, you should wrap it in a function:

var function_wrapper = caterwaul.parse('(function() {_body})');
var code = caterwaul.parse('if (x) {console.log(x)}');
var new_function = caterwaul.compile(function_wrapper.replace({_body: code}));
new_function();

Caterwaul as a programming language

I wrote a set of macros that use the above API to modify Javascript code; this macro set has been refined over the past year to become a programming language that I find useful. You can learn this language on the caterwaul website, which goes through it by example and provides an interactive shell so you can see what the compilation process looks like.

Using caterwaul this way

There are two ways to use caterwaul as a programming language. You can compile code from inside another Javascript process, which works because all caterwaul code is syntactically valid Javascript code as well (note that the following example will work only if you've loaded caterwaul.std.js from the build/ directory):

var compiler = caterwaul(':all');         // :all means 'every macro you know about'
var compiled = compiler(function () {
  console.log(x) -where [x = 10];
});
compiled();               // logs 10

The other way to use the programming language is by using the waul precompiler. This compiles your code to straight Javascript, eliminating the runtime overhead imposed by caterwaul's parser, macroexpander, and compiler. Waul files typically end in .waul or .waul.sdoc (if you're using SDoc, which waul will transparently parse) and contain code like this:

caterwaul(':all')(function () {
  n[10] *console.log -seq;
  console.log('done #{message}')
    -where [message = 'iterating through numbers'];
})();

You can compile this by running waul file.waul, which will generate file.js. file.js may contain references to the caterwaul global if you use certain macros, but there will be no compilation overhead.

Caterwaul as a self-replicating monstrosity

This is the coolest part of caterwaul in my opinion. Both caterwaul as a Javascript object and waul can give you string expressions that reproduce them. This is very useful for library bundling; for example:

var r = caterwaul.replicator();
var code = r.toString();

If you do this, someone else can eval 'code' and they will end up with a global called caterwaul that is configured exactly as your caterwaul is configured. The only requirement is that configurations be declared as modules, which is done like this:

// caterwaul.module(name, [compiler_configuration], function)
caterwaul.module('my-configuration', ':all', function ($) {
  // $ is the global caterwaul object
  $.foo = 'bar';
});

The output of replicator is a function that recreates all modules by re-running their initializers. Note that replicator rewrites the module functions into their post-compilation equivalents; in other words, the body of each function has already been compiled into normal Javascript. This reduces total compilation overhead.

Waul replication

Suppose you write a custom caterwaul module and want a new version of waul that contains it. You can ask waul to replicate itself with an extension like this:

$ ./waul -r -e extension.waul > new-waul
$ chmod u+x new-waul
$ ./new-waul my-file.waul

This is especially useful for setting up shebang lines for scripts that require custom waul extensions:

#!./new-waul
caterwaul(':all')(function () {
  // custom code
})();

The waul in caterwaul's root directory is preloaded with build/caterwaul.std.js and build/caterwaul.ui.js. As you might guess, waul wasn't written specially to contain these; rather, it was generated by waul-core (which doesn't have any libraries built-in) by this process:

$ ./waul-core --replicate -e build/caterwaul.std.min.js -e build/caterwaul.ui.min.js > waul
$ chmod 0700 waul