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bug#42670: 27.1; comint-redirect-* is quite fragile wrt `comint-prompt-r

From: Phil Sainty
Subject: bug#42670: 27.1; comint-redirect-* is quite fragile wrt `comint-prompt-regexp'
Date: Sun, 2 Aug 2020 21:26:26 +1200
User-agent: Mozilla/5.0 (X11; Linux x86_64; rv:68.0) Gecko/20100101 Thunderbird/68.8.0

The comint-redirect-* feature lets you send a command to a comint
process and collect its output in a different buffer (or automatically
into a list), and it uses `comint-prompt-regexp' to figure out when
the command has finished.

`comint-redirect-send-command-to-process' passes `comint-prompt-regexp'
as the `finished-regexp' argument to `comint-redirect-setup', and the
latter sets `comint-redirect-finished-regexp' to that same value.

A problem I've observed is that, by default, *anything* matching the
`comint-prompt-regexp' is stripped from the output by

 (and (string-match comint-redirect-finished-regexp filtered-input-string)
      (setq filtered-input-string
            (replace-match "" nil nil filtered-input-string)))

There's a flag `comint-redirect-insert-matching-regexp' for preventing
matching text from being removed, but it's inactive by default, and
it's all fairly non-obvious without reading code -- outside of its own
docstring, this variable is not mentioned.

While testing https://debbugs.gnu.org/cgi/bugreport.cgi?bug=42662
I noticed how easily this default behaviour gets tripped up.  E.g.:

With recent versions of GNU coreutils 'ls', filenames are shown as
'single-quoted' if they would need to be quoted for use in the shell
(disabled by the -N, --literal option), and so auto-save files are
listed as '#foo#' (with single quotes included).

M-x shell

$ ls --version
=> ls (GNU coreutils) 8.28

$ touch '#foo#'
$ ls -1 '#foo#'
=> '#foo#'

M-: comint-redirect-send-command RET ls -1 '#foo#'
=> foo#'
=> $

The leading '# has been removed from the output because it's a match for
the prompt regexp:

M-: comint-prompt-regexp
"^[^#$%>\n]*[#$%>] *"

Even if that doesn't seem like a practical example, it was one I stumbled
on accidentally while trying to do something else, and it took me a while
to figure out what was going on.

I don't know for sure how fixable this is, but at minimum it can be
documented more clearly as a default pitfall that users need to
understand.  The docstrings do not really discuss the issue, and it's
not mentioned in the manual at all; however the *code* has the

;; NOTE: It is EXTREMELY important that `comint-prompt-regexp' be set to the
;; correct prompt for your interpreter, or that you supply a regexp that says
;; when the redirection is finished.  Otherwise, redirection will continue
;; indefinitely.  The code now does a sanity check to ensure that it can find
;; a prompt in the comint buffer; however, it is still important to ensure that
;; this prompt is set correctly.
;; XXX: This doesn't work so well unless `comint-prompt-regexp' is set;
;; perhaps it should prompt for a terminating string (with an
;; appropriate magic default by examining what we think is the prompt)?
;; Fixme: look for appropriate fields, rather than regexp, if
;; `comint-use-prompt-regexp' is true.

The latter two paragraphs were added at different times.  Regarding the
second-to-last paragraph, I suspect such "magic" would be prone to
failures if the command results in the final prompt not being identical
to the initial prompt.  (Maybe it'd still be a better default, though?)

That later "Fixme" paragraph regarding fields sounds promising, but I
note that the "magic" paragraph was actually part of the commit which
implemented the "fields" support in comint.el in the first place, so
maybe there was some reason why it wasn't utilised for this use-case.

I'm not familiar with the use of these field properties, so I'm hoping
that someone can advise (CCing to Miles and Stefan based on commit
history relating to fields in comint.el.)


In GNU Emacs 27.1 (build 1, x86_64-pc-linux-gnu, X toolkit, Xaw3d scroll bars)
 of 2020-08-02 built on shodan
Repository revision: f54ddb0198640e38c1d34bf6031ff5117c117c85
Repository branch: emacs-27
Windowing system distributor 'The X.Org Foundation', version 11.0.12008000
System Description: Ubuntu 18.04.4 LTS

Recent messages:
For information about GNU Emacs and the GNU system, type C-h C-a.

Configured using:
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