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Re: Make peg.el a built-in library?

From: Ihor Radchenko
Subject: Re: Make peg.el a built-in library?
Date: Tue, 08 Nov 2022 08:47:44 +0000

Eric Abrahamsen <eric@ericabrahamsen.net> writes:

>> Is there any progress merging peg.el to Emacs?
>> I do not see any obvious blockers in the discussion, but the merge never
>> happened?
> I will say that I tried to use PEG to resolve some gruesome text-parsing
> issues in EBDB very recently, and failed to make it work in the hour or
> two I'd allotted to the problem. The file-comment docs are pretty good,
> but I think they would need to be expanded in a few crucial ways,
> particularly to help those who don't necessarily know how PEGs work.
> Specifically, it is not obvious (to me) the ways in which PEGs (or maybe
> just peg.el) are not fully declarative. It doesn't backtrack, and I
> suspect it won't ever backtrack or isn't even supposed to, which means
> users should be made explicitly aware of the ways in which their rules
> can fail, and the ways in which declaration order matter. The comment
> for the `or' construct reads:
> Prioritized Choice
> And that's about the only hint you get.

As the comment in peg.el states, the definitions are adapted from the
original PEG paper. There is even a link to paper and also to
presentation explaining how peg works. I strongly advice you to read
that. Prioritized Choice is explained there.

> I was trying to parse a
> multiword name like
> Eric Edwin Abrahamsen
> into the structure
> (("Eric" "Edwin") "Abrahamsen")
> using rules like
> (plain-name (substring (+ [word])) (* [space]))
> (full-name (list (+ plain-name) plain-name)
>     `(names -- (list (butlast names) (car (last names)))))
> Which always fails to match because (+ plain-name) is greedy and eats up
> all the words. It doesn't ever try leaving out the last word in an
> attempt to make the rule match.

One way is

    ((name (substring (+ [word])) (* [blank]))
     (given-name name (not (eol)))
     (last-name name (and (eol)))
     (full-name (list (+ given-name) last-name) `(names -- (list (butlast 
names) (car (last names))))))
  (peg-run (peg full-name)))

A simple-minded non-greedy version would be ambiguous. You must
necessarily indicate end of input.

A more appropriate non-ambiguous non-greedy statement would involve or
(which you admittedly did not understand):

    ((name (substring (+ [word])) (* [blank]))
     (given-name name)
     (last-name name (and (eol)))
     (full-name (list (+ (or last-name given-name)) (and (eol))) `(names -- 
(list (butlast names) (car (last names))))))
  (peg-run (peg full-name)))

> I'm happy to write the docs (should it have its own info manual
> section?), if we really think there are no other necessary
> fixes/improvements.

I find PEG to be a nice addition when regexps do not cut the necessary
parsing, while using Bovine or tree-sitter is an overkill.

Ihor Radchenko // yantar92,
Org mode contributor,
Learn more about Org mode at <https://orgmode.org/>.
Support Org development at <https://liberapay.com/org-mode>,
or support my work at <https://liberapay.com/yantar92>

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