[rust-dev] Support for Literate Rust

Evan G eg1290 at gmail.com
Sun Jun 29 12:38:34 PDT 2014

I'm not sure if this is exactly what you're looking for, but rust already
has support for running code examples in documentation. If I remember
correctly, all of the code examples in the guide are currently run and
tested as part of make test, so this is at least part way towards what you

On Sun, Jun 29, 2014 at 2:30 PM, Nathan Typanski <ntypanski at gmail.com>

> Literate Rust (.lrs)
> ====================
> I'm wondering if anyone else here has had the thought of supporting
> literate programming in Rust. For those who don't know what this is
> about, a language with good support for the concept is Haskell [1],
> which normally uses bird-style (>) for code blocks. I would propose a
> file extension (.lrs, most likely) that's dedicated to literate
> usage.
> If there's some decent feedback for this, and people seem to enjoy it,
> then I will do more research and write a RFC.
> [1]: <http://www.haskell.org/haskellwiki/Literate_programming>
> ## Who would benefit from this
> ### Schools teaching Rust
> Universities teaching Rust would be one of my first bets as a user for
> Literate Rust. While literate programming is sometimes too far a
> stretch from reality for production code (which is both a good and bad
> thing), pedagogical gains for literate programming are huge - you can
> run the same code that's teaching you about the language or the
> concept. Essays and writings that feature the code are
> indistinguishable from valid Rust code.
> ### Documentation/books/etc.
> Another use is general documentation, books about Rust, etc. where
> there are real benefits to having valid code all the way through them.
> When walking through a sample project, the sample project is also the
> code that produced it. This makes documentation easier, since you're
> more able to ensure that your examples compile properly and actually
> run when the compiler updates, etc.
> There's also a mental shift when doing literate programming, versus
> just ///'ing within code and whatnot: your primary thought process
> becomes thinking and communicating with the reader, rather than
> working on the code. You focus more on the text and ensuring that it
> makes sense.
> ## How this could work with Rustdoc for APIs
> API documentation in a literate program would be included as before,
> in rustdoc comments in the output. The internal comments should be the
> default for text, not external API.
> As an example, here's some code taken from
> src/libstd/collections/hashmap.rs, and interpreted in a literate style:
>     > /// Does not initialize the buckets. The caller should ensure they,
>     > /// at the very least, set every hash to EMPTY_BUCKET.
>     > unsafe fn new_uninitialized(capacity: uint) -> RawTable<K, V> {
>     >     let hashes_size = capacity.checked_mul(&size_of::<u64>())
>     >                               .expect("capacity overflow");
>     >     let keys_size = capacity.checked_mul(&size_of::< K >())
>     >                             .expect("capacity overflow");
>     >     let vals_size = capacity.checked_mul(&size_of::< V >())
>     >                             .expect("capacity overflow");
>     >
>     Allocating hashmaps is a little tricky. We need to allocate three
>     arrays, but since we know their sizes and alignments up front,
>     we just allocate a single array, and then have the subarrays
>     point into it.
>     This is great in theory, but in practice getting the alignment
>     right is a little subtle. Therefore, calculating offsets has been
>     factored out into a different function.
>     >     let (malloc_alignment, hash_offset, keys_offset, vals_offset,
> size) =
>     >         calculate_offsets(
>     >             hashes_size, min_align_of::<u64>(),
>     >             keys_size,   min_align_of::< K >(),
>     >             vals_size,   min_align_of::< V >());
> The non-bird text (without the >) is what would normally go in the
> comments for the code. In this case, since it's an API, the thing you
> actually want in your regular documentation is still the rustdoc api
> comments (///), but with the option of generating a literate
> presentation of the code (perhaps by autoconversion to pandoc?) where
> you read the internal comments instead of the API docs as the main
> source of writing.
> In other words, literate files can serve as a guide to *developers* of
> the code, not necessarily just to users. Though for non-API material,
> it's useful for both.
> ## Editor updates
> - Emacs and Vim plugins would have to be updated to understand the new
>   extension, and actually behave properly when editing one of these
>   files. Probably we should have conditional syntax highlighting
>   depending on the block type that we're working on.
> ## Rustc
> Rustc would need to be able to interpret and understand literate Rust
> code just as well as it can regular code, so that they can link to one
> another without an additional step - otherwise this isn't useful. I
> should be able to run Literate Rust just like it's any other Rust
> code.
> ### Conversion
> There are relatively easy ways to do "literate -> code" conversion
> without actually interfering with anything. Haskell has a sed
> implementation [2] on their wiki. Re-implementing this in Rust would
> not be a significant effort.
> I think a reasonable way to manage the conversion would be to have a
> hidden step that moves the converted code to /tmp or something
> similar, then compiles that code and removes the converted bit.
> There would be some additional voodoo required to make this behave
> perfectly:
> - Pathnames should still show the original file.
> - Line numbers can't be wonky.
> - Linker would have to understand this, not sure how that would be
>   affected.
> The gist of this is that the conversion step should be as transparent
> as possible - ideally, an absolute minimum of compiler code would need
> to be modified, since we would have some way to transparently resolve
> the literate file to its converted version.
> [2]: <
> http://www.haskell.org/haskellwiki/Literate_programming/Bird_conversion_via_sed
> >
> Any feedback is appreciated.
>         Nathan
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