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New configuration -- should we...

[Maybe you'll all think that I have now gone competely mad...]

I was hacking away happily on the new configuration stuff yesterday
(namely my version of conf2) and thinking about how all this could be
improved when we move it into C-code and make it read from a
file/stdin. That made me think about things like quoting which in turn 
made me think about how we could use existing code for that. Then I
had the feeling that this somehow went wrong, looked again at the
examples for calling that configuration function and  then came to a
sudden halt. It just sounded far too familiar.

Bart once said that if you have a programming language, don't inplment 
a second one -- and somehow the new completion system came into

Well, the configuration stuff is already quite complicated (a.k.a.
powerful). And what's worse, the internals are quite messy.

So, for the moment forget everything I ever said about the new
configuration stuff... (some of the following should probably be clear 
by now, I just want to give the full picture again).

The completion system finds out the context in which completion is
attempted. This is a process in multiple steps, the overall context is 
found using the `#compdef' stuff. The function thus then probably
knows about other finer-grained contexts. In each of these contexts
one or more types of matches can be generated. This is the place where 
`_tags' is used. The function calls it to say which types of matches
(represented by the tags) are sensible in the current context. After
that, `_tags' is called repeatedly and says which tags are to be used
first, second, etc.

Instead of using some internally held configuration state we could
simply make `_tags' call a user-supplied function which gets the tags
supported in the current context and then has to `sort' them. I.e. it
says things like `first try glob, then paths, then files'. So `_tags'
would only be a wrapper around this function, setting up some
parameters (and probably other stuff?) that makes the user's life
easier when (s)he writes h(er|is) own config function.
There are two ways how we could make that function be called. Either
we do it only on the first call to `_tags' or on every call. The
latter would probably be more general but the first one presumably
would be easier when writing such a config function.

A default config function would be supplied by us, setting those
things up that we think are good ideas. Users could, of course, then
just copy and modify that function once they feel the need. Obviously
we could also build a default implementation for the function that
works together with something like `conf2' but I'm not particularly
happy with that idea.

For the way how the config function says which tags are to be used I
currently see two possibilities (well, more than two, but these are
the easiest I see). In both cases the config function is only called
when `_tags' is called with the tags for the current state as
arguments, not when it is called to get the next set of tags to try.

1) The config function sets up a bunch of arrays containing the tags
   to try. E.g.:

    compconfig() {
      tags1=( arguments 'values[description]')
      tags2=( 'options[description,hidden-prefix]')

      case "$command" in
        tags3=( glob paths )
	tags4=( files )
	tags5=( "$@" )
        tags3=( glob )
        tags4=( paths )
        tags5=( files )
	tags6=( "$@" )

   `$command' is set up by `_tags' and so is `$context' (the latter
   for the context in the current completion function. The names for
   the arrays could probably be better. Assigning `( "$@" )' at the
   end ensures that all tags not explicitly sorted are used anyway,
   but only after all the named tags are tried. `_tags' could easily
   remove the tags that were not requested from the arrays.

   After calling `compconfig', `_tags' would get all those `tags*'
   arrays and store them internally (before calling `compconfig' there 
   were cleared).
   Later, when `_tags' is called to retrieve the tags to try, it would 
   use the contents of the arrays one after another.

   There are some uglinesses with this, though. the first one is that
   this requires many array-copies. The second one is that we can't
   move much of it into C-code, trying to make things faster.

2) The second way is based on support from `computil' (in a first
   implemention-to-play-with it could be entirely in shell code).
   Instead of setting up arrays, the config function calls a builtin
   multiple times. E.g.:

    compconfig() {
      comptry arguments value -description
      comptry options -description -hidden-prefix

      case "$command" in
        comptry glob paths
	comptry files
        comptry glob
        comptry paths
        comptry files

      comptry "$@"

   (Note that I made styles look a bit like options -- another syntax
   would be possible -- again I don't know what users would like to
   have, but maybe making styles look like options for tags isn't that 
   bad a way to think about them?).

   `comptry' (or should it be `comptags'?) would store the tag-sets
   (one set per call) internally and functions like `_requested' would
   use it with options saying how they want to access the data stored
   for the previous call to `_tags'. The "$@" and the comment about
   tags which are set but not really used in this context: same as in
   the first example.

   There could also be support to easliy set the pure config-tags,
   i.e. the pseudo tags we add as a replacement for the config keys we 
   have now. I haven't yet thought too much about that part. Only so
   much: with support by C-code it would almost certainly be easy
   enough to allow really arbitrary types for them. E.g. we could make 
   them be reported as strings, arrays, and assocs. With that it would
   even be possible to use the same mechanism to replace some (or
   all?) of the parameters we use now. This is especially interesting
   for things like the `COMMAND_hosts_ports_user' because for the
   `COMMAND' part we could use the context-switching this
   configuration stuff is all about anyway. I /think/ this would make
   it easier for users.

   Since much of the stuff could be written in C, performance
   shouldn't be too bad anyway, but doing it as in the example would
   also allow us to use aggressive caching.

Ok, the more I think about this, the more I like it. It is much
cleaner than my preevious suggestions, I think. It is arbitrarily
extensible if need be. Together with some C-code magic it should be
fast and it allows user not only to say what they want to have
completed, but also on what this decision should be based (i.e. what
they want to test). So, if you want to stop me, please do it now ;-)

Also, someone please tell me if this is too complicated for the average 
user. Is something like `conf2' really easier to understand?

Or does anyone have suggestions for, e.g. builtins or helper functions 
that would allow us to make the config funcs better readable or


Sven Wischnowsky                         wischnow@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

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