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Structure using whitespace vs logical whitespace

 
 
cmdrrickhunter@yaho.com
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      12-15-2008
I've been trying to search through the years of Python talk to find an
answer to this, but my Googlefu is weak.

In most languages, I'll do something like this

xmlWriter.BeginElement("parent");
----xmlWriter.BeginElement("child");
----------xml.Writer.Characters("subtext");
----xmlWriter.EndElement();
xmlWriter.EndElement();

Where the dashes are indentation (since some newsgroup handlers don't
do tabs well). XML writing is just an example.

In general, I'm using indentation to show logical flow through code.
Python's choice to give semantic meaning to whitespace prevents me
from doing such things. What was once reserved for logical use is now
used syntactically. In 90% of cases, its not needed, and whitespace
significance seems to be pretty effective. In that last 10%, however,
I've been frustrated many times.

I've been using python for a few years, and gotten around this in one
way or another, but now I want to get other who work with me to pick
up Python. All newbies to Python have trouble with the idea of
whitespace sensitivity, but how can I convince them that "it just
works better" when I have this construct which I want to use but
can't.

Has anybody found a way to emulate this behavior? I've often done it
by opening an expression for the whole thing, but there's a lot of
tasks where a single expression just isn't sufficient (such as things
with assignment).

PS. In my opinion the solution would be to have the option of entering
a "whitespace insensitive" mode which uses C style {} and ;. The
token to enter it could be as complicated as you want (in fact, it may
make sense to make it complicated to discourage use unless it's really
advantageous). I'd sugest {{ and }} or something bigger like {={ }
=}. Only two problems: 1) I'm sure it would offend Guido's sense of
language aesthetics 2) I'm sure the idea has been hashed over on this
newsgroup to death... hence prefering a workaround instead.
 
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MRAB
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Posts: n/a
 
      12-15-2008
http://www.velocityreviews.com/forums/(E-Mail Removed) wrote:
> I've been trying to search through the years of Python talk to find an
> answer to this, but my Googlefu is weak.
>
> In most languages, I'll do something like this
>
> xmlWriter.BeginElement("parent");
> ----xmlWriter.BeginElement("child");
> ----------xml.Writer.Characters("subtext");
> ----xmlWriter.EndElement();
> xmlWriter.EndElement();
>
> Where the dashes are indentation (since some newsgroup handlers don't
> do tabs well). XML writing is just an example.
>
> In general, I'm using indentation to show logical flow through code.
> Python's choice to give semantic meaning to whitespace prevents me
> from doing such things. What was once reserved for logical use is now
> used syntactically. In 90% of cases, its not needed, and whitespace
> significance seems to be pretty effective. In that last 10%, however,
> I've been frustrated many times.
>
> I've been using python for a few years, and gotten around this in one
> way or another, but now I want to get other who work with me to pick
> up Python. All newbies to Python have trouble with the idea of
> whitespace sensitivity, but how can I convince them that "it just
> works better" when I have this construct which I want to use but
> can't.
>
> Has anybody found a way to emulate this behavior? I've often done it
> by opening an expression for the whole thing, but there's a lot of
> tasks where a single expression just isn't sufficient (such as things
> with assignment).
>
> PS. In my opinion the solution would be to have the option of entering
> a "whitespace insensitive" mode which uses C style {} and ;. The
> token to enter it could be as complicated as you want (in fact, it may
> make sense to make it complicated to discourage use unless it's really
> advantageous). I'd sugest {{ and }} or something bigger like {={ }
> =}. Only two problems: 1) I'm sure it would offend Guido's sense of
> language aesthetics 2) I'm sure the idea has been hashed over on this
> newsgroup to death... hence prefering a workaround instead.
>

You could use the "with" statement:

class xml_element(object):
def __init__(self, text):
self.text = text
def __enter__(self):
xmlWriter.BeginElement(self.text)
def __exit__(self, *args):
xmlWriter.EndElement()

with xml_element("parent"):
with xml_element("child"):
xmlWriter.Characters("subtext")

 
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Marek_SP
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Posts: n/a
 
      12-15-2008
On 15 Gru, 18:14, MRAB <(E-Mail Removed)> wrote:
> (E-Mail Removed) wrote:
> > I've been trying to search through the years of Python talk to find an
> > answer to this, but my Googlefu is weak.

>
> > In most languages, I'll do something like this

>
> > xmlWriter.BeginElement("parent");
> > ----xmlWriter.BeginElement("child");
> > ----------xml.Writer.Characters("subtext");
> > ----xmlWriter.EndElement();
> > xmlWriter.EndElement();

>
> > Where the dashes are indentation (since some newsgroup handlers don't
> > do tabs well). *XML writing is just an example.

>
> > In general, I'm using indentation to show logical flow through code.
> > Python's choice to give semantic meaning to whitespace prevents me
> > from doing such things. *What was once reserved for logical use is now
> > used syntactically. *In 90% of cases, its not needed, and whitespace
> > significance seems to be pretty effective. *In that last 10%, however,
> > I've been frustrated many times.

>
> > I've been using python for a few years, and gotten around this in one
> > way or another, but now I want to get other who work with me to pick
> > up Python. *All newbies to Python have trouble with the idea of
> > whitespace sensitivity, but how can I convince them that "it just
> > works better" when I have this construct which I want to use but
> > can't.

>
> > Has anybody found a way to emulate this behavior? *I've often done it
> > by opening an expression for the whole thing, but there's a lot of
> > tasks where a single expression just isn't sufficient (such as things
> > with assignment).

>
> > PS. In my opinion the solution would be to have the option of entering
> > a "whitespace insensitive" mode which uses C style {} and ;. *The
> > token to enter it could be as complicated as you want (in fact, it may
> > make sense to make it complicated to discourage use unless it's really
> > advantageous). *I'd sugest {{ and }} or something bigger like {={ }
> > =}. *Only two problems: 1) I'm sure it would offend Guido's sense of
> > language aesthetics *2) I'm sure the idea has been hashed over on this
> > newsgroup to death... hence prefering a workaround instead.

>
> You could use the "with" statement:
>
> class xml_element(object):
> * * *def __init__(self, text):
> * * * * *self.text = text
> * * *def __enter__(self):
> * * * * *xmlWriter.BeginElement(self.text)
> * * *def __exit__(self, *args):
> * * * * *xmlWriter.EndElement()
>
> with xml_element("parent"):
> * * *with xml_element("child"):
> * * * * *xmlWriter.Characters("subtext")


Yep, I think that's what Guido was thinking about while adding `with`
statements. They're great at grouping code logically. Before I used
`if True:` to do this but it wasn't good looking.
 
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Terry Reedy
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Posts: n/a
 
      12-15-2008
(E-Mail Removed) wrote:
> I've been trying to search through the years of Python talk to find an
> answer to this, but my Googlefu is weak.
>
> In most languages, I'll do something like this
>
> xmlWriter.BeginElement("parent");
> ----xmlWriter.BeginElement("child");
> ----------xml.Writer.Characters("subtext");
> ----xmlWriter.EndElement();
> xmlWriter.EndElement();
>
> Where the dashes are indentation (since some newsgroup handlers don't
> do tabs well). XML writing is just an example.
>
> In general, I'm using indentation to show logical flow through code.


That, of course, is what Python does.

> Python's choice to give semantic meaning to whitespace prevents me
> from doing such things.


You, of course, also want to giving semantic meaning to whitespace, but
one that happens to be different from Python's. 'Logical control flow'
versus 'output text structure'.

> What was once reserved for logical use is now used syntactically.


False opposition.

> In 90% of cases, its not needed, and whitespace
> significance seems to be pretty effective. In that last 10%, however,
> I've been frustrated many times.
>
> I've been using python for a few years, and gotten around this in one
> way or another, but now I want to get other who work with me to pick
> up Python. All newbies to Python have trouble with the idea of
> whitespace sensitivity,


Absolutely not true. Python's indentation is +/- the same as what
people routinely (but usually optionally) do when writing other
algorithmic languages, including most pseudocode. It also mimics
standard outline mode and other structured text (as you with to do).

I choose Python in part *because* it has a standard mandated indentation
scheme versus the multiple optional schemes of C programmers. Enough of
the endless C whitespace wars.

I strongly suggest that you not project *your* troubles onto others.
Let them come upon it by themselves -- or not.

> but how can I convince them that "it just works better"


The tradeoff is between personal flexibility (a loss to you) and
uniformity across programs (you can read *any* Python program and
understand the meaning of the indentation). Someone who does not see
the latter as a gain perhaps should not use Python.

> when I have this construct which I want to use but can't.


Yet

> Has anybody found a way to emulate this behavior?


New question: this answer has perhaps been posted before.
For your example, write a context manager 'Element'
(possible in 2.5+, but I use 3.0).

class Element():
def __init__(self, item):
self.item = item
def __enter__(self):
print('<element type="%s">' % self.item)
def __exit__(self, t,v,tb):
print('</element>')

# Then

with Element('parent'):
with Element('child'):
print("subtext")

# prints

<element type="parent">
<element type="child">
subtext
</element>
</element>

Of course, the element class(es) could be in a module with global indent
and delta, methods that add and subtract the delta as appropriate, and a
print function that prepends the current indent to get something like

<element type="parent">
<element type="child">
subtext
</element>
</element>

To me, this Python-style construct is better. You get the Element
closure written 'for free'. Less need to match indent levels, no
possibility of forgetting closures. If there are multiple container
elements with different closures, you get the right one automatically
and cannot mismatch.

> I've often done it
> by opening an expression for the whole thing, but there's a lot of
> tasks where a single expression just isn't sufficient (such as things
> with assignment).


I do not understand this without a concrete example.

> PS. In my opinion the solution would be to have the option of entering
> a "whitespace insensitive" mode which uses C style {} and ;.


I think the above is much better .

And yes, such ideas have been discussed and rejected.

Terry Jan Reedy

 
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cmdrrickhunter@yaho.com
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Posts: n/a
 
      12-15-2008
On Dec 15, 11:10*am, Terry Reedy <(E-Mail Removed)> wrote:
> > In general, I'm using indentation to show logical flow through code.

>
> That, of course, is what Python does.
>

Python does NOT use indentation to show logical flow. It uses it to
show syntactical flow. The XML writer is the perfect example of a
case where they are different. In most cases, syntactic flow is close
enough to logical flow. There are a few cases where you can 'draw a
picture' of the algorithm in code if you are whitespace insensitive.

I've not used the "with" keyword before, and it does seem to handle
this troublesome case quite well. I learned python before it was
around, and never really studied it hard enough. I'll have to
investigate what other tricks can be done with it.

I'm a big fan of the rule "make the 90% easy and the remaining 10%
possible." Whitespace sensitivity makes the 90% easy, and just from
the looks of it, the 'with' command and whitespace insensitive
expressions give the remaining 10%. And I do like the automated
support for "finally" clauses when using 'with'

Thanks for the help, everyone!
 
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Marc 'BlackJack' Rintsch
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      12-15-2008
On Mon, 15 Dec 2008 12:27:12 -0800, (E-Mail Removed) wrote:

> On Dec 15, 11:10*am, Terry Reedy <(E-Mail Removed)> wrote:
>> > In general, I'm using indentation to show logical flow through code.

>>
>> That, of course, is what Python does.
>>

> Python does NOT use indentation to show logical flow. It uses it to
> show syntactical flow.


What the heck is "syntactical flow"? Of course Python uses indentation
for logical flow -- the indentation reflects the program logic.

> The XML writer is the perfect example of a case where they are
> different.


No the program flow there is just some linear calls to methods. It's the
XML structure that is not reflected by the indentation, the program flow
is represented just fine here.

Ciao,
Marc 'BlackJack' Rintsch
 
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Дамјан Георгиевски
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Posts: n/a
 
      12-16-2008
> In most languages, I'll do something like this
>
> xmlWriter.BeginElement("parent");
> ----xmlWriter.BeginElement("child");
> ----------xml.Writer.Characters("subtext");
> ----xmlWriter.EndElement();
> xmlWriter.EndElement();
>
> Where the dashes are indentation (since some newsgroup handlers don't
> do tabs well). XML writing is just an example.


Well, XML beeing just an example.. but still for XML in Python you
probably want to use some XML templating library like Genshi. And for
other stuff there are probably similar sollutions.


--
дамјан ( http://softver.org.mk/damjan/ )

war is peace
freedom is slavery
restrictions are enablement
 
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Gabriel Genellina
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Posts: n/a
 
      12-16-2008
En Mon, 15 Dec 2008 14:29:31 -0200, (E-Mail Removed)
<(E-Mail Removed)> escribi:

> PS. In my opinion the solution would be to have the option of entering
> a "whitespace insensitive" mode which uses C style {} and ;. The
> token to enter it could be as complicated as you want (in fact, it may
> make sense to make it complicated to discourage use unless it's really
> advantageous). I'd sugest {{ and }} or something bigger like {={ }
> =}. Only two problems: 1) I'm sure it would offend Guido's sense of
> language aesthetics 2) I'm sure the idea has been hashed over on this
> newsgroup to death... hence prefering a workaround instead.


It's a hidden feature, already implemented. Try:

from __future__ import braces


--
Gabriel Genellina

 
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Ken Seehart
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Posts: n/a
 
      12-16-2008
(E-Mail Removed) wrote:
> I've been trying to search through the years of Python talk to find an
> answer to this, but my Googlefu is weak.
>
> In most languages, I'll do something like this
>
> xmlWriter.BeginElement("parent");
> ----xmlWriter.BeginElement("child");
> ----------xml.Writer.Characters("subtext");
> ----xmlWriter.EndElement();
> xmlWriter.EndElement();
>
> Where the dashes are indentation (since some newsgroup handlers don't
> do tabs well). XML writing is just an example.
>

Yes, I hate that too. IMO Newsgroup and email clients should not remove
indentation.
> In general, I'm using indentation to show logical flow through code.
> Python's choice to give semantic meaning to whitespace prevents me
> from doing such things. What was once reserved for logical use is now
> used syntactically. In 90% of cases, its not needed, and whitespace
> significance seems to be pretty effective. In that last 10%, however,
> I've been frustrated many times.
>

When I first learned python I was occasionally bothered by this. Since
then I have gotten used
to it and would not have it any other way. I certainly would not
consider changing the language
for this. I consider the benefits of a uniform meaning of whitespace
and the corresponding
consistency of indentation style, as well as the lack of punctuation, to
be well worth the price.
Also, I have found over the years that, for reasons described below,
that this "price" effectively
drops to zero.
> I've been using python for a few years, and gotten around this in one
> way or another, but now I want to get other who work with me to pick
> up Python. All newbies to Python have trouble with the idea of
> whitespace sensitivity, but how can I convince them that "it just
> works better" when I have this construct which I want to use but
> can't.
>

I disagree with the generalization that "All newbies to Python have
trouble with the idea...". I
would say that perhaps most newbies that have experience with whitespace
neutral languages
experience some initial discomfort, which is expected for any change
from what one is used to.
I suspect that very few people who are new to programming dislike
whitespace sensitivity.
> Has anybody found a way to emulate this behavior? I've often done it
> by opening an expression for the whole thing, but there's a lot of
> tasks where a single expression just isn't sufficient (such as things
> with assignment).
>

This would depend on the specific case. In general, if you are writing
lots of code that contains
structure other than program control structure, you probably are missing
an opportunity to use a
data-driven approach.

In other words, ideally the structure in your python code should be
/only /program control structure,
in which case the indentation will be exactly where you would want it to
be. For that other 10%,
you probably should code your content as data (either in an external
file or as data literals in your
code).

The case in point is your example:

xmlWriter.BeginElement("parent");
----xmlWriter.BeginElement("child");
----------xml.Writer.Characters("subtext");
----xmlWriter.EndElement();
xmlWriter.EndElement();

I would use a template system such as Genshi instead, so that kind of
structure would not need
to be in my python code in the first place.

I know that this xmlWriter code is just an example, but I think that the
principle I am describing
really does apply more or less universally. If you are expressing
nested structure other than
program control structure, you should be expressing your structure as data.

Here's another solution to your example that is more generally
applicable to other situations:

content = (element, "parent", [
(element, "child", [
(characters, "subtext"),
] ),
] )

do_something_with(content)

(Sorry if the above indentation has been removed by evil software....)

In this case I have made the code data-driven, but include the data in
my python code. This
means you have the extra task of implementing *do_something_with()* but
that is usually a
trivial task, and worth the effort IMO because it makes the structure
more readable and easier
to modify. It also separates content from implementation, which is also
a really good idea. For
example, if at some point in the future I decide to use something else
instead of *xmlWriter *to
process the data, I can do so by changing the implementation of
*do_something_with()*.
> PS. In my opinion the solution would be to have the option of entering
> a "whitespace insensitive" mode which uses C style {} and ;. The
> token to enter it could be as complicated as you want (in fact, it may
> make sense to make it complicated to discourage use unless it's really
> advantageous). I'd sugest {{ and }} or something bigger like {={ }
> =}. Only two problems: 1) I'm sure it would offend Guido's sense of
> language aesthetics 2) I'm sure the idea has been hashed over on this
> newsgroup to death... hence prefering a workaround instead.
>

A definitive "Yes" to both 1 and 2 And I wouldn't even consider my
proposed solutions to
be "workarounds" with respect to the alleged problem of syntactical
whitespace. I would want
to use the same approach in C or Java simply because I prefer a
data-driven approach where
appropriate. Python's container literals make it particularly easy to
express data in your code.
It just so happens that there is a high correlation between the
temptation to use indentation for
non-programmatic structure and the appropriateness of a data-driven
implementation.

The problem with adding redundant syntactical forms (such as your
proposed {{...}}), is that it
complicates the language. This has two effects:

1. In order to master the language you have to learn more (mastering the
language includes the
ability to read other peoples code as well as writing new code).

2. It produces greater variance in style based on personal preference.
Generally, code is easier
to read when everyone uses consistent style.

One of the things that people like about python is the relative
infrequency of special characters.
This gives python a certain flavor. I happen to like this flavor a
lot. Some people don't, and I
recommend Perl to them. But switching between two distinct dialects of
python does not seem
like a wise idea.

I hope this helps.

Ken Seehart

 
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Lie Ryan
Guest
Posts: n/a
 
      12-16-2008
On Mon, 15 Dec 2008 08:29:31 -0800, (E-Mail Removed) wrote:

> I've been trying to search through the years of Python talk to find an
> answer to this, but my Googlefu is weak.
>
> In most languages, I'll do something like this
>
> xmlWriter.BeginElement("parent");
> ----xmlWriter.BeginElement("child");
> ----------xml.Writer.Characters("subtext"); ----xmlWriter.EndElement();
> xmlWriter.EndElement();
>
> Where the dashes are indentation (since some newsgroup handlers don't do
> tabs well). XML writing is just an example.
>
> In general, I'm using indentation to show logical flow through code.
> Python's choice to give semantic meaning to whitespace prevents me from
> doing such things. What was once reserved for logical use is now used
> syntactically. In 90% of cases, its not needed, and whitespace
> significance seems to be pretty effective. In that last 10%, however,
> I've been frustrated many times.
>
> I've been using python for a few years, and gotten around this in one
> way or another, but now I want to get other who work with me to pick up
> Python. All newbies to Python have trouble with the idea of whitespace
> sensitivity, but how can I convince them that "it just works better"
> when I have this construct which I want to use but can't.
>
> Has anybody found a way to emulate this behavior? I've often done it by
> opening an expression for the whole thing, but there's a lot of tasks
> where a single expression just isn't sufficient (such as things with
> assignment).
>
> PS. In my opinion the solution would be to have the option of entering a
> "whitespace insensitive" mode which uses C style {} and ;. The token to
> enter it could be as complicated as you want (in fact, it may make sense
> to make it complicated to discourage use unless it's really
> advantageous). I'd sugest {{ and }} or something bigger like {={ } =}.
> Only two problems: 1) I'm sure it would offend Guido's sense of language
> aesthetics 2) I'm sure the idea has been hashed over on this newsgroup
> to death... hence prefering a workaround instead.


It's possible (although no real python programmers would do it) to use a
code preprocessor that would search for special marked sections in which
spacing would be ignored and punctuations or end-of-block marker would be
used to determine spacings.

 
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