Simple API for building repl modes in Julia
117 Stars
Updated Last
1 Year Ago
Started In
July 2018

Build Status


The idea behind ReplMaker.jl is to make a tool for building (domain specific) languages in julia.

Suppose you've invented some language called MyLang and you've implemented a parser that turns MyLang code into julia code which is then supposed to be executed by the julia runtime. With ReplMaker.jl, you can simply hook your parser into the package and ReplMaker will then create a REPL mode where end users just type MyLang code and have it be executed automatically.

My hope is for this to be useful to someone who implements a full language or DSL in Julia that uses syntax not supported by Julia's parser and doesn't want to deal with the headache of making their own REPL mode.

To download ReplMaker, simply do

pkg> add ReplMaker


Example 1: Expr Mode

Click me!

Suppose we want to make a very simple REPL mode which just takes whatever input we provide and returns its quoted Expr form. We first make a parsing function,

julia> using ReplMaker

julia> function parse_to_expr(s)
           quote Meta.parse($s) end
test_parser (generic function with 1 method)

Now, we can simply provide that parser to the initrepl function

julia> initrepl(parse_to_expr, 
                prompt_text="Expr> ",
                prompt_color = :blue, 
REPL mode Expr_mode initialized. Press ) to enter and backspace to exit.

As instructed, we simply press the ) key and the julia> prompt is replaced


and as desired, we now can enter Julia code and be shown its quoted version.

Expr> 1 + 1
:(1 + 1)

Expr> x ^ 2 + 5
:(x ^ 2 + 5)

Next, we might notice that if we try to do a multiline expression, the REPL mode craps out on us:

Expr> function f(x)
:($(Expr(:incomplete, "incomplete: premature end of input")))

This is because we haven't told our REPL mode what constitutes a valid, complete line. ReplMaker.jl exports a function complete_julia that will tell you if a given expression is a complete julia-expression. If you are using ReplMaker.jl for a DSL that has different parsing semantics from julia, you may need to roll your own analogous function if you want to have multi-line inputs.

To use complete_julia to check if an expression is complete, we just pass it as a keyword argument to to initrepl:

julia> initrepl(parse_to_expr,
                prompt_text="Expr> ",
                prompt_color = :blue,
┌ Warning: REPL key ')' overwritten.
└ @ ReplMaker ~/.julia/packages/ReplMaker/pwo5w/src/ReplMaker.jl:86
REPL mode Expr_mode initialized. Press ) to enter and backspace to exit.

Expr> function f(x)
          x + 1
:(function f(x)
      #= none:2 =#
      x + 1

Example 2: Reverse Mode

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This is an example of using a custom REPL mode to not change the meaning of the input code but instead of how results are shown. Suppose we have our own show-like function which is just, but will print Vectors and Tuples backwards

backwards_show(io, M, x) = (show(io, M, x); println(io))
backwards_show(io, M, v::Union{Vector, Tuple}) = (show(io, M, reverse(v)); println(io))

We can make a quick and dirty REPL mode that uses this rather than directly:

julia> initrepl(Meta.parse,
                show_function = backwards_show,
                prompt_text = "reverse_julia> ",
                start_key = ')',
                mode_name = "reverse mode")
REPL mode reverse mode initialized. Press ) to enter and backspace to exit.

reverse_julia> x = [1, 2, 3, 4]
4-element Array{Int64,1}:

The printing was reversed, but we can check to make sure the variable itself was not:

julia> x
4-element Array{Int64,1}:

Example 3: Big Mode

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For performance reasons, Julia defaults to 64 bit precision but sometimes you don't care about speed and you don't want to juggle the limitations of 64 bit precision in your head. You could just start wrapping every number in your code with big but that sounds like something the REPL should be able to do for you. Fortunately, it is!

using ReplMaker 

function Big_parse(str)
    Meta.parse(replace(str, r"[\+\-]?\d+(?:\.\d+)?(?:[ef][\+\-]?\d+)?" => x -> "big\"$x\""))

julia> initrepl(Big_parse, 
                prompt_text="BigJulia> ",
                prompt_color = :red, 
REPL mode Big-Mode initialized. Press > to enter and backspace to exit.

Now press > at the repl to enter Big-Mode

BigJulia>  factorial(100)

BigJulia>  factorial(100.0)

BigJulia>  factorial(100.0)^2

Example 4: Lisp Mode

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The package LispSyntax.jl provides a string macro for parsing lisp-style code into julia code which is then evaluated, essentially creating a lispy language embedded in julia.

julia> lisp"(defn fib [a] (if (< a 2) a (+ (fib (- a 1)) (fib (- a 2)))))"
fib (generic function with 1 method)

julia> lisp"(fib 30)"

Awesome! To make this really feel like its own language, it'd be nice if it had a special REPL mode, so let's make one. For this, we're going need a helper function valid_sexpr to tell ReplMaker if we pressed return because we were done writing our input or if we wanted to write a multi-line S-expression.

using LispSyntax, ReplMaker
using REPL: REPL, LineEdit; using LispSyntax: ParserCombinator

lisp_parser = LispSyntax.lisp_eval_helper

function valid_sexpr(s)
  catch err
    isa(err, ParserCombinator.ParserException) || rethrow(err)

Great, now we can create our repl mode using the function LispSyntax.lisp_eval_helper to parse input text and we'll use valid_sexpr as our valid_input_checker.

julia> initrepl(LispSyntax.lisp_eval_helper,
                prompt_text="λ> ",
                mode_name="Lisp Mode")
REPL mode Lisp Mode initialized. Press ) to enter and backspace to exit.

λ> (defn fib [a] 
    (if (< a 2) 
      (+ (fib (- a 1)) (fib (- a 2)))))
fib (generic function with 1 method)

λ> (fib 10)


Modifier keys

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Arbitrary key combinations to enter REPL modes are not yet allowed, but you can currently use the CTRL and ALT (also known as META) keys as modifiers for entering REPL modes. For example, passing the keyword argument start_key="\\C-g" to the initrepl function will make it so that holding down on the CTRL key and pressing g enters the specified mode.

Likewise, specifying start_key="\\M-u" will make it so that holding ALT (aka META) and pressing u will enter the desired mode.

Creating a REPL mode at startup time

To add a custom REPL mode whenever Julia starts, add to ~/.julia/config/startup.jl code like:

atreplinit() do repl
        @eval using ReplMaker
        @async initrepl(
            prompt_text="search> ",

Packages using ReplMaker.jl

Required Packages

No packages found.