Related issues: LOAD-TIME-EVAL,
Edit history: Version 1, 2-Jan-89, by Moon (for discussion)
Version 2, 13-Jan-89, by Moon (draft updated from discussion)
Version 3, 9-Mar-89, by Moon (changes suggested by discussion)
Version 4, 4-Apr-89, by Pitman (changes per X3J13 Mar 89;
MAKE-LOAD-FORM-USING-SLOTS => MAKE-LOAD-FORM-SAVING-SLOTS)
Status: Accepted by an 18-0 vote, March 1989.
Common Lisp doesn't provide any way to use an object of a user-defined
type (defined with DEFCLASS or DEFSTRUCT) as a constant in a program
compiled with COMPILE-FILE. The problem is that LOAD has to be able
to "reconstruct" an equivalent object when the compiled-code file is
loaded, but the programmer has no way to tell LOAD how to do that.
Define a new generic function named MAKE-LOAD-FORM, which takes one
argument and returns two values. The argument is an object that is
referenced as a constant or as a self-evaluating form in a file being
compiled by COMPILE-FILE. The objective is to enable LOAD to
construct an equivalent object.
The first value, called the "creation form," is a form that, when
evaluated at load time, should return an object that is equivalent to
the argument. The exact meaning of "equivalent" depends on the type
of object and is up to the programmer who defines a method for
MAKE-LOAD-FORM. This is the same type of equivalence discussed
in issue CONSTANT-COMPILABLE-TYPES.
The second value, called the "initialization form," is a form that,
when evaluated at load time, should perform further initialization of
the object. The value returned by the initialization form is ignored.
If the MAKE-LOAD-FORM method returns only one value, the
initialization form is NIL, which has no effect. If the object used
as the argument to MAKE-LOAD-FORM appears as a constant in the
initialization form, at load time it will be replaced by the
equivalent object constructed by the creation form; this is how the
further initialization gains access to the object.
Both the creation form and the initialization form can contain
references to objects of user-defined types (defined precisely below).
However, there must not be any circular dependencies in creation forms.
An example of a circular dependency is when the creation form for the
object X contains a reference to the object Y, and the creation form
for the object Y contains a reference to the object X. A simpler
example would be when the creation form for the object X contains
a reference to X itself. Initialization forms are not subject to
any restriction against circular dependencies, which is the entire
reason that initialization forms exist. See the example of circular
data structures below.
The creation form for an object is always evaluated before the
initialization form for that object. When either the creation form or
the initialization form references other objects of user-defined types
that have not been referenced earlier in the COMPILE-FILE, the
compiler collects all of the creation and initialization forms. Each
initialization form is evaluated as soon as possible after its
creation form, as determined by data flow. If the initialization form
for an object does not reference any other objects of user-defined
types that have not been referenced earlier in the COMPILE-FILE, the
initialization form is evaluated immediately after the creation form.
If a creation or initialization form F references other objects of
user-defined types that have not been referenced earlier in the
COMPILE-FILE, the creation forms for those other objects are evaluated
before F, and the initialization forms for those other objects are
also evaluated before F whenever they do not depend on the object
created or initialized by F. Where the above rules do not uniquely
determine an order of evaluation, which of the possible orders of
evaluation is chosen is unspecified.
While these creation and initialization forms are being evaluated, the
objects are possibly in an uninitialized state, analogous to the state
of an object between the time it has been created by ALLOCATE-INSTANCE
and it has been processed fully by INITIALIZE-INSTANCE. Programmers
writing methods for MAKE-LOAD-FORM must take care in manipulating
objects not to depend on slots that have not yet been initialized.
It is unspecified whether LOAD calls EVAL on the forms or does some
other operation that has an equivalent effect. For example, the
forms might be translated into different but equivalent forms and
then evaluated, they might be compiled and the resulting functions
called by LOAD, or they might be interpreted by a special-purpose
interpreter different from EVAL. All that is required is that the
effect be equivalent to evaluating the forms.
COMPILE-FILE calls MAKE-LOAD-FORM on any object that is referenced as
a constant or as a self-evaluating form, if the object's metaclass is
STANDARD-CLASS, STRUCTURE-CLASS, any user-defined metaclass (not a
subclass of BUILT-IN-CLASS), or any of a possibly-empty
implementation-defined list of other metaclasses. COMPILE-FILE will
only call MAKE-LOAD-FORM once for any given object (compared with EQ)
within a single file.
It is valid for user programs to call MAKE-LOAD-FORM in other
circumstances, providing the argument's metaclass is not BUILT-IN-CLASS
or a subclass of BUILT-IN-CLASS.
Define a new function named MAKE-LOAD-FORM-SAVING-SLOTS, which takes
one required argument and one optional argument and returns two
values. This can be useful in user-written MAKE-LOAD-FORM methods.
The first argument is the object. The optional second argument is a
list of the names of the slots to preserve; it defaults to all of the
local slots. MAKE-LOAD-FORM-SAVING-SLOTS returns forms that construct
an equivalent object using MAKE-INSTANCE and SETF of SLOT-VALUE for
slots with values, or SLOT-MAKUNBOUND for slots without values, or
using other functions of equivalent effect.
MAKE-LOAD-FORM-SAVING-SLOTS returns two values, thus it can deal with
circular structures. MAKE-LOAD-FORM-SAVING-SLOTS works for any object
of metaclass STANDARD-CLASS or STRUCTURE-CLASS. Whether the result is
useful in an application depends on whether the object's type and slot
contents fully capture the application's idea of the object's state.
MAKE-LOAD-FORM of an object of metaclass STANDARD-CLASS or
STRUCTURE-CLASS for which no user-defined method is applicable signals
an error. It is valid to implement this either by defining default
methods on STANDARD-OBJECT and STRUCTURE-OBJECT that signal an error
or by having no applicable method for those classes.
;; Example 1
(defclass my-class ()
((a :initarg :a :reader my-a)
(b :initarg :b :reader my-b)
(c :accessor my-c)))
(defmethod shared-initialize ((self my-class) ignore &rest ignore)
(unless (slot-boundp self 'c)
(setf (my-c self) (some-computation (my-a self) (my-b self)))))
(defmethod make-load-form ((self my-class))
`(make-instance ',(class-name (class-of self))
:a ',(my-a self) :b ',(my-b self)))
In this example, an equivalent instance of my-class is reconstructed
by using the values of two of its slots. The value of the third slot
is derived from those two values.
Another way to write the last form in the above example would have been
(defmethod make-load-form ((self my-class))
(make-load-form-saving-slots self '(a b)))
;; Example 2
(defclass my-frob ()
((name :initarg :name :reader my-name)))
(defmethod make-load-form ((self my-frob))
`(find-my-frob ',(my-name self) :if-does-not-exist :create))
In this example, instances of my-frob are "interned" in some way.
An equivalent instance is reconstructed by using the value of the
name slot as a key for searching existing objects. In this case
the programmer has chosen to create a new object if no existing
object is found; alternatively she could have chosen to signal an
error in that case.
;; Example 3
(defclass tree-with-parent () ((parent :accessor tree-parent)
(children :initarg :children)))
(defmethod make-load-form ((x tree-with-parent))
;; creation form
`(make-instance ',(class-of x) :children ',(slot-value x 'children))
;; initialization form
`(setf (tree-parent ',x) ',(slot-value x 'parent))))
In this example, the data structure to be dumped is circular, because
each parent has a list of its children and each child has a reference
back to its parent. Suppose make-load-form is called on one object in
such a structure. The creation form creates an equivalent object and
fills in the children slot, which forces creation of equivalent
objects for all of its children, grandchildren, etc. At this point
none of the parent slots have been filled in. The initialization form
fills in the parent slot, which forces creation of an equivalent
object for the parent if it was not already created. Thus the entire
tree is recreated at load time. At compile time, MAKE-LOAD-FORM is
called once for each object in the true. All of the creation forms
are evaluated, in unspecified order, and then all of the
initialization forms are evaluated, also in unspecified order.
;; Example 4
(defstruct my-struct a b c)
(defmethod make-load-form ((s my-struct))
In this example, the data structure to be dumped has no special
properties and an equivalent structure can be reconstructed
simply by reconstructing the slots' contents.
Only the programmer who designed a class can know the correct
way to reconstruct objects of that class at load time, therefore
the reconstruction should be controlled by a generic function.
Using EVAL as the interface for telling LOAD what to do provides
MAKE-LOAD-FORM returns two values so that circular structures can
be handled. If CONSTANT-CIRCULAR-COMPILATION is rejected,
MAKE-LOAD-FORM will only return one value, although implementations
that make an extension to support circular constants will probably
also make the extension to accept two values from MAKE-LOAD-FORM.
The default for class objects and structures is to signal an error,
rather than picking some particular object reconstruction technique,
because no reconstruction technique is appropriate for all objects.
It only takes two lines of code, as in example 4, to instruct the
compiler to use the technique that most often has been suggested
as the default.
MAKE-LOAD-FORM has a natural resemblance to PRINT-OBJECT, as a hook
for the programmer to control the system's actions.
The order of evaluation rules for creation and initialization forms
eliminate the possibility of partially initialized objects in the
absence of circular structures, and reduce it to the minimum possible
in the presence of circular structures. This allows nodes in
non-circular structures to be built out of fully initialized subparts.
Symbolics Flavors has something like this, but under a different name.
The name Symbolics uses is not suitable for standardization.
JonL reports that Lucid is getting more and more requests for this.
Cost to Implementors:
This seems like only a few one-line changes in the compiled-code
file writer and reader. MAKE-LOAD-FORM-SAVING-SLOTS is a couple
dozen lines of code, assuming the presence of the CLOS metaobject
protocol or an implementation-dependent equivalent.
Cost to Users:
Cost of non-adoption:
Serious impairment of the ability to use extended-type objects. Each
implementation will probably make up its own version of this as an
See Cost of non-adoption.
No significant positive or negative impact.
It would be possible to define an additional level of protocol that
allows multiple classes to contribute to the reconstruction of an
object, combining initialization arguments contributed by each class.
Since a user can easily define that in terms of MAKE-LOAD-FORM without
modifying the Lisp system, it is not being proposed now.
Any type that has a read syntax is likely to appear as a quoted
constant or inside a quoted constant. Pathnames are one example, user
programs often define others. Also many implementations provide a way
to create a compiled-code file full of data (rather than compiled Lisp
programs), and such data probably include extended-type objects.
Moon supports this. David Gray and John Rose made major contributions
to the discussion that produced this improved version 2 proposal.