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Status:	Passed, Jun 89 X3J13


Forum: Cleanup

References: Pathnames (pp410-413)

OPEN (p.418), WITH-OPEN-FILE (p.422), RENAME-FILE (p.423),

DELETE-FILE (p.424), PROBE-FILE (p.424),

FILE-WRITE-DATE (p.424), FILE-AUTHOR (p.424), LOAD (p.426),

COMPILE-FILE (p.439), DIRECTORY (p.427), PATHNAME (p.413),





Category: ADDITION

Edit history: Version 1, 11-May-89, by Moon

Version 2, 18-May-89, by Moon

Version 3, 21-Jun-89, by Moon (revise based on discussion

in the cleanup committee)

Version 4, 23-Jun-89, by Moon (remove backtranslation)

Problem description:

Pathname values are not portable, but they are sometimes part of a

program, for example the names of files containing the program and the

data used by the program. Moving large programs between sites would

be easier if pathname values did not have to be translated.

Pathname values are nonportable because not all Common Lisp

implementations use the same operating system and file name syntax varies

widely among operating systems. In addition, corresponding files at two

different sites may have different names even when the operating system

is the same; for example, they may be on different directories or

different devices.

The issue of portable pathname values is separate from the issues of

portable pathname operations. See the related issues listed above.

For inter-issue interactions, see the discussion section below.

Note that issue PATHNAME-LOGICAL fundamentally depends on issue




1. Define a "logical" file system that looks the same at every site.

This file system is implemented by translating each logical pathname into

a physical pathname on a real file system. The logical pathnames are the

same at all sites, but the translations are different at each site, thus

the physical pathnames can be different at each site.

2a. The syntax of a logical pathname namestring is as follows:

[ host ":" ] [ ";" ] { directory ";" }* [ name ] [ "." type [ "." version ]]

2b. Terminology:

A <word> consists of one or more uppercase letters, digits, and hyphens.

A <wildcard word> consists of one or more asterisks, uppercase letters,

digits, and hyphens, including at least one asterisk, with no two

asterisks adjacent. Each asterisk matches a sequence of zero or more

characters. The <wildcard word> "*" parses into :WILD, the others parse

into strings.

In <words> and <wildcard words> lowercase letters are translated to

uppercase. The consequences of using other characters are unspecified.

2c. Logical pathname components:

The host is a <word> that has been defined as a logical pathname host by


There is no device, so the device component of a logical pathname is

always :UNSPECIFIC. No other component can be :UNSPECIFIC.

Each directory is a <word>, a <wildcard word>, or "**" (:WILD-INFERIORS).

If a semicolon precedes the directories, the directory component is

relative, otherwise it is absolute.

The name is a <word> or a <wildcard word>.

The type is a <word> or a <wildcard word>.

The version is a positive decimal integer or "NEWEST" (:NEWEST) or "*"

(:WILD). The letters in "NEWEST" can be in either alphabetic case.

The consequences of using any value not specified here as a logical

pathname component are unspecified.

The null string "" is not a valid value for any component of a logical

pathname, since "" is not a <word> and not a <wildcard word>.

3. Parsing of logical pathname namestrings into logical pathnames

operates as follows:

3a. Logical pathname namestrings are recognized by the LOGICAL-PATHNAME

and TRANSLATE-LOGICAL-PATHNAME functions. In this case the host portion

of the logical pathname namestring and its following colon are required.

3b. The PARSE-NAMESTRING function recognizes a logical pathname

namestring when the host argument is logical or the defaults argument is

a logical pathname. In this case the host portion of the logical

pathname namestring and its following colon are optional. If the host

portion of the namestring and the host argument are both present and do

not match, an error is signalled.

The host argument is logical if it is supplied and came from

PATHNAME-HOST of a logical pathname. Whether a host argument is logical

if it is a string equal to a logical pathname host name is


3c. The MERGE-PATHNAMES function recognizes a logical pathname namestring

when the defaults argument is a logical pathname. In this case the host

portion of the logical pathname namestring and its following colon are


3d. Whether the other functions that coerce strings to pathnames

(PATHNAME, TRUENAME, PARSE-NAMESTRING in other circumstances than those

described in point 3b, MERGE-PATHNAMES in other circumstances than those

described in point 3c, the :DEFAULTS argument to MAKE-PATHNAME,







recognize logical pathname namestrings is implementation defined.

4. Some real file systems do not have versions. Logical pathname

translation to such a file system ignores the version. This implies that

a program cannot rely on being able to store more than one version of a

file named by a logical pathname.

5. The type of a logical pathname for a Common Lisp source file is "LISP".

This should be translated into whatever type is appropriate in a physical


6. The logical pathname host name "SYS" is reserved for the implementation.

The existence and meaning of SYS: logical pathnames is


7. File manipulation functions operate with logical pathnames as follows:



ED, DRIBBLE, COMPILE-FILE-PATHNAME, and TRUENAME accept logical pathnames

and translate them into physical pathnames, as if by calling the


7b. PATHNAME of a stream created by OPEN (or WITH-OPEN-FILE) of a logical

pathname is a logical pathname.

7c. TRUENAME, PROBE-FILE, and DIRECTORY never return logical pathnames.

7d. RENAME-FILE with a logical pathname as the second argument returns a

logical pathname as the first value.

7e. MERGE-PATHNAMES returns a logical pathname if and only if its first

argument is a logical pathname or its first argument does not specify a

host and the default is a logical pathname.

7f. MAKE-PATHNAME returns a logical pathname if and only if the host is

logical. If the :host argument to MAKE-PATHNAME is supplied, the host is

logical if it came from PATHNAME-HOST of a logical pathname. Whether a

:host argument is logical if it is a string equal to a logical pathname

host name is implementation-defined.

7g. PARSE-NAMESTRING returns a logical pathname according to points 3b

and 3d.

Add these defined names to Common Lisp in support of logical pathnames:



9. LOGICAL-PATHNAME pathname [Function]

Converts the argument to a logical pathname and returns it. The

argument can be a logical pathname, a logical pathname namestring

containing a host component, or a stream for which the PATHNAME

function returns a logical pathname. For any other argument,

LOGICAL-PATHNAME signals an error of type TYPE-ERROR.

10. TRANSLATE-LOGICAL-PATHNAME pathname &key [Function]

Translates a logical pathname to the corresponding physical pathname.

The pathname argument is first coerced to a pathname. If it is not a

pathname, string, or file stream an error of type TYPE-ERROR is


If the coerced argument is a physical pathname, it is returned.

If the coerced argument is a logical pathname, the first matching

translation (according to PATHNAME-MATCH-P) of the logical pathname

host is applied, as if by calling TRANSLATE-PATHNAME. If the result is

a logical pathname, this process is repeated. When the result is

finally a physical pathname, it is returned.

If no translation matches, an error of type FILE-ERROR is signalled.

TRANSLATE-LOGICAL-PATHNAME might perform additional translations,

typically to provide translation of file types to local naming

conventions, to accomodate physical file systems with limited length

names, or to deal with special character requirements such as

translating hyphens to underscores or uppercase letters to lowercase.

Any such additional translations are implementation defined. Some

implementations do no additional translations.

There are no specified keyword arguments for

TRANSLATE-LOGICAL-PATHNAME, but implementations are permitted to extend

it by adding keyword arguments. There is one specified return value

from TRANSLATE-LOGICAL-PATHNAME; implementations are permitted to

extend it by returning additional values.


If <host> is not the host component of a logical pathname and not a

string that has been defined as a logical pathname host name by SETF of


Otherwise returns the host's list of translations. Each translation is

a list of at least two elements: from-wildcard and to-wildcard. Any

additional elements are implementation defined. From-wildcard is a

logical pathname whose host is <host>. To-wildcard is a pathname.

Translations are searched in the order listed, so more specific

from-wildcards must precede more general ones.

(SETF (LOGICAL-PATHNAME-TRANSLATIONS host) translations) sets a logical

pathname host's list of translations. If <host> is a string that has

not been previously used as logical pathname host, a new logical

pathname host is defined, otherwise an existing host's translations are

replaced. Logical pathname host names are compared with STRING-EQUAL.

When setting the translations list, each from-wildcard can be a logical

pathname whose host is <host> or a logical pathname namestring

parseable by (PARSE-NAMESTRING string <<host>>), where <<host>>

represents the appropriate object as defined in point 3b. Each

to-wildcard can be anything coercible to a pathname by

(PATHNAME to-wildcard). If to-wildcard coerces to a logical pathname,

TRANSLATE-LOGICAL-PATHNAME will perform repeated translation steps when

it uses it.

Implementations can define additional functions that operate on

logical pathname hosts, for example to specify additional translation

rules or options.


If a logical pathname host named <host> (a string) is already defined,

return NIL. Otherwise, search for a logical pathname host definition

in an implementation defined manner. If none is found, signal an

error. If a definition is found, install it and return T.


documented, as logical pathname definitions will be created by users,

not only by Lisp implementors. A typical search technique is to

look in a certain directory for a file whose name is derived from

the host name in an implementation-defined fashion.

13. COMPILE-FILE-PATHNAME pathname &key :output-file [Function]

Returns the pathname that COMPILE-FILE would write into, if given the

same arguments. If the pathname argument is a logical pathname and the

:output-file argument is unspecified, the result is a logical pathname.

If an implementation supports additional keyword arguments to

COMPILE-FILE, COMPILE-FILE-PATHNAME must accept the same arguments.


;A very simple example of setting up a logical pathname host. No

;translations are necessary to get around file system restrictions, so

;all that is necessary is to specify the root of the physical directory

;tree that contains the logical file system.

;The namestring syntax on the right-hand side is implementation-specific.

(setf (logical-pathname-translations "foo")

'(("**;*.*.*" "MY-LISPM:>library>foo>**>")))

;Sample use of that logical pathname. All return values

;are of course implementation-specific.

(translate-logical-pathname "foo:bar;baz;mum.quux.3")

=> MY-LISPM:>library>foo>bar>baz>mum.quux.3

;A more complex example, dividing the files among two file servers

;and several different directories. This Unix doesn't support

;:WILD-INFERIORS in the directory, so each directory level must

;be translated individually. No file name or type translations

;are required except for .MAIL to .MBX.

;The namestring syntax on the right-hand side is implementation-specific.

(setf (logical-pathname-translations "prog")

'(("RELEASED;*.*.*" "MY-UNIX:/sys/bin/my-prog/")

("RELEASED;*;*.*.*" "MY-UNIX:/sys/bin/my-prog/*/")

("EXPERIMENTAL;*.*.*" "MY-UNIX:/usr/Joe/development/prog/")



("EXPERIMENTAL;*;*.*.*" "MY-UNIX:/usr/Joe/development/prog/*/")


;Sample use of that logical pathname. All return values

;are of course implementation-specific.

(translate-logical-pathname "prog:mail;save;ideas.mail.3")


;Example translations for a program that uses three files main.lisp,

;auxiliary.lisp, and documentation.lisp. These translations might be

;supplied by a software supplier as examples.

;For Unix with long file names

(setf (logical-pathname-translations "prog")

'(("CODE;*.*.*" "/lib/prog/")))

;Sample use of that logical pathname. All return values

;are of course implementation-specific.

(translate-logical-pathname "prog:code;documentation.lisp")

=> /lib/prog/documentation.lisp

;For Unix with 14-character file names, using .lisp as the type

(setf (logical-pathname-translations "prog")

'(("CODE;DOCUMENTATION.*.*" "/lib/prog/docum.*")

("CODE;*.*.*" "/lib/prog/")))

;Sample use of that logical pathname. All return values

;are of course implementation-specific.

(translate-logical-pathname "prog:code;documentation.lisp")

=> /lib/prog/docum.lisp

;For Unix with 14-character file names, using .l as the type

;The second translation shortens the compiled file type to .b

(setf (logical-pathname-translations "prog")

`(("**;*.LISP.*" ,(logical-pathname "PROG:**;*.L.*"))

(,(compile-file-pathname (logical-pathname "PROG:**;*.LISP.*"))

,(logical-pathname "PROG:**;*.B.*"))

("CODE;DOCUMENTATION.*.*" "/lib/prog/documentatio.*")

("CODE;*.*.*" "/lib/prog/")))

;Sample use of that logical pathname. All return values

;are of course implementation-specific.

(translate-logical-pathname "prog:code;documentation.lisp")

=> /lib/prog/documentatio.l

;For a Cray with 6 character names and no directories, types, or versions.

(setf (logical-pathname-translations "prog")

(let ((l '(("MAIN" "PGMN")



(logpath (logical-pathname "prog:code;"))

(phypath (pathname "XXX")))


;; Translations for source files

(mapcar #'(lambda (x)

(let ((log (first x))

(phy (second x)))

(list (make-pathname :name log

:type "LISP"

:version :wild

:defaults logpath)

(make-pathname :name phy

:defaults phypath))))


;; Translations for compiled files

(mapcar #'(lambda (x)

(let* ((log (first x))

(phy (second x))

(com (compile-file-pathname

(make-pathname :name log

:type "LISP"

:version :wild

:defaults logpath))))

(setq phy (concatenate 'string phy "B"))

(list com

(make-pathname :name phy

:defaults phypath))))


;Sample use of that logical pathname. All return values

;are of course implementation-specific.

(translate-logical-pathname "prog:code;documentation.lisp")



1. Large programs can be moved between sites without changing any

pathnames, provided all pathnames used are logical. A portable system

construction tool can be created that operates on programs defined as

sets of files named by logical pathnames.

2. Logical pathname syntax was chosen to be easily translated into most

popular file systems, while still being powerful enough for storing large

programs. Although they have hierarchical directories, extended wildcard

matching, versions, and no limit on the length of names, they can be

mapped onto a less capable real file file system by translating each

directory that is used into a flat directory name, doing wildcards in

Lisp rather than in the file system, treating all versions as :newest,

and/or using translations to shorten long names.

Logical pathname words are restricted to non-case-sensitive letters,

digits, and hyphens to avoid creating problems with real file systems

that support limited character sets for file naming. Other characters

could have been mapped onto such file systems through translations, but

that didn't seem worth the trouble. Logical pathnames have to be

non-case-sensitive or it would be very difficult to map them onto a

non-case-sensitive file system.

Features such as :UP and :BACK relative directories and a namestring

syntax for the root directory were not felt to be necessary in logical

pathnames. They could be added later if a need emerges.

It is not a goal of logical pathnames to be able to represent all

possible file names. Their goal is rather to represent just enough file

names to be useful for storing software. Real pathnames, in contrast,

need to provide a uniform interface to all possible file names, including

names and naming conventions that are not under the control of Common


The choice of logical pathname syntax, using colon, semicolon, and

period, was guided by the goals of being visually distinct from real file

systems and minimizing the use of special characters.

The consequences of using any value not specified here as a logical

pathname component are unspecified, for the benefit of the Explorer.

3. The LOGICAL-PATHNAME function is separate from the PATHNAME function

so that the syntax of logical pathname namestrings does not constrain the

syntax of physical pathname namestrings in any way. Logical pathname

syntax must be defined by Common Lisp so that logical pathnames can be

conveniently exchanged between implementations, but physical pathname

syntax is dictated by forces outside our control.

3b,c. Allowing PARSE-NAMESTRING and MERGE-PATHNAMES to recognize logical

pathname namestrings in these situations provides for natural operations

on logical pathnames. Frequently a string containing just a name, or a

name and a type, will be recognized as a logical pathname by merging it

against a default containing a logical pathname host and directory.

3d. Recognition of logical pathname namestrings by PATHNAME and related

functions is left up to each implementation because some implementations

definitely require this, other implementations don't want to do this, and

nobody wants to change. In any case, Common Lisp historically has avoided

saying anything about the syntax of the strings accepted by the PATHNAME

function, and point 3d preserves that position.

3b,7f. Leaving it implementation defined whether a string, used as the

host argument to PARSE-NAMESTRING or the :host argument to MAKE-PATHNAME,

can be recognized as logical pathname host name is for the same reason as

point 3d. It allows each implementation to decide whether there is one

namespace or two. The correct way to write this is:



4. Logical pathname versions could have been supported on real file

systems that do not have versions by defining a kind of translation to

encode the version number in the name. However, the typical use of

versions is such that on a file system without versions, people would

rather just store one version of a file, and not preserve the version

information by encoding it somehow in the name. This is different from

the typical use of types or directories, where the files with different

values in those components are truly distinct and everything would break

if you only kept one file.

5,13. The COMPILE-FILE-PATHNAME function and the specification of "LISP"

as the type of a logical pathname for a Common Lisp source file together

provide enough information about compilation for a portable system

construction tool that uses logical pathnames to work. Suppose you want

to call COMPILE-FILE only if the source file is newer than the compiled

file. To do that, you have to have a way to know the name of the

compiled file without actually calling COMPILE-FILE.

No standard file type for compiler output is proposed, because in some

implementations the compiler produces one of several file types,

depending on a variety of implementation-dependent circumstances.

COMPILE-FILE-PATHNAME provides access to the "default[ing] in a manner

appropriate to the implementation's file system conventions" mentioned in

the CLtL documentation of COMPILE-FILE.

6. The use of the logical pathname host name "SYS" for the implementation

is current practice. Standardizing on this name helps users choose

logical pathname host names that avoid conflicting with

implementation-defined names.

7. Accepting logical pathnames for file access is a natural extension

of the file access functions and makes it easier to program using only

logical pathnames in situations where that is appropriate.

8. The LOGICAL-PATHNAME class exists so that methods can distinguish

logical pathnames from regular pathnames.

9. See point 3 above.

10. TRANSLATE-LOGICAL-PATHNAME is the heart of the logical pathname

feature. Allowing TRANSLATE-LOGICAL-PATHNAME on a physical pathname,

simply returning the argument, makes some programs easier to write.

Additional implementation defined translations make it possible for

implementations with unusual file systems to offer some help to the user

in setting up the translations for a logical pathname host, by handling

some of the work automatically. Logical pathnames that translate to

other logical pathnames are a feature that several people have requested.

11. SETF of LOGICAL-PATHNAME-TRANSLATIONS is a simple way for a user to

define a new logical pathname host. Using SETF makes it possible to add

to or modify the translations of an existing logical pathname host.

It is always up to the person who writes the translation rules for a

particular logical pathname host to a particular physical file system to

make sure that the logical pathnames that are actually going to be used

translate to valid pathnames for the particular file system, and that

no two logical pathnames that are supposed to be distinct translate to

the same physical pathname.

12. Loading of logical pathname translations from a site-dependent file

allows software to be distributed using logical pathnames. The assumed

model of software distribution is a division of labor between the

supplier of the software and the user installing it. The supplier

chooses logical pathnames to name all the files used or created by the

software, and supplies examples of logical pathname translations for a

few popular file systems. Each example uses an assumed directory and/or

device name, assumes local file naming conventions, and provides

translations that will translate all the logical pathnames used or

generated by the particular software into valid physical pathnames.

For a powerful file system these translations can be quite simple. For

a more restricted file system, it may be necessary to list an explicit

translation for every logical pathname used, for example when dealing

with restrictions on the maximum length of a file name.

The user installing the software decides on which device and/or directory

to store the files and edits the example logical pathname translations

accordingly. If necessary, the user also adjusts the translations for

local file naming conventions and any other special aspects of the user's

local file system policy and local Common Lisp implementation. For

example, the files might be divided among several file server hosts to

share the load. The process of defining site-customized logical pathname

translations is quite easy for a user of a popular file system for which

the software supplier has provided an example. A user of a more unusual

file system might have to take more time; the supplier can help by

providing a list of all the logical pathnames used or generated by the


Once the user has created a suitable SETF of LOGICAL-PATHNAME-TRANSLATIONS

form, he can evaluate that form and then load and run the software. It

may be necessary to use the translations again, or on another workstation

at the same site, so it is best to save the SETF form in the standard

place where it can be found later by LOAD-LOGICAL-PATHNAME-TRANSLATIONS.

Often a software supplier will include a program for restoring software

from the distribution medium to the file system, and a program for loading

the software from the file system into a Common Lisp, and these programs

will start by calling LOAD-LOGICAL-PATHNAME-TRANSLATIONS to make sure that

the logical pathname host is defined.

Note that the SETF of LOGICAL-PATHNAME-TRANSLATIONS form isn't part of

the program, it's separate. It's written by the user, not by the

software supplier. That separation, and a uniform convention for how to

do the separation, are the key aspects of logical pathnames. For small

programs involving only a handful of files, it doesn't matter much. The

real benefits come with large programs with hundreds or thousands of

files and more complicated situations such as program-generated file

names or porting a program developed on a system with long file names

onto a system with a very restrictive limit on the length of file names.

Current practice:

Symbolics Genera has had a similar facility for many years. It is used

extensively for software distribution by Symbolics and its customers.

The Genera facility uses the same logical pathname syntax but different

function names, and is somewhat more complicated. The extra complexity

is not necessary in the Common Lisp standard.

The T.I. Explorer also has a comparable logical pathname facility,

although the translation mechanism is unfortunately less general than

proposed here. The namestring syntax used is slightly different:

host ":" [{directory "."}* directory ";"] [name] ["." type] ["#" version]

The newest version is indicated by ">" instead of "newest".

Macintosh Allegro Common Lisp) has a logical pathname feature which is

somewhat simpler but aimed at solving the same problems. It has logical

directory names, to simplify access to sets of files in differently named

directories (an especially severe problem on micros where everybody just

has to have a different pet name for their hard disk). This isn't really

the same as simplifying access to different file systems, although of

course solving the latter automatically solves the former. In general,

access to different file systems requires translating names and types,

not just translating directories.

Symbolics Genera offers a function for translating from a physical

pathname back to a logical pathname. There are a number of problems with

this, and so it has not been proposed here. An earlier version specified

TRANSLATE-LOGICAL-PATHNAME to return enough information to allow the user

program to perform the backtranslation itself, but that hsd problems

so it was removed.

The Genera equivalent of LOAD-LOGICAL-PATHNAME-TRANSLATIONS looks for

a file named SYS:SITE;hostname.TRANSLATIONS.

Current practice in Genera, Explorer, and Macintosh has one namespace for

both logical and physical namestrings. This proposal allows an

implementation to choose to have one namespace or to have two separate

namespaces for namestrings.

Cost to Implementors:

This is a fairly complex facility, but its performance is unimportant

so a straightforward implementation should suffice. Most of the

complexity comes in dealing with unusual file systems, such as ones

that don't allow long file names.

Cost to Users:


Cost of non-adoption:

Portable software construction and distribution will have to rely on

implementation-dependent kludges. Lisp software will continue to be

difficult to install.

Performance impact:



Avoid cost of non-adoption.


Improved portability of large programs.


Issue PATHNAME-LOGICAL fundamentally depends on issue PATHNAME-WILD. If


If PATHNAME-CANONICAL-TYPE:NEW-CONCEPT passes, it will affect the

behavior of the function TRANSLATE-PATHNAME and therefore the behavior of

the function TRANSLATE-LOGICAL-PATHNAME. When a logical pathname

translation has from-wildcard and to-wildcard type components that are

:WILD or omitted, translation of the type will be guided by canonical

types. If PATHNAME-CANONICAL-TYPE:NEW-CONCEPT fails to pass, it will

either have to be done behind the scenes by TRANSLATE-PATHNAME or users

will have to write more verbose translations that individually specify

the handling of each file type (as shown in some of the examples here).

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