Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Decl 2.0 syntax parser

I've been working on a lot of thoughts about the Decl reboot lately, including a ground-up rethinking of the basic way of handling syntax, and I've come to some conclusions.

Indentation is a misleading way of thinking about this. Indentation is just an indication of the two-dimensionality of text. Especially if we look at Markdown and its friends and relatives, we really have to realize that at least the block elements are there to exploit that two-dimensionality, to arrange information vertically as well as horizontally to present and shape information.

In fact, I'm getting a lot closer to just saying that Decl syntax and Markdown are sort of the same thing. And so I want to come up with a parsing language for two-dimensional text that is not a grammar built for one-dimensional sentences. Or at least is only partly a one-dimensional grammar.

Along the way, I hope to start looking at some naturally two-dimensional text items:
  • Diagrams
  • Musical scores
  • Other timing diagrams
  • Workflow charts, GANNT charts, etc.
  • Page layouts and screen layouts for forms, buttons, etc.
And all that could be directly supported by at least part of the parser. Using indentation and block rules, we can do a "terraced scan", as it were, identifying blocks first and then drilling into them to identify more details.

The combination of Markdown with the Decl parser and interpreter, moreover, gives me a very natural way to implement literate programming tools in a way that finally makes sense to me.

I think this is going to be very fruitful.

No comments:

Post a Comment