Miksilo logo Miksilo

In Miksilo, the abstract-syntax tree (AST) is untyped. This is at the heart of what makes Miksilo modular. However, working without types in Scala, a typed language, produces code that seems far from idiomatic. This article describes the types involved in defining Miksilo AST’s, and the idiomatic way to use them.

Node is the type used to define AST nodes in Miksilo. A node only has two properties: data: Map[NodeField, Any] and shape: NodeShape. The value of shape indicates which keys data contains, and can be interpreted as a run-time type. Instances of NodeShape and NodeField are commonly defined using a Scala object, which defines a unique value.

Here is an example of how you could define the NodeShape and NodeField values for a binary addition type. You can see that there is a create method defined on NodeShape.

object AdditionDelta extends Delta {
  def createAddition(left: Node, right: Node): Node =
    Shape.create(Left -> first, Right -> second)

  object Shape extends NodeShape
  object Left extends NodeField
  object Right extends NodeField

A data structure that compliments Node is Path, which describes a path from one Node, usually the root node of the program, to another. For the readers familiar with the concept of a zipper: a Path is zipper for programs. Path is useful because it allows one to traverse not just forward but also backward in the tree. Also, two nodes in different locations in a program may be equal, such as the 2’s in 2 + 2. However, two paths in a program are never equal, so a path can be useful to identify specific a specific part of a program.

Miksilo relies on the Nodes in the AST to be untyped, but sometimes we know the shape of a node, and we’d like to make accessing that node easier and safer by using that knowledge. For this case, we can define a typed wrapper around a NodeShape. Here is a typed wrapper for AdditionDelta.Shape from earlier:

implicit class Addition[T <: NodeLike](val node: T) extends NodeWrapper[T] {
  def left: T = node(Left).asInstanceOf[T]
  def left_=(value: T): Unit = node(Left) = value

  def right: T = node(Right).asInstanceOf[T]
  def right_=(value: T): Unit = node(Right) = value

The generic type T and the type NodeLike are used to make the wrapper work on both Node and Path types. Because Addition is an implicit class, we can access left and right on any value of type Node, and Scala will automatically know to use the getters and setters from Addition.

If you feel that most of what you’ve read in this article smells of boilerplate, then don’t fret. Instead, read the follow-up article, no boilerplate, to find a solution.