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Complex - A first more complex generator

In this section we will develop a generator for complex numbers, allowing to represent a std::complex either as (real, imag) (where real and imag are the real and imaginary parts of the complex number) or as a simple real if the imaginary part happens to be equal to zero. This example will highlight the power of Spirit.Karma allowing to combine compile time definition of formatting rules with runtime based decisions which of the rules to apply. Also this time, we're using Boost.Phoenix to do the semantic actions.

Our goal is to allow for two different output formats to be applied depending on whether the imaginary part of the complex number is zero or not. Let's write both as a set of alternatives:

    '(' << double_ << ", " << double_ << ')'
|   double_

where the first alternative should be used for numbers having a non-zero imaginary part, while the second is for real numbers. Generally, alternatives are tried in the sequence of their definition as long until one of the expressions (as delimited by '|') succeeds. If no generator expression succeeds the whole alternative fails.

If we left this formatting grammar as is our generator would always choose the first alternative. We need to add some additional rules allowing to make the first alternative fail. So, if the first alternative fails the second one will be chosen instead. The decision about whether to choose the first alternative has to be made at runtime as only then we actually know the value of the imaginary part of the complex number. Spirit.Karma provides us with with a primitive generator eps(), which is usable as a semantic predicate. It has the property to 'succeed' generating only if its argument is true (while it never generates any output on its own).

double imag = ...;     // imaginary part

    eps(imag != 0) << '(' << double_ << ", " << double_ << ')'
|   double_

If one of the generator elements of a sequence fails the whole sequence will fail. This is exactly what we need, forcing the second alternative to be chosen for complex numbers with imaginary parts equal to zero.

Now on to the full example, this time with the proper semantic actions (the complete cpp file for this example can be found here: complex_number.cpp).

We will use the std::complex type for this and all subsequent related examples. And here you can see the full code of the generator allowing to output a complex number either as a pair of numbers (if the imaginary part is non-zero) or as a single number (if the complex is a real number):

template <typename OutputIterator>
bool generate_complex(OutputIterator sink, std::complex<double> const& c)
    using boost::spirit::karma::eps;
    using boost::spirit::karma::double_;
    using boost::spirit::karma::_1;
    using boost::spirit::karma::generate;

    return generate(sink,
        //  Begin grammar
            eps(c.imag() != 0) << 
            '(' << double_[_1 = c.real()] << ", " << double_[_1 = c.imag()] << ')'
        |   double_[_1 = c.real()]
        //  End grammar

The double_ generators have this semantic action attached:

_1 = n

which passes n to the first element of the generator the semantic action is attached to. Remember, semantic actions in Spirit.Karma are called before the corresponding generator is invoked and they are expected to provide the generator with the data to be used. The semantic action above assigns the value to be generated (n) to the generator (actually, the attribute of double_). _1 is a Phoenix placeholder referring to the attribute of the generator the semantic action is attached to. If you need more information about semantic actions, you may want to read about them in this section: Semantic Actions.

These semantic actions are easy to understand but have the unexpected side effect of being slightly less efficient than it could be. In addition they tend to make the formatting grammar less readable. We will see in one of the next sections how it is possible to use other, built-in features of Spirit.Karma to get rid of the semantic actions altogether. When writing your grammars in Spirit you should always try to avoid semantic actions which is often possible. Semantic actions are really powerful tools but grammars tend to be more efficient and readable without them.