Subject: Reflection API for Haskell.
Date: Thursday 30th March 2006 11:30:23 UTC (over 11 years ago)
Hello Guys, I am interested in having better Reflection API for Haskell. Currently we have Typeable and Data classes which provide some pieces of information about the data types at runtime. The (typeOf :: Typeable a => a -> TypeRep) method provides runtime information about the type of a given variable. The (dataTypeOf :: Data a => a -> DataType) provides almost the same information but with some extras. There is some overlap between the TypeRep and DataType types. Some pieces of information you can get from the TypeRep, other from the DataType and some other from both of them. There is also an information which is inaccessible from either TypeRep and DataType. Here is a list of the differences: - TypeRep contains both the TyCon and the arguments given to it. DataType contains only the name of the TyCon. The TyCon name is duplicated in TypeRep and in DataType. - DataType contains the DataRep structure which gives us an information about the available data structures. This is the only way to access them. - The Constr type represents data constructors at runtime. It has information about the constructor name, the record selectors and the fixity (prefix/infix). Unfortunately there isn't any information about the types of its arguments. What I would like to see is a better Reflection API with clear interface. My proposal is: -- * Type representations TypeRep -- abstract, instance of: Eq, Show, Typeable TyCon -- abstract, instance of: Eq, Show, Typeable DataCon -- abstract, instance of: Eq, Show, Typeable -- * Construction of type representations mkTyCon :: String -> Arity -> [DataCon] -> Fixity -> TyCon mkTyConVar :: Int -> Arity -> TyCon mkTyVar :: Int -> TypeRep mkTyConApp :: TyCon -> [TypeRep] -> TypeRep mkDataCon :: String -> [TypeRep] -> TypeRep -> [String] -> Fixity -> DataCon -- * Fixity representation Fixity(..) -- instance of: Eq, Show, Typeable defaultFixity :: Fixity -- * Observation of type representations typeRepTyCon :: TypeRep -> TyCon typeRepArgs :: TypeRep -> [TypeRep] -- * Observation of type constructors tyConString :: TyCon -> String tyConArity :: TyCon -> Int tyConDataCons :: TypeCon -> [DataCon] tyConFixity :: TyCon -> Fixity -- * Observation of data constructors dataConString :: DataCon -> String dataConArgs :: DataCon -> [TypeRep] dataConResult :: DataCon -> TypeRep dataConFields :: DataCon -> [String] dataConFixity :: DataCon -> Fixity The above API is just a reorganization of the existing API but with some extensions: - In the existing API there is no way to get the TyCon fixity and arity. In the new one there are the tyConFixity and tyConArity functions. - The data constructors are available from the tyConDataCons function. There isn't need for the separated DataType and DataRep types. - The DataCon arguments and the result type are available from the dataConArgs and dataConResult functions. - Since the type can be polymorphic we need to have representation for type variables. For that reason there are the mkTyVar and mkTyConVar functions. The new API can be used for both the Dynamic data type implementation and for the generic programming API. The additional information can be used for many kinds of serialization libraries where you would like to be sure that you are deserialising data with the same structure as those used in your program. In addition if you have stored the data type meta information you can have many kinds of generic tools that can read/write the data without need to have the same types defined in the application. What do you think about this kind of generalization of the existing API in the standard package? Cheers, Krasimir