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by danger (Priest)
on Feb 02, 2001 at 22:25 UTC ( #56048=modulereview: print w/replies, xml ) Need Help??

Item Description: Declarative command line argument parser

Review Synopsis:

Getopt::Declare A quickie overview.

Getopt::Declare is a module for parsing command line options -- and like many of Damian Conway's modules, this one has obviously been eating its wheaties with large doses of steroids (and it arrives with circa 1,500 lines of documentation to prove it). In short, this is not your mother's command line parser.

Not satisfied with giving us yet another command line parser, Damian has given us a declarative language to specify not only command line options, but descriptions, parameter types, and actions as well. But don't let the size of the docs intimidate you, it is surprisingly simple to use.

The basic mechanics of using the module are as follows:

#!/usr/bin/perl -w use strict; use Getopt::Declare; my $spec = <<'SPEC'; # put your specification here SPEC my $ops = Getopt::Declare->new($spec); # rest of your program

Obviously, it is the specification we are really interested in. So let's look a very trivial greplike script using the module:

#!/usr/bin/perl -w use strict; use Getopt::Declare; use vars qw/$not $re/; $::VERSION = 0.01; my $spec = <<'EOS'; -p <pattern> pattern [required] { $re = $pattern } -f <INFILE>... input filename(s) [required] { defer{process(@INFILE)} } -not print out non-matches { $not = 1 } EOS my $opts = Getopt::Declare->new($spec); sub process { @ARGV = @_; while(<>){ if($::not){ print unless /$::re/; } else { print if /$::re/; } } } __END__

An option declaration is comprised of a few components: the option specification itself (followed by one or more tabs); the option description (with optional directives); and an optional action block to be executed if the option is found. Let's break out the -f option above and look at each component:

-f <INFILE>... # So we specify an option that looks like '-f' which takes one or # more arguments (that's the ... part) that will be stored in the # variable @INFILE for the action block input filename(s) [required] # This is the description of the option followed by the # [required] directive which means this option must be present on # the command line { defer{process(@INFILE)} } # This is the action block. The defer() function is from # Getopt::Declare and takes a code block which will not be # executed until all the command line options have been parsed. # Here we merely provide our own function and pass it the files # from the -f option as arguments.

The option variable is available as a lexical variable within the action block, and you may set or access any globals that are available at the time of parsing. In our example above we set the global $re and $not variables in the action blocks so we can access those later rather than accessing those options via the $opts object. We deferred our file processing action because we want to ensure all options have been parsed (and all globals set) before we start grepping our files.

You can also restrict parameter types when specifying parameter variables using a few predefined parameter types:

-p <var:s> # accept strings -n <var:n> # accept any real number -i <var:i> # accept only integers

And, because this is Perl, you can also specify your own regex to limit the types of things a parameter should accept or define new types:

-hw <hw:/\d+x\d+$/> HeightxWidth coordinates #or [pvtype: coord /\d+x\d+$] -hw <hw:coord> HeightxWidth coordinates

This module also gives us a -help option for free, and a -v option (if you've defined a $VERSION variable). Here's what we get with those:

$ perl -v version 0.01 (Fri Feb 2 09:30:34 2001) $ perl -help Usage: [options] -p <pattern> -f <INFILE>... -help -version Options: -p <pattern> pattern -f <INFILE>... input filename(s) -not print out non-matches

And, with 1,500 lines of documentation I've clearly only scratched the surface in this little overview. Go ahead and grab it, read the docs, and play around (and, if you're feeling brave, read the code too).

Replies are listed 'Best First'.
Re (tilly) 1: Getopt::Declare
by tilly (Archbishop) on Feb 03, 2001 at 05:17 UTC
    Out of curiousity, what does this module do to startup times? The kinds of little utilities which I would want to use command line argument processing for tend to care about how quickly they start.

    (Of course I generally find Getopt::Std perfectly acceptable...)

      Well, Obviously it's somewhat slower to load:

      $ time perl -MGetopt::Std -e 1 0.07user 0.00system 0:00.07elapsed 97%CPU $ time perl -MGetopt::Long -e 1 0.19user 0.05system 0:00.23elapsed 102%CPU $ time perl -MGetopt::Declare -e 1 0.59user 0.08system 0:00.67elapsed 99%CPU

      For the option parsing itself, that'll depend on how much extra work you put into the declaration (action blocks, more sophisticated parameter checking, etc.). Certainly it isn't the option-processing answer to every problem, but if it's easy to code and read and the startup/parse hit (amortized over runtime) isn't crucial, it is certainly worth looking into. It won't compete with Getopt::Std for efficiency on simple things, but there's a boatload of functionality I didn't mention -- here's the clustering example from the docs:

      For example, given the parameter specifications: -+ Swap signs -a Append mode -b Bitwise compare -c <FILE> Create new file +del Delete old file +e <NICE:i> Execute (at specified nice level) when com +plete The following command-lines (amongst others) are all exactly equivalen +t: -a -b -c newfile +e20 +del -abc newfile +dele20 -abcnewfile+dele20 -abcnewfile +e 20del

      Also: optional parameter lists, abbreviations, mutex directive (only one of a given set of options may appear on the command line). And, it can be told to parse a config file rather than @ARGV, and can return the parser object itself so you could use it to parse multiple such sources. There might even be a kitchen sink in the source somewhere, and you never know when one of those will come in handy.

Re: Getopt::Declare
by mirod (Canon) on Feb 16, 2001 at 14:35 UTC

    I just started using Getopt::Declare and I like it a lot. I have just 2 minor problems with it:

    • if you put some major part of your code in the argument declaration, which is perfectly possible, it might be difficult to debug using the debugger, especially if you call functions from other modules. Your code is intertwined with Getopt::Declare so running it step by step is quite difficult, as is getting to an external module to set break points. So limit yourself to simple stuff in those blocks
    • at the moment it seems that even if you declare a -v option the default one, which displays the version will be used. Annoying when you want a verbose option (you can use --verbose instead but that will get you no point at Perl golf. -V, and I guess -h and -H (whith help) similarly overtake your definition. But maybe I missed an extra option somewhere in those 1500 line...

      The inability to override -v (or any of the version flags) definitely appears to be a bug as the documentation explicitly states that you can override any of the version flags (and overriding the -h help flags does work). You should probably submit a bug report to Damian if you haven't already done so.

Re: Getopt::Declare
by petral (Curate) on Feb 03, 2001 at 03:15 UTC
    Excellent quick start. I've been thinking about going back to look at this module, and this review makes it easier to jump in.

    It's worth quoting his line from the BUGS section of the man page:

    If nothing else, it shouldn't take 1500 lines to explain a package that was designed for intuitive ease of use!

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