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Table of Contents
Table of Contents
Copyright 1993

Chapter 0
Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapter 5
Chapter 6
Chapter 7
Chapter 8

Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapter 5
Chapter 6
Chapter 7

Descartes LPC Textbooks

Textbooks: Table of Contents
Basics: Intro | Ch1 | Ch2 | Ch3 | Ch4 | Ch5 | Ch6 | Ch7 | Ch8
Intermediate: Ch1 | Ch2 | Ch3 | Ch4 | Ch5 | Ch6 | Ch7

Intermediate LPC
Descartes of Borg
November 1993

                       Chapter 4: The LPC Pre-Compiler

4.1 Review
The previous chapter was quite heavy, so now I will slow down a bit so
you can digest and play with mappings and arrays by taking on the
rather simple topic of the LPC pre-compiler.  By this point, however,
you should well understand how the driver interacts with the mudlib and
be able to code objects which use call outs and heart beats.  In addition,
you should be coding simple objects which use mappings and arrays,
noting how these data types perform in objects.  It is also a good idea to
start looking in detail at the actual mudlib code that makes up your mud. 
See if you understand everything which is going on in your mudlibs
room and monster codes.  For things you do not understand, ask the
people on your mud designated to answer creator coding questions.

Pre-compiler is actually a bit of a misnomer since LPC code is never
truly compiled.  Although this is changing with prototypes of newer
LPC drivers, LPC drivers interpret the LPC code written by creators
rather than compile it into binary format.  Nevertheless, the LPC pre-
compiler functions still perform much like pre-compilers for compiled
languages in that pre-compiler directives are interpreted before the driver
even starts to look at object code. 

4.2 Pre-compiler Directives
If you do not know what a pre-compiler is, you really do not need to
worry.  With respect to LPC, it is basically a process which happens
before the driver begins to interpret LPC code which allows you to
perform actions upon the entire code found in your file.  Since the code
is not yet interpreted, the pre-compiler process is involved before the file
exists as an object and before any LPC functions or instructions are ever
examined.  The pre-compiler is thus working at the file level, meaning
that it does not deal with any code in inherited files.

The pre-compiler searches a file sent to it for pre-compiler directives. 
These are little instructions in the file meant only for the pre-compiler
and are not really part of the LPC language.  A pre-compiler directive is
any line in a file beginning with a pound (#) sign.  Pre-compiler
directives are generally used to construct what the final code of a file will
look at.  The most common pre-compiler directives are:


Most realm coders on muds use exclusively the directives #define and
#include.  The other directives you may see often and should understand
what they mean even if you never use them.

The first pair of directives are:

The #define directive sets up a set of characters which will be replaced
any where they exist in the code at precompiler time with their definition. 
For example, take:

#define OB_USER "/std/user"

This directive has the pre-compiler search the entire file for instances of
OB_USER.  Everywhere it sees OB_USER, it replaces with "/std/user". 
Note that it does not make OB_USER a variable in the code.  The LPC
interpreter never sees the OB_USER label.  As stated above, the pre-
compiler is a process which takes place before code interpretation.  So
what you wrote as:

#define OB_USER "/std/user"

void create() {
    if(!file_exists(OB_USER+".c")) write("Merde! No user file!");
    else write("Good! User file still exists!");

would arrive at the LPC interpreter as:

void create() {
    if(!file_exists("/std/user"+".c")) write("Merde! No user file!");
    else write("Good! User file still exists!");

Simply put, #define just literally replaces the defined label with whatever
follows it.  You may also use #define in a special instance where no
value follows.  This is called a binary definition.  For example:

#define __NIGHTMARE

exists in the config file for the Nightmare Mudlib.  This allows for pre-
compiler tests which will be described later in the chapter.

The other pre-compiler directive you are likely to use often is #include. 
As the name implies, #include includes the contents of another file right
into the file being pre-compiled at the point in the file where the directive
is placed.  Files made for inclusion into other files are often called header
files.  They sometimes contain things like #define directives used by
multiple files and function declarations for the file.  The traditional file
extension to header files is .h.

Include directives follow one of 2 syntax's:

#include "filename"

If you give the absolute name of the file, then which syntax you use is
irrelevant.  How you enclose the file name determines how the pre-
compiler searches for the header files.  The pre-compiler first searches in
system include directories for files enclosed in <>.  For files enclosed in
"", the pre-compiler begins its search in the same directory as the file
going through the pre-compiler.  Either way, the pre-compiler will
search the system include directories and the directory of the file for the
header file before giving up.  The syntax simply determines the order.

The simplest pre-compiler directive is the #pragma directive.  It is
doubtful you will ever use this one.  Basically, you follow the directive
with some keyword which is meaningful to your driver.  The only
keyword I have ever seen is strict_types, which simply lets the driver
know you want this file interpreted with strict data typing.  I doubt you
will ever need to use this, and you may never even see it.  I just included
it in the list in the event you do see it so you do not think it is doing
anything truly meaningful.

The final group of pre-compiler directives are the conditional pre-
compiler directives.  They allow you to pre-compile the file one way
given the truth value of an expression, otherwise pre-compile the file
another way.  This is mostly useful for making code portable among
mudlibs, since putting the m_delete() efun in code on a MudOS mud
would normally cause an error, for example.  So you might write the

#ifdef  MUDOS
    map_delete(map, key);
    map = m_delete(map, key);

which after being passed through the pre-compiler will appear to the
interpreter as:

    map_delete(map, key);   

on a MudOS mud, and:
    map = m_delete(map, key);

on other muds.  The interpreter never sees the function call that would
cause it to spam out in error. 

Notice that my example made use of a binary definition as described
above.  Binary definitions allow you to pass certain code to the
interpreter based on what driver or mudlib you are using, among other

4.3 Summary
The pre-compiler is a useful LPC tool for maintaining modularity among
your programs.  When you have values that might be subject to change,
but are used widely throughout your files, you might stick all of those
values in a header file as #define statements so that any need to make a
future change will cause you to need to change just the #define directive. 
A very good example of where this would be useful would be a header
file called money.h  which includes the directive:
#define HARD_CURRENCIES ({ "gold", "platinum", "silver",
"electrum", "copper" })
so that if ever you wanted to add a new hard currency, you only need
change this directive in order to update all files needing to know what the
hard currencies are.

The LPC pre-compiler also allows you to write code which can be
ported without change among different mudlibs and drivers.  Finally,
you should be aware that the pre-compiler only accepts lines ending in
carriage returns.  If you want a multiple line pre-compiler directive, you
need to end each incomplete line with a backslash(\).

Copyright (c) George Reese 1993

Textbooks: Table of Contents
Basics: Intro | Ch1 | Ch2 | Ch3 | Ch4 | Ch5 | Ch6 | Ch7 | Ch8
Intermediate: Ch1 | Ch2 | Ch3 | Ch4 | Ch5 | Ch6 | Ch7

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