16 March 2015

Tags: clojure clojurescript lighttable


About a week ago I blogged and did a ScreenCast about Clojure refactoring in Light Table. I introduced some clojure refactorings enabled by the not yet released plugin I’m currently working on. In this post I thought I’d walk you through a feature I’ve added since then in a little more detail.

Clj-Light-Refactor plugin on github https://github.com/rundis/clj-light-refactor

Again clj-refactor.el provided me with a great list of potential refactoring candidates. I decided I’d start with the threading refactoring, mostly because I’ve missed something like that for Light Table on a daily basis.

; Turn something like this;
(map #(+ % 1) (filter even? [1 2 3 4 5]))

(->> [1 2 3 4 5]
     (filter even?)
     (map #(+ % 1)))
  • I’d like the refactorings to work for both Clojure and ClojureScript

  • I think it would be the best option if I could implement it in the lt plugin client code (using clojurescript)

  • Use third party lib if that saves me time and provides a great platform for future refactorings

Analysis paralysis

..the state of over-analyzing (or over-thinking) a situation so that a decision or action is never taken, in effect paralyzing the outcome..

Before I could get started on the implementation I had to do a bit of research. I tried to find a clojurescript compatible lib that would make it easy to read/"parse" clojure and clojurescript code and make it easy to navigate and manipulate it. I looked at parser libs like Instaparse-cljs and https://github.com/cgrand/parsley [parsley] but both seemed like a little bit to much effort to get me started. rewrite-clj seemed very promising, but unfortunately no ClojureScript port (feel free to vote for or contribute to this issue)

What to do ?

After much deliberation it dawned on my that maybe I should have a go at it without using any libs. ClojureScript ships with cljs.reader. That should get me started right ? Next step is to get the code into something easily navigable and modifiable (immutably of course). Another look at xlj-rewrite provided the necessary neuron kickstart: zipper of course. Good job there is a ClojreScript version already at hand !

There are many resources out there on zippers in clojure. This article is pretty thorough

Thread last step by step overview

To really get to grips with what I had to achieve I sat down and sketched up something like the illustration below. Quite helpful when your in-brain tree visualizer has gotten somewhat rusty.

thread first
  1. First we wrap our form in a thread-last if we haven’t done so already

  2. We take the last argument of the list node right of the threading operator and promote that node to become the first argument to the threading ("function/"macro)

  3. Same as above, now the node we promote is a vector

  4. When the first node next to the threading operator node isn’t a list (or a list of just one arg), we are done.

Thread first isn’t much different, so I’ll leave that excersize up to you !

Some of you might raise your finger at the way I skipped breaking down the #(+ % 1) node. We’ll get back to that later, but I’ll give you a hint :

Could not find tag parser for (+ in ("inst" "uuid" "queue" "js")

Code essential

Reading code from a string

(defn str->seq-zip [form-str]
  (when (seq form-str)
    (-> form-str
        rdr/read-string        (1)
        z/seq-zip)))           (2)
1 Using cljs.reader to read(/parse) code.
2 Create a sequence zipper from the parsed form
Please note that cljs.reader only a subset (edn) of clojure. That means that several reader macros like #(), '() etc will croak

Thread one / promote one pass

(defn do-thread-one [cand cand-fn]
  (if-not (further-threadable? cand)                         (1)
    (let [promote (-> cand cand-fn z/node)                   (2)
          therest (-> cand cand-fn z/remove)]                (3)
      (-> therest
          (z/insert-left promote)                            (4)
          (#(z/replace % (unwrap-list-if-one (z/node %))))   (5)
          z/up))))                                           (6)
1 First we need to check if the form is further threadable, if it isn’t then just return the zipper (cand) with it’s current position
2 Get the node that should be promoted using cand-fn. cand-fn basically handles navigating the zipper to find the last argument to the function call (thread-last) or the first argument (thread-first)
3 Gently rip out the node to be promoted, so you are left with the rest sans this node
4 Insert the node to be promoted as the first sibling to the threading operator node
5 If the node at the position of the rest node is a list with just one item, it should be the function and we can leave out the parens
6 Move the zipper "cursor" up to the first arg of the thread operator function (for potentially further threading)

Thread fully

(defn- do-thread [orig cand-fn t]
  (when (seq orig)
    (let [root (if (threaded? orig) orig (wrap-in-thread orig t))]  (1)
      (loop [cand root]
        (if-not (further-threadable? cand)                          (2)
          (recur (do-thread-one cand cand-fn)))))))
1 If not already wrapped in a form with a threading operator, do so (just for convenience)
2 Keep promoting until isn’t possible to promote further

Zip it up

(defn zip->str [zipnode]
  (-> zipnode


(defn thread [form-str]
  (let [node (str->seq-zip form-str)
        threading (when node (threaded? node))]
    (when (and node threading)
      (-> node
          (do-thread (threading-locator threading) threading)

Entry point function to read form string, do threading and return result as string again

Hooking it into Light Table

Replace helper function

defn replace-cmd [ed replace-fn]
  (cmd/exec! :paredit.select.parent)                                       (1)
  (when-let [candidate  (editor/selection ed)]
    (let [bounds (editor/selection-bounds ed)]
      (when-let [res (replace-fn candidate)]                               (2)
        (editor/replace-selection ed res))                                 (3)
      (editor/move-cursor ed (-> bounds :from (update-in [:ch] inc))))))
1 Using paredit command to select parent expression
2 Execute threading function on selected expression
3 Replace selection with given the refactored result

Behavior and commands

(behavior ::thread-fully!                                           (1)
          :triggers #{:refactor.thread-fully!}
          :reaction (fn [ed]
                      (replace-cmd ed thread)))

(cmd/command {:command ::thread-fully                               (2)
              :desc "Clojure refactor: Thread fully"
              :exec (fn []
                      (when-let [ed (pool/last-active)]
                        (object/raise ed :refactor.thread-fully!)))})
1 We create behaviors for each refactor feature so that we can target the feature to a given set of editor tags
2 Commands are what the user sees in the LIght Table command pane, and which can be assigned to keyboard shortcuts

Configuring behaviors

  [:editor.clj :lt.plugins.cljrefactor.threading/thread-fully!]
  [:editor.cljs :lt.plugins.cljrefactor.threading/thread-fully!]

We enable the behaviors for both Clojure and ClojureScript tagged editor objects.

Problems ?

Well the limitations of cljs.reader is a problem. The anonymous function literal is something I use all the time. I did quickly look at cljs.reader/register-tag-parser! but couldn’t really come up with a workable strategy here. So if anyone have suggestions for a more complete parsing of clojure code in ClojureScript please give me a ping ! I ended up escaping it as a string for now. Not exactly great if you’d like to apply the refactoring inside an anonymous function literal block.

Actually I also had some issues using clojure.zip from Light Table, but a restart seemed to solve it


Once I managed to make a decision on which route to pursue, the rest was mainly just a blast. it´s really awesome how much of Clojure it’s possible to use in ClojureScript and digging into zippers was a real eyeopener for me. I believe I now have a foundation to provide a range of useful client side refactoring features and I’ve already started pondering on what to address next.

Some thorny issues remain, and some icing like customizable formatting etc still remains. The complete list of threading refactorings are listed here

The main takeaway for me is that I keep learning more and more about Clojure, and as a bonus I get new nifty features for my current editor of choice !

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