On this page:
1.1.1 Testing and Assertions
1.1.2 Primitive Values and Operators Numbers
1.1.3 Booleans
1.1.4 Strings
1.1.5 Lists
1.1.6 Identifiers and Binding Identifiers
1.1.7 Variables
1.1.8 Functions
1.1.9 Data Definitions
1.1.10 Cases
1.1.11 Annotations
1.1.12 Control For loops
1.1.13 If When blocks
1.1.14 And more...

1.1 A Tour of Pyret

You can start playing with Pyret right away at https://code.pyret.org/editor. You can copy the examples below, run them, and play with them to get a feel for the language.

1.1.1 Testing and Assertions

The simplest way to add a test to a Pyret program is to use a check: block and a testing assertion. Try running the following:

check: "Ahoy " + "world!" is "Ahoy world!" end

Upon running this program, Pyret reports:

Looks shipshape, your 1 test passed, mate!

This program uses a check: block to register a set of tests to be run. The special is statement inside the check block compares the expressions on the left and right for equality. It reports the result to the built-in testing framework, which produces a report when all the tests have been run.

If we break the test slightly, we can see that Pyret reports the error for us:

check: "Ahoy" + "world!" is "Ahoy world!" end

Check block: check-block-1

  test ("Ahoy" + "world!" is "Ahoy world!"): failed, reason:


Values not equal:


"Ahoy world!"


  The test failed.

The usual flow of writing a Pyret program involves writing tests along with your code, running your code to check the test output, and repeating until you’re satisfied with the functionality of your program. The more tests you write, the more useful feedback you get.

The examples in this tour will all be presented in testing blocks (you’ll see one kind other than check: later). Unless we’re explicitly pointing out a failure, you can assume that the tests all pass, and we’re showing correct behavior.

1.1.2 Primitive Values and Operators

Primitives values are the basic building blocks of the language; structured data exists to organize computation over a small set of primitive values. We describe Pyret’s primitives here. Numbers

Numbers can be written with or without decimals. For example:

check: 5.0 is 5 end

Pyret defines a number of binary operators over numbers (the full list is available in the documentation for binary operators):

check: 4 + 5 is 9 1 / 3 is 2 / 6 9 - 3 is 6 5 > 4 is true end

Once we have binary operators, it is natural to ask what operator precedence Pyret has chosen. In order to avoid ambiguity and confusing updates to precedence tables when new operators are added, chains of operators in Pyret simply disallows mixing operators without disambiguating parentheses. For example:

check: 5 - 4 + 1 is 2 end

well-formedness: Cannot mix binary operators of different

types: `+` and `-`. Use parentheses to disambiguate.

This holds not just for numeric operations, but for all binary operators in the language. To give this program the meaning intended by the test, we should write:

check: (5 - 4) + 1 is 2 end

You can see more utilities on numbers at Numbers.

1.1.3 Booleans

Pyret has two distinguished boolean values, true and false. Neither is a number or string or nullary or any other kind of value; both are booleans and they are the only two booleans. The comparison operators on numbers evaluate to them, for instance:

check: 3 < 4 is true (2 + 2) == 5 is false end

1.1.4 Strings

Strings can be written single- or double- quoted. Character escapes like \n work, and the enclosing quote character can be included if escaped like \".

"hello world" "\"yields falsehood when...\" yields falsehood when" "an example\n\nwith explicit newline\ncharacters"

Multi-line strings can be written with three backtick characters:

check: s = ``` a multi line string ``` s is "a\n multi\n line\n string" end

1.1.5 Lists

Lists aren’t primitive values, but they come up a lot in Pyret programs. Pyret’s list are of the head-and-tail variety found in many functional languages. They are most easily written as a comma-separated list of values enclosed in square brackets and using the list constructor. The elements of a list can be accessed through the dot lookup expression, via the members called ‘first‘ and ‘rest‘:

check: [list: 1,2,3].first is 1 [list: 1,2,3].rest is [list: 2,3] end

It is an error to access a field that isn’t there; for example trying to access first on a list with no elements. We can use the raises test assertion to check the error that’s signalled:

check: [list:].first raises "first" end

The raises form is useful for checking explicit error conditions. It succeeds if the expression on the left signals an error with a message that contains the string on the right.

The [list:] notation is a convenience form for a more verbose form that creates the same lists. The special empty value is equivalent to [list:], and the link function attaches a value to the front of an existing list. These constructors can be freely mixed with bracket notation:

check: empty is [list:] link(1, empty) is [list: 1] link(1, link(2, empty)) is [list: 1,2] link(empty, link(empty, [list: ])) is [list: [list:],[list:]] end

1.1.6 Identifiers and Binding Identifiers

It’s often useful to name intermediate results of a computation. Pyret uses = to bind identifiers to values:

check: list1 = [list: 2,3] list2 = link(1, list1) list2 is [list: 1,2,3] end

Identifiers bound with = are not variables. They cannot be updated, and they cannot even be re-bound. So, for example, using list1 twice gives an error:

check: list1 = [list: 2,3] list1 = link(1, list1) list1 is [list: 1,2,3] end

It looks like you defined the name list1 twice, at

Pyret takes a strong stance on the integrity of the = statement. If the program says the name is equal to the value, then it had better continue to be! This has a very real correlation to something every high school algebra class teaches: the substitutability of names for expressions. Defining names that, by default, can later be changed conflicts with basic notions of reasoning about expressions and programs.

1.1.7 Variables

For names that can be updated, Pyret provides variables, which are distinct from identifiers at their declaration site, using var. Such declarations must always give an initial value for the name, which can be later updated with :=:

check: var x = 10 x is 10 x := 15 x is 15 end

Mixing variables and identifiers of the same name is disallowed, and all of the following programs are errors:

x = 10 x := 15 var x = 10 x = 15 x = 10 var x = 15

1.1.8 Functions

In Pyret, most functions are defined with a function declaration. A function declaration looks like:

fun square(n): n * n end

This binds the name square to a function. Note that Pyret has no explicit return keyword, and the function body “returns” whatever it evaluates to. We can call square by passing arguments in parentheses:

check: square(4) is 16 square(2) is 4 end

Since there are often tests that go along with a function declaration, a declaration can directly attach a testing block using where:. So we could write the above as:

fun square(n): n * n where: square(4) is 16 square(2) is 4 end

This runs the same tests as the check: block, but it is now obvious to the reader (and to the programming environment!) that these tests go with the square function.

Functions are first-class values in Pyret, which means they can be passed as arguments to other functions or returned from them:

fun apply-twice(f, x): f(f(x)) where: apply-twice(square, 2) is 16 apply-twice(square, 3) is 81 end

Functions don’t need to have names. An anonymous function can be written by using lam rather than fun:

check: apply-twice(lam(x): x + 1 end, 10) is 12 end

1.1.9 Data

Pyret has a builtin form for declaring and manipulating structured data. Definitions

One example that you’ve already seen is List. A List list is either empty or it is a link of an element and another list. While very important to the code that we write, Lists are not a special internal value, they are just defined with the data form. A simplified version of what appears in the standard library of Pyret:

data List: | empty | link(first, rest) end

Though this won’t actually run, because Pyret will complain that you’re trying to re-define List. This is the general syntax of a data definition: the name of the datatype, then a list of one or more variants, which may have members (like link does), or may not. The values of the datatype are constructed by calling the constructor with initial members, if any were defined:

y = link(10, empty)

Or by simply writing the name, if the variant doesn’t have members defined on it, in which case it is a singleton value.

x = empty

This is the basic form. In addition to the functions to construct the values, you also get functions to check whether values are of the type. In this case, there are two functions: is-empty checks if a value is the empty value, and is-link checks if a value is a link value:

check: is-empty(empty) is true is-link(link(1, empty)) is true end

An aside on testing: There’s actually a more natural way to write the above test. Along with is and raises, Pyret defines a test assertion called satisfies that checks if a predicate returns true on a test value. We could instead write the above as:

check: empty satisfies is-empty link(1, empty) satisfies is-link end

The satisfies form is quite handy for testing properties of a value, rather than just that a value is equal to another. The second form also gives better error reporting than the first (what happens if you swap is-link and is-empty in either approach?).

Check out the documentation on testing to see all the testing forms.

1.1.10 Cases

A common pattern is to do different things based on the variant of a data definition. The cases expression allows you to write branches that split computation along the boundaries defined by your data definition. For example:

fun length(l): cases(List) l: | empty => 0 | link(f, r) => 1 + length(r) end end

If you don’t care about a specific attribute, you can replace it with an underscore. Since we did not use f in the link case in the previous example, we could write it instead as:

fun length(l): cases(List) l: | empty => 0 | link(_, r) => 1 + length(r) end end

This makes it clearer to the reader, especially if the blocks become large, what the program does and does not use.

Finally, it is an error, caught at runtime, to pass a value that isn’t of the type inside the cases, or if a branch isn’t defined for the variant that’s passed to cases. If you want to have a catch-all, you can use else to create a branch that will run if no others match. For example:

check: result = cases(List) empty: | link(first, _) => first | else => 0 end result is 0 end

1.1.11 Annotations

Pyret is not currently a typed language (a static checker is an ongoing project), but it allows type-like annotations, both to document the type structure of programs, and for some run-time checking. Annotations can be added to function arguments, to variable bindings, and to the members in data variants. For example:

data BinTree: | leaf | node(value :: Number, left :: BinTree, right :: BinTree) end

Note that BinTree, the name of a datatype, can be used as an annotation. Any data type that you define can also be used in an annotation. These annotations will stop the program from creating a BinTree with fields that don’t match the annotations:

check: node("not-a-num", leaf, leaf) raises "Number" node(37, leaf, "not-a-bin-tree") raises "BinTree" end

You can also define arbitrary predicates for use in annotations to refine the annotation with additional checks. For example:

fun non-negative(n :: Number) -> Boolean: n >= 0 end fun replicate(n :: Number%(non-negative), e) -> List: if n == 0: [list:] else: link(e, replicate(n - 1, e)) end end

And if you were to call replicate with a negative number, it would not run (instead of running forever):

check: replicate(-1, "val") raises "non-negative" end

Some kinds of annotations only get limited checks:

These are features that we plan to check statically rather than at runtime.

1.1.12 Control For loops

Pyret provides syntactic support for common patterns of iteration. For example, to map over a list, running some block of code to produce a new value for each existing value, we can write:

x = for map(elem from [list: 1,2,3,4]): elem + 2 end check: x is [list: 3,4,5,6] end

Note a few things:

The for syntax is designed to create patterns for functional iteration. Indeed, there are several other built in functions that work with for:

z = for filter(elem from [list: 1,2,3,4]): elem < 3 end check: z is [list: 1,2] end y = for fold(sum from 0, elem from [list: 1,2,3]): sum + elem end check: y is 6 end

And you are free to define your own for operators. A for operator is a function that takes a function as its first argument, and a number of other values as the rest of its arguments. The function argument is expected to have the same arity as the number of initial values. To use the operator in a for expression, the for header should have a number of from bindings equal to this arity. For example:

fun keep-every-other(body-fun, l): fun iter(flip, lst): cases(List) lst: | empty => empty | link(first, rst) => if flip: link(body-fun(first), iter(not(flip), rst)) else: iter(not(flip), rst) end end end iter(true, l) end w = for keep-every-other(elt from range(0,10)): elt + 1 end check: w is [list: 1, 3, 5, 7, 9] end

What the for expression does is create a new function from the names on the left-hand sides of the from clauses and the body, and pass that new function along with the values on the right of from to the operator (keep-every-other, in this case).

1.1.13 If

Branching on conditionals is an if branch followed by zero or more else if branches and an optional else branch. It is a runtime error to not match one of the branches - if you are writing code to purely cause side effects, write a when block instead. A few examples:

if x < 10: print("Small") else if x > 20: print("Large") else: print("Medium") end

if false: print("Can't happen") else if false: print("Can't happen either") # this is a runtime error, Pyret requires an else branch end

if true and false: #... else: #... end

Pyret expects that if expressions take some branch, and signals an error if control falls off the end:

check: fun if-falls-off(): if false: "" else if false: "" end end if-falls-off() raises "no-branches-matched" end

For this reason, Pyret syntactically rules out single-branch if expressions, which make little sense given this rule. When blocks

Sometimes there is certain code that should only be run when something is true. This is code that exists solely to do something; often, for example, to report an error. For example:

fun get-second<a>(l :: List<a>) -> a: when l.length() < 2: raise("List too short") end l.rest.first where: get-second([list: 1]) raises "too short" get-second([list: 1, 2, 3]) is 2 end

This covers the cases that single-branch if expressions are usually used for, but makes it explicit that the body is used for its side effects.

1.1.14 And more...

This introduction should get you to the point where you can write non-trivial Pyret programs. From here, you can check out the rest of the documentation to learn more about the language and for reference. If your interest is piqued by the tour, or if you have suggestions or questions, you should sign up for the Pyret discussion list.