Let us say you have a number of Scheme files in
a directory that you intend to package as a
distribution. For specificity let’s say the name of the
pkgdir and you have three Scheme files in it,
There is no restriction on the names of these Scheme
files: They may have any or no extension. An end-user
of your distribution will unpack it to produce a
pkgdir of their own with the three Scheme files in
Let us now say that you wrote the Scheme files in the
MzScheme dialect of Scheme, but that the end-user
uses the Guile dialect of Scheme. In order for them to
be able to create Guile versions of your files, you
need to provide in
pkgdir some configuration
information. This can be done as follows:
Create a subdirectory called
pkgdir. In the
create a file called
containing the names of the Scheme files to be
"apple" "orange.scm" "banana.ss"
and a file called
guile of course stands for the Scheme
The Guile-using user can now start Guile in
scmxlate.scm (using the appropriate
scmxlate.scm on their system, as
described in Section 1). Scmxlate will learn
dialects/files‑to‑be‑ported.scm that the files
banana.ss need to be
translated. It will ask the user what the dialect is,
offering as choices the dialects listed in
dialects/dialects‑supported.scm, plus a catch-all
dialect called Other:1
What is your Scheme dialect? (guile other)
The user types
guile in response. Scmxlate now
understands that it is to create Guile translations of
the three files, and proceeds to do so. By default,
the translation-result files are created in the
pkgdir directory and have the same names as the
original but with the prefix
my‑ attached. Thus,
in this case, their names are
In the following, we will for convenience use the following terms:
input file: a file to be translated;
output file: a file that is the result of a translation;
target dialect: the dialect translated to.
In our example above,
apple is an input
my‑apple is its corresponding output file,
and Guile is the target dialect.
The output file
my‑apple above uses Scmxlate’s
default rules for an MzScheme-to-Guile translation.
These rules are general and cannot be expected to cover
any peculiar translational information that may be
relevant to the code in
apple. You can supply such
additional information to Scmxlate via a dialect-configuration file called
dialects subdirectory. Ie, the name of
the dialect-configuration file for a given input file
and a given dialect is formed from the Scmxlate symbol
for the dialect, followed by a hyphen, followed by the
name of the input file.
Scmxlate typically takes code from a dialect-configuration file and sticks it ahead of the translated code in the output file. This code can be any Scheme code in the target dialect, and in particular, it can include definitions. The order of the code in the dialect-configuration file is preserved in the output file.
For instance, if the MzScheme code in
use of a nonstandard (MzScheme-only) primitive such as
file‑or‑directory‑modify‑seconds, we could supply
the following Guile definition in the
(define file-or-directory-modify-seconds (lambda (f) (vector-ref (stat f) 9)))
If the dialect-configuration file supplies a definition for
a name that is also defined in the input file,
then the output file will contain the definition from
the dialect-configuration file, not the input file.
For example, if
(define file-newer? (lambda (f1 f2) ;checks if f1 is newer than f2 (> (file-or-directory-modify-seconds f1) (file-or-directory-modify-seconds f2))))
we could put a competing Guile-specific definition
(define file-newer? (lambda (f1 f2) (> (vector-ref (stat f1) 9) (vector-ref (stat f2) 9))))
When Scmxlate translates
apple, it will directly
incorporate this Guile definition into the output file
my‑apple and won’t even attempt to translate
the MzScheme definition of the same name in the
In the above, we used the symbol
guile in the
dialects/dialects‑supported.scm file to signal to
Scmxlate that Guile is one of the dialects into which
the package can be translated. The list of dialect symbols
recognized by Scmxlate is:
may both be used for PLT Scheme: two symbols are
provided in case two distinct types of translations are
called for — with
mzscheme perhaps being used to create a
self-sufficient MzScheme script file, and
plt to construct a
PLT module library.
cl stands for
other can be used by the package author
to provide a default configuration for an unforeseen
dialect. Since the dialect is unknown, there isn’t
much information to exploit, but it may be
possible to provide some bare-minimum functionality
(or at least display some advice).
The package author can make use of other symbols to denote other Scheme dialects. However, as Scmxlate cannot do any special translation for such dialects, it is the responsibility of the package author to provide additional configuration information for them by writing dialect-configuration files.
Some packages need some configuration information that the package author cannot predict and that therefore can come only come from the user. The information typically contains user preferences for global variables in the program. It should not be dialect-specific.
Such user information can be placed in user-configuration files in the package directory.
Each input file can have its own
user-configuration file, and the latter’s name
consists of the prefix
scmxlate‑ followed by the
name of the input file. Thus the user configuration
While the package author may not be able to predict the values of the globals preferred by their various users, they can include in the package sample user-configuration files that mention the globals requiring the user’s intervention, with comments instructing how the user is to customize them.
Note that user-configuration code comes ahead of the dialect-configuration code in the output file. Definitions in the user-configuration code override definitions in the dialect-configuration code, just as the latter themselves override definitions in the input file.
1 The astute reader may wonder why Scmxlate needs to explicitly ask the user what the target dialect is, when it is already running on it! Unfortunately, since the Scxmlate code is necessarily written in a style that must load in all Schemes, it cannot portably determine the identity of the particular Scheme dialect it is currently running on.
2 Note that Scmxlate can readily determine if it’s running on Common Lisp (as opposed to Scheme), so it will not query the user for further “dialect” information.