Thursday, December 18, 2008

Plugins - part 1: the application

My interest in plugins started two years ago listening to Ivan Krstić talk about the OLPC. Following his talk, I wrote the following on edu-sig:
One open issue (as I understand it) is that of finding the "best practice" for plugins. The idea is that the core programs should be as small as possible but easy to extend via plugins. I thought that there already was a "well known and best way" to design plugins - and it was on my list of things to learn about (to eventually incorporate rur-ple within crunchy).
After discussing this off-list with Johannes Woolard, I concluded that we should try to redesign Crunchy to make use of plugins. While I was thinking about how we might proceed to do this, Johannes went ahead and implemented a simple plugin framework which we eventually adopted for Crunchy.

While there are a few agreed-upon "standards" when it comes to dealing with plugins in Python (such as setuptools and Zope Component Architecture), I tend to agree with Ivan Krstić's observation that there are no "best practice" for plugins - at least, none that I have seen documented. As what might be considered to be a first step in determining the "best practice" for writing plugin-based applications with Python, I will take a sample application, small enough so that it can be completely included and described in a blog post, and not written with plugins in mind. I thought it would be a more representative example to use an arbitrary sample application, rather than trying to come up with one specifically written for the purpose of this series of post.

The application I have chosen is a small modification of an expression calculator written and described by Fredrik Lundh, aka effbot, a truly outstanding pythonista. The entire code is as follows:

""" A simple expression calculator entirely contained in a single file.

See http://effbot.org/zone/simple-top-down-parsing.htm for detailed explanations
as to how it works.

This is the basic application used to demonstrate various plugin frameworks.
"""

import re

class literal_token(object):
def __init__(self, value):
self.value = value
def nud(self):
return self.value

class operator_add_token(object):
lbp = 10
def nud(self):
return expression(100)
def led(self, left):
return left + expression(10)

class operator_sub_token(object):
lbp = 10
def nud(self):
return -expression(100)
def led(self, left):
return left - expression(10)

class operator_mul_token(object):
lbp = 20
def led(self, left):
return left * expression(20)

class operator_div_token(object):
lbp = 20
def led(self, left):
return left / expression(20)

class operator_pow_token(object):
lbp = 30
def led(self, left):
return left ** expression(30-1)

class end_token(object):
lbp = 0

def tokenize(program):
for number, operator in re.findall("\s*(?:(\d+)|(\*\*|.))", program):
if number:
yield literal_token(int(number))
elif operator == "+":
yield operator_add_token()
elif operator == "-":
yield operator_sub_token()
elif operator == "*":
yield operator_mul_token()
elif operator == "/":
yield operator_div_token()
elif operator == "**":
yield operator_pow_token()
else:
raise SyntaxError("unknown operator: %r" % operator)
yield end_token()

def expression(rbp=0): # note that expression is a global object in this module
global token
t = token
token = next()
left = t.nud()
while rbp < token.lbp:
t = token
token = next()
left = t.led(left)
return left

def calculate(program):
global token, next
next = tokenize(program).next
token = next()
return expression()

if __name__ == "__main__":
assert calculate("+1") == 1
assert calculate("-1") == -1
assert calculate("10") == 10
assert calculate("1+2") == 3
assert calculate("1+2+3") == 6
assert calculate("1+2-3") == 0
assert calculate("1+2*3") == 7
assert calculate("1*2+3") == 5
assert calculate("6*2/3") == 4
assert calculate("2**3") == 8
assert calculate("2*2**3") == 16
print "Done!"


The latest version used can be found online.

In the above code, I have highlighted in red classes that will be transformed into plugins. I have also highlighted in green hard-coded if/elif choices that will become indirect references to the plugin components.

In the next post in this series, I will break up this single file in a set of different modules as a required preliminary step before transforming the whole applications into a plugin-based one, with a small core. In subsequent posts, I will keep the core constant and compare various approaches that one can use to link the plugins with the core.

7 comments:

chrism said...

I've given it a shot at http://www.plope.com/Members/chrism/pluginizing_an_app.

Nicola Larosa said...

Here's a fairly extensive, pythonic treatment of plugins:

A Simple Plugin Framework

regebro said...

And with Grok: http://regebro.wordpress.com/2008/12/19/the-plugin-architecture-bashout-grok/

André said...

Wow, you guys are great! You are way ahead of me.

@Nicola: thanks for the link. Actually, I had included it in the detailed outline for my Pycon proposal but forgot to mention it in the two posts I wrote so far.

@Chrism: you very likely saved me a lot of time!

@Lennart Regebro: Grok rules! ;-) Actually, allow me to thank you publicly for the suggestions you made when reviewing my proposal.

regebro said...

No problems!

I guess it would be good if the code ends up in your repository? I can clean it up and send a tar file over to you?

André said...

@Lennart: Yes, please, if you would not mind!

regebro said...

Done! What is your email?