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<update mode=confession> I know that I posted this years ago, and other bugs in the post are not being fixed, but this one is a big one. When I wrote the node I didn't realize that the term functional programming was already in use for something different than what I describe below. As a result I seem to have introduced a bad meme into the Perl world. Read on, but do understand that what I describe as functional programming isn't quite what is normally meant by the term...</update>

One of my favorite quotes of all time on programming comes from Tom Christiansen:

A programmer who hasn't been exposed to all four of the imperative, functional, objective, and logical programming styles has one or more conceptual blindspots. It's like knowing how to boil but not fry. Programming is not a skill one develops in five easy lessons.
Absolutely. Perl does the first three very naturally, but most Perl programmers only encounter imperative and objective programming. Many never even encounter objective, though that is not a problem for many here.

However I am a fan of functional programming. I mention this from time to time but say that it takes a real code example to show what I mean. Well I decided to take my answer at RE (tilly) 1: Regexes vs. Maintainability to Big, bad, ugly regex problem and turn it into a real problem. What I chose to do is implement essentially the check specified at Perl Monks Approved HTML tags, with an escape mode, checks to make sure tags balance, and some basic error reporting when it looks like people were trying to do stuff but it isn't quite right.

If you have ever wondered what possible use someone could find for anonymous functions, closures, and that kind of thing, here is your chance to find out.

For those who do not know what Tom was talking about, here are some quick definitions:
  1. Imperative programming is when you spend your time telling the computer what to do.
  2. Functional programming, build some functions, put them together into bigger ones, when you are done run your masterpiece and call it a day.
  3. Objective programming access properties of things and tell them to accomplish tasks for you without caring what happens under the hood.
  4. Logical programming starts with a series of rules and actions. When no more rules require acting on, you are done.
We encounter two of these a lot in Perl. Imperative programming is just plain old procedural. It is what most of us do most of the time. Its biggest benefit is that it is close to what the computer does and how we think. Also we see a lot of objective programming - that is usually called Object-Oriented Programming. It offers a layer of abstraction between what you want done and how it is done. This hides details and makes the end code easier to maintain. In the long run it also has benefits in terms of code-reuse.

We don't encounter the other two as often. Logical programming is familiar to some here from writing makefiles. The win is that you can handle very complex sets of dependencies without having to stop and think about what exactly will happen. Since that is exactly the kind of problem that make try to solve, it is a good fit there.

The most famous representative of functional programming is Lisp. Functional programming offers similar benefits to object-oriented programming. Where they differ for me is that it lets you think about problems differently, and I frequently find that I can very easily get all of my configuration information into one place.

What follows is fairly complex, so I will present it in pieces. If you have not seen functional programming this will likely feel uncomfortable to read. I certainly found the first examples I dealt with to be frustrating since I could not figure out where anything happened. But just remember that virtually everything here is just setting up functions for later use, skip to the end if you need to, and you should be fine.

Basic sanity

Import stuff, be careful, etc.
use strict; use vars qw(@open_tags %handlers %bal_tag_attribs); use HTML::Entities qw(encode_entities); use Carp;

Configuration information

This has the configuration rules for all of the special stuff we will allow. Tags and attributes, characters that matter to html that we will let pass through, and the [code] escape sequence. Note that I did not use <code> because I wanted this to be easy to post.

For a real site you might want several of these with different rules for what is allowed depending on the section and the user.

# This covers the majority of rules %bal_tag_attribs = ( # Tags with ok attributes a => [qw(href name target)], # I added this one, and there is a <col> later as well colgroup => [ qw(align span valign width) ], font => ["color size"], ol => ["type"], # Balancing <p> looks strange but align needs closing p => ["align"], table => [ qw(bgcolor border cellpadding cellspacing width) ], td => [ qw(align bgcolor colspan height rowspan valign width) ], tr => [qw(align valign width)], # Ones without attributes # I omitted the 'nbsp' tag, should that be 'nobr'? map {$_, []} qw( b big blockquote br dd dl dt em h1 h2 h3 h4 h5 h6 hr i li pre small strike strong sub sup tt u ul ), ); # Initialize default handlers %handlers = ( # literal text with special meanings we allow ( map {my $tag = $_; ($tag, sub {return $tag})} qw(& <br> <col>) ), # Various html tags &ret_tag_handlers(%bal_tag_attribs), # And our escape mode. '[code]' => ret_escape_code(qr(\[/code\]), "[code]"), );

Implementation of the handlers

This is the most complicated section by far. This sets up functions for all of the tasks we will want done. If you were to rewrite this program in a procedural fashion, you would find that the logic in this section either would be repeated many, many times, or else you would get into a lot of very complex case statements.

That we don't need to do that shows code reuse in action!

A complex site would probably need more in this section (for instance the linking logic we use), but when all is said and done, not much.

sub ret_const_tag_open { my $tag = shift; return sub { push @open_tags, $tag; return "<$tag>"; }; } sub ret_escape_code { my $end_pat = shift; my $name = shift; return sub { my $t_ref = shift; if ($$t_ref =~ m=\G(.*?)$end_pat=gs) { return "<pre>" . encode_entities($1) . "</pre>"; } else { return show_err("Unmatched $name tag found"); } }; } sub ret_tag_close { my $tag = shift; return sub { my @searched; while (@open_tags) { my $open = pop(@open_tags); push @searched, $open; if ($open eq $tag) { # Close em! return join '', map "</$_>", @searched; } } # No you cannot close a tag you didn't open! @open_tags = reverse @searched; pos(${$_[0]}) = 0; return show_err("Unmatched close tag </$tag>"); }; } sub ret_tag_open { # The general case my $tag = shift; my %is_attrib; ++$is_attrib{$_} foreach @_; return sub { my $t_ref = shift; my $text = "<$tag"; while ( $$t_ref =~ /\G(?: \s+ ([\w\d]+) # Value \s*=\s*( # = attribute: [^\s>"'][^\s>]* | # Unquoted "[^"]*" | # Double-quoted '[^']*' # Single-quoted ) | \s*> # End of tag )/gx ) { if ($1) { # Trying to match an attrib if ($is_attrib{ lc($1) }) { $text .= " $1=$2"; } else { pos($$t_ref) = 0; return show_err("Tag '$tag' cannot accept attribute '$1'"); } } else { # Ended text push @open_tags, $tag; return "$text>"; } } return show_err("Unended <$tag> detected"); }; } sub ret_tag_handlers { my %attribs = @_; my @out = (); foreach my $tag (keys %attribs) { if (@{$attribs{$tag}}) { push @out, "<$tag", ret_tag_open($tag, @{$attribs{$tag}}); } else { push @out, "<$tag>", ret_const_tag_open($tag); } push @out, "</$tag>", ret_tag_close($tag); } return @out; } sub show_err { my $err = join '', @_; return "<h2><font color=red>$err</font></h2> "; }

The actual function you call

Note that the documentation of and in the function is as long as the function itself. However this is naturally polymorphic. Even for a very complex site, you likely wouldn't need to touch this function.

In fact you can understand pretty much everything right here. You can add a lot of functionality without getting in the way of your picture of how it all works!

=head1 B<scrub_input()> my $scrubbed_text = scrub_input($raw_text, [$handlers]); This takes a string and an optional ref to a hash of handlers, and returns html-escaped output, except for the sections handled by the handlers which do whatever they want. If handlers are passed their names should be lower case and start with a character matching [^\w\s\d] or else they will not be matched properly. While parsing the string, when they can be matched case insensitively, then the handler is called. It will be passed a reference to $raw_text right after that matches the name of the handler. (pos($raw_text) will point to the end of the name.) It should return the text to be inserted into the output, and set pos($raw_text) to where to continue parsing from, or 0 if no text was handled. Two special handlers that may be used are "pre" and "post" that will be called before and after (respectively) the raw text is processed. For consistency they also get a reference to the raw text. If no handler is passed, it will use \%handlers instead. =cut sub scrub_input { my $raw = shift; local @open_tags; my $handler = shift || \%handlers; $handler->{pre} ||= sub {return '';}; $handler->{post} ||= sub { return join '', map "</$_>", reverse @open_tags; }; my $scrubbed = $handler->{pre}->(\$raw); # This would be faster with the trie code from node 30896. But # that is not the point of this example so I have not done that. # Also note the next line is meant to force an NFA engine to # match the longest alternative first my $re_str = join "|", map {quotemeta} reverse sort keys %$handler; my $is_handled = qr/$re_str/i; while ($raw =~ /\G([\w\d\s]*)/gi) { $scrubbed .= $1; my $pos = pos($raw); if ($raw =~ /\G($is_handled)/g) { $scrubbed .= $handler->{ lc($1) }->(\$raw); } unless (pos($raw)) { if (length($raw) == $pos) { # EXIT HERE # return $scrubbed . $handler->{post}->(\$raw); } else { my $char = substr($raw, $pos, 1); pos($raw) = $pos + 1; $scrubbed .= &encode_entities($char); } } } confess("I have no idea how I got here!"); }
To see it all together, just click on d/l code below.

For the curious I actually wrote the configuration section first, then the function at the end and useless handlers. (Actually ret_tag_handlers returned an empty list.) I then grew the handlers. First I added the escape mode. Then I started escaping tags with no attributes allowed. Next came closing tags. And finally tags with attributes allowed.

Enjoy. :-)


In reply to Why I like functional programming by tilly

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