On this page:
2.1 The Scribble Syntax at a Glance
2.2 The Command Part
2.3 The Datum Part
2.4 The Body Part
2.4.1 Alternative Body Syntax
2.4.2 Racket Expression Escapes
2.4.3 Comments
2.4.4 Spaces, Newlines, and Indentation

2 @ Syntax

The Scribble @ notation is designed to be a convenient facility for free-form text in Racket code, where “@” was chosen as one of the least-used characters in existing Racket code. An @-expression is simply an S-expression in disguise.

Typically, @ notation is enabled through scribble/base or similar languages, but you can also add @ notation to an S-expression-based language using the at-exp meta-language. For example,

  #lang at-exp racket

  (define v '@op{str})

is equivalent to

#lang racket
(define v '(op "str"))

Using #lang at-exp racket is probably the easiest way to try the examples in this chapter.

2.1 The Scribble Syntax at a Glance

To review @ Syntax Basics, the concrete syntax of @-forms is roughly

@ cmd [ datum* ] { text-body* }

where all three parts after @ are optional, but at least one should be present. (Spaces are not allowed between the three parts.) Roughly, a form matching the above grammar is read as

(cmd datum* parsed-body*)

where parsed-body is the translation of each text-body in the input. Thus, the initial cmd determines the Racket code that the input is translated into. The common case is when cmd is a Racket identifier, which reads as a plain Racket form, with datum arguments and/or string arguments.

Here is one example:

  

@foo{blah blah blah}

  reads as  

(foo "blah blah blah")

The example shows how an input syntax is read as Racket syntax, not what it evaluates to. If you want to see the translation of an example into S-expression form, add a quote in front of it in a #lang at-exp racket module. For example, running

  #lang at-exp racket

  '@foo{blah blah blah}

in DrRacket prints the output

(foo "blah blah blah")

while omitting the quote

  #lang at-exp racket

  @foo{blah blah blah}

triggers a syntax error because foo is not bound, and

  #lang at-exp racket

  (define (foo str) (printf "He wrote ~s.\n" str))

  @foo{blah blah blah}

prints the output

He wrote "blah blah blah".

Here are more examples of @-forms:

  

@foo{blah "blah" (`blah'?)}

  reads as  

(foo "blah \"blah\" (`blah'?)")

  

  

@foo[1 2]{3 4}

  reads as  

(foo 1 2 "3 4")

  

  

@foo[1 2 3 4]

  reads as  

(foo 1 2 3 4)

  

  

@foo[#:width 2]{blah blah}

  reads as  

(foo #:width 2 "blah blah")

  

  

@foo{blah blah

     yada yada}

  reads as  

(foo "blah blah" "\n"
     "yada yada")

  

  

@foo{

  blah blah

  yada yada

}

  reads as  

(foo
  "blah blah" "\n"
  "yada yada")

As seen in the last example, multiple lines and the newlines that separate them are parsed to multiple Racket strings. More generally, a text-body is made of text, newlines, and nested @-forms, where the syntax for @-forms is the same whether it’s in a text-body context as in a Racket context. A text-body that isn’t an @-form is converted to a string expression for its parsed-body; newlines and following indentations are converted to "\n" and all-space string expressions.

  

@foo{bar @baz{3}

     blah}

  reads as  

(foo "bar " (baz "3") "\n"
     "blah")

  

  

@foo{@b{@u[3] @u{4}}

     blah}

  reads as  

(foo (b (u 3) " " (u "4")) "\n"
      "blah")

  

  

@C{while (*(p++))

     *p = '\n';}

  reads as  

(C "while (*(p++))" "\n" "  "
   "*p = '\\n';")

The command part of an @-form is optional as well. In that case, the @-form is read as a list, which usually counts as a function application, but it also useful when quoted with the usual Racket quote:

  

@{blah blah}

  reads as  

("blah blah")

  

  

@{blah @[3]}

  reads as  

("blah " (3))

  

  

'@{foo

   bar

   baz}

  reads as  

'("foo" "\n"
        "bar" "\n"
        "baz")

Finally, we can also drop the datum and text parts, which leaves us with only the command—which is read as is, not within a parenthesized form. This is not useful when reading Racket code, but it can be used inside a text block to escape a Racket identifier. A vertical bar (|) can be used to delimit the escaped identifier when needed.

  

@foo

  reads as  

foo

  

@{blah @foo blah}

  reads as  

("blah " foo " blah")

  

@{blah @foo: blah}

  reads as  

("blah " foo: " blah")

  

@{blah @|foo|: blah}

  reads as  

("blah " foo ": blah")

Actually, the command part can be any Racket expression (that does not start with [, {, or |), which is particularly useful with such escapes since they can be used with any expression.

  

@foo{(+ 1 2) -> @(+ 1 2)!}

  reads as  

(foo "(+ 1 2) -> " (+ 1 2) "!")

  

@foo{A @"string" escape}

  reads as  

(foo "A string escape")

  

@"@"

  reads as  

"@"

Note that an escaped Racket string is merged with the surrounding text as a special case. This is useful if you want to use the special characters in your string, but escaping braces are not necessary if they are balanced.

  

@foo{[email protected]"@"barzilay.org}

  reads as  

(foo "[email protected]")

  

  

@foo{A @"{" begins a block}

  reads as  

(foo "A { begins a block")

  

  

@C{while (*(p++)) {

     *p = '\n';

   }}

  reads as  

(C "while (*(p++)) {" "\n" "  "
   "*p = '\\n';" "\n"
   "}")

In some cases, a text contains many literal @s, which can be cumbersome to quote individually. For such case, braces have an alternative syntax: A block of text can begin with a “|{” and terminated accordingly with a “}|”. Furthermore, any nested @-forms must begin with a “|@”.

  

@foo|{bar}@{baz}|

  reads as  

(foo "bar}@{baz")

  

@foo|{bar |@x{X} baz}|

  reads as  

(foo "bar " (x "X") " baz")

  

@foo|{bar |@x|{@}| baz}|

  reads as  

(foo "bar " (x "@") " baz")

In cases when even this is not convenient enough, punctuation characters can be added between the | and the braces and the @ in nested forms. (The punctuation is mirrored for parentheses and <>s.) With this extension, @-form syntax can be used as a “here string” replacement.

  

@foo|--{bar}@|{baz}--|

  reads as  

(foo "bar}@|{baz")

  

@foo|<<{bar}@|{baz}>>|

  reads as  

(foo "bar}@|{baz")

On the flip side of this is, how can an @ sign be used in Racket code? This is almost never an issue, because Racket strings and characters are still read the same, and @ is set as a non-terminating reader macro so it can be used in Racket identifiers anywhere except in the first character of an identifier. When @ must appear as the first character of an identifier, you must quote the identifier just like other non-standard characters in normal S-expression syntax: with a backslash or with vertical bars.

  

(define \@email "[email protected]")

  reads as  

(define @email "[email protected]")

  

(define |@atchar| #\@)

  reads as  

(define @atchar #\@)

Note that spaces are not allowed before a [ or a {, or they will be part of the following text (or Racket code). (More on using braces in body texts below.)

  

@foo{bar @baz[2 3] {4 5}}

  reads as  

(foo "bar " (baz 2 3) " {4 5}")

Finally, remember that @-forms are just an alternate form of S-expressions. Identifiers still get their meaning, as in any Racket code, through the lexical context in which they appear. Specifically, when the above @-form appears in a Racket expression context, the lexical environment must provide bindings for foo as a procedure or a macro; it can be defined, required, or bound locally (with let, for example).

> (let* ([formatter (lambda (fmt)
          (lambda args (format fmt (apply string-append args))))]
         [bf (formatter "*~a*")]
         [it (formatter "/~a/")]
         [ul (formatter "_~a_")]
         [text string-append])
    @text{@it{Note}: @bf{This is @ul{not} a pipe}.})

"/Note/: *This is _not_ a pipe*."

2.2 The Command Part

Besides being a Racket identifier, the cmd part of an @-form can have Racket punctuation prefixes, which will end up wrapping the whole expression.

  

@`',@foo{blah}

  reads as  

`',@(foo "blah")

  

@#`#'#,@foo{blah}

  reads as  

#`#'#,@(foo "blah")

When writing Racket code, this means that @`',@foo{blah} is exactly the same as `@',@foo{blah} and `',@@foo{blah}, but unlike the latter two, the first construct can appear in body texts with the same meaning, whereas the other two would not work (see below).

After the optional punctuation prefix, the cmd itself is not limited to identifiers; it can be any Racket expression.

  

@(lambda (x) x){blah}

  reads as  

((lambda (x) x) "blah")

  

@`(unquote foo){blah}

  reads as  

`(,foo  "blah")

In addition, the command can be omitted altogether, which will omit it from the translation, resulting in an S-expression that usually contains, say, just strings:

  

@{foo bar

  baz}

  reads as  

("foo bar" "\n"
           "baz")

  

  

@'{foo bar

   baz}

  reads as  

'("foo bar" "\n"
            "baz")

If the command part begins with a ; (with no newline between the @ and the ;), then the construct is a comment. There are two comment forms, one for arbitrary-text and possibly nested comments, and another one for line comments:

@;{ any* }
 
@; anything-else-without-newline*

In the first form, the commented body must still parse correctly; see the description of the body syntax below. In the second form, all text from the @; to the end of the line and all following spaces (or tabs) are part of the comment (similar to % comments in TeX).

  

@foo{bar @; comment

     [email protected];

     blah}

  reads as  

(foo "bar bazblah")

Tip: if you use an editor in some Scheme mode without support for @-forms, balanced comments can be confusing, since the open brace looks commented out, and the closing one isn’t. In such cases it is useful to “comment” out the closing brace too:

  @;{

    ...

  ;}

so the editor does not treat the file as having unbalanced parentheses.

If only the cmd part of an @-form is specified, then the result is the command part only, without an extra set of parenthesis. This makes it suitable for Racket escapes in body texts. (More on this below, in the description of the body part.)

  

@foo{x @y z}

  reads as  

(foo "x " y " z")

  

@foo{x @(* y 2) z}

  reads as  

(foo "x " (* y 2) " z")

  

@{@foo bar}

  reads as  

(foo " bar")

Finally, note that there are currently no special rules for using @ in the command itself, which can lead to things like:

  

@@foo{bar}{baz}

  reads as  

((foo "bar") "baz")

2.3 The Datum Part

The datum part can contains arbitrary Racket expressions, which are simply stacked before the body text arguments:

  

@foo[1 (* 2 3)]{bar}

  reads as  

(foo 1 (* 2 3) "bar")

  

@foo[@bar{...}]{blah}

  reads as  

(foo (bar "...") "blah")

The body part can still be omitted, which is essentially an alternative syntax for plain (non-textual) S-expressions:

  

@foo[bar]

  reads as  

(foo bar)

  

@foo{bar @f[x] baz}

  reads as  

(foo "bar " (f x) " baz")

The datum part can be empty, which makes no difference, except when the body is omitted. It is more common, however, to use an empty body for the same purpose.

  

@foo[]{bar}

  reads as  

(foo "bar")

  

@foo[]

  reads as  

(foo)

  

@foo

  reads as  

foo

  

@foo{}

  reads as  

(foo)

The most common use of the datum part is for Racket forms that expect keyword-value arguments that precede the body of text arguments.

  

@foo[#:style 'big]{bar}

  reads as  

(foo #:style 'big  "bar")

2.4 The Body Part

The syntax of the body part is intended to be as convenient as possible for free text. It can contain almost any text—the only characters with special meaning is @ for sub-@-forms, and } for the end of the text. In addition, a { is allowed as part of the text, and it makes the matching } be part of the text too—so balanced braces are valid text.

  

@foo{f{o}o}

  reads as  

(foo "f{o}o")

  

@foo{{{}}{}}

  reads as  

(foo "{{}}{}")

As described above, the text turns to a sequence of string arguments for the resulting form. Spaces at the beginning and end of lines are discarded, and newlines turn to individual "\n" strings (i.e., they are not merged with other body parts); see also the information about newlines and indentation below. Spaces are not discarded if they appear after the open { (before the closing }) when there is also text that follows (precedes) it; specifically, they are preserved in a single-line body.

  

@foo{bar}

  reads as  

(foo "bar")

  

@foo{ bar }

  reads as  

(foo " bar ")

  

@foo[1]{ bar }

  reads as  

(foo 1 " bar ")

If @ appears in a body, then it is interpreted as Racket code, which means that the @-reader is applied recursively, and the resulting syntax appears as part of the S-expression, among other string contents.

  

@foo{a @bar{b} c}

  reads as  

(foo "a " (bar "b") " c")

If the nested @ construct has only a command—no body or datum parts—it will not appear in a subform. Given that the command part can be any Racket expression, this makes @ a general escape to arbitrary Racket code.

  

@foo{a @bar c}

  reads as  

(foo "a " bar " c")

  

@foo{a @(bar 2) c}

  reads as  

(foo "a " (bar 2) " c")

This is particularly useful with strings, which can be used to include arbitrary text.

  

@foo{A @"}" marks the end}

  reads as  

(foo "A } marks the end")

Note that the escaped string is (intentionally) merged with the rest of the text. This works for @ too:

  

@foo{The prefix: @"@".}

  reads as  

(foo "The prefix: @.")

  

@foo{@"@x{y}" --> (x "y")}

  reads as  

(foo "@x{y} --> (x \"y\")")

2.4.1 Alternative Body Syntax

In addition to the above, there is an alternative syntax for the body, one that specifies a new marker for its end: use |{ for the opening marker to have the text terminated by a }|.

  

@foo|{...}|

  reads as  

(foo "...")

  

@foo|{"}" follows "{"}|

  reads as  

(foo "\"}\" follows \"{\"")

  

@foo|{Nesting |{is}| ok}|

  reads as  

(foo "Nesting |{is}| ok")

This applies to sub-@-forms too—the @ must be prefixed with a |:

  

@foo|{Maze

      |@bar{is}

      Life!}|

  reads as  

(foo "Maze" "\n"
     (bar "is") "\n"
      "Life!")

  

  

@t|{In |@i|{sub|@"@"s}| too}|

  reads as  

(t "In " (i "[email protected]") " too")

Note that the subform uses its own delimiters, {...} or |{...}|. This means that you can copy and paste Scribble text with @-forms freely, just prefix the @ if the immediate surrounding text has a prefix.

For even better control, you can add characters in the opening delimiter, between the | and the {. Characters that are put there (non alphanumeric ASCII characters only, excluding { and @) should also be used for sub-@-forms, and the end-of-body marker should have these characters in reverse order with paren-like characters ((, [, <) mirrored.

  

@foo|<<<{@x{foo} |@{bar}|.}>>>|

  reads as  

(foo "@x{foo} |@{bar}|.")

  

@foo|!!{X |[email protected]{Y}...}!!|

  reads as  

(foo "X " (b "Y") "...")

Finally, remember that you can use an expression escape with a Racket string for confusing situations. This works well when you only need to quote short pieces, and the above works well when you have larger multi-line body texts.

2.4.2 Racket Expression Escapes

In some cases, you may want to use a Racket identifier (or a number or a boolean etc.) in a position that touches the following text; in these situations you should surround the escaped Racket expression by a pair of | characters. The text inside the bars is parsed as a Racket expression.

  

@foo{[email protected]}

  reads as  

(foo "foo" bar.)

  

@foo{[email protected]|bar|.}

  reads as  

(foo "foo" bar ".")

  

@foo{[email protected]}

  reads as  

(foo "foo" 3.0)

  

@foo{[email protected]|3|.}

  reads as  

(foo "foo" 3 ".")

This form is a generic Racket expression escape, there is no body text or datum part when you use this form.

  

@foo{[email protected]|(f 1)|{bar}}

  reads as  

(foo "foo" (f 1) "{bar}")

  

@foo{[email protected]|bar|[1]{baz}}

  reads as  

(foo "foo" bar "[1]{baz}")

This works for string expressions too, but note that unlike the above, the string is (intentionally) not merged with the rest of the text:

  

@foo{[email protected]"y"z}

  reads as  

(foo "xyz")

  

@foo{[email protected]|"y"|z}

  reads as  

(foo "x" "y" "z")

Expression escapes also work with any number of expressions,

  

@foo{[email protected]|1 (+ 2 3) 4|y}

  reads as  

(foo "x" 1 (+ 2 3) 4 "y")

  

  

@foo{[email protected]|*

        *|y}

  reads as  

(foo "x" *
     * "y")

It seems that @|| has no purpose—but remember that these escapes are never merged with the surrounding text, which can be useful when you want to control the sub expressions in the form.

  

@foo{[email protected]||[email protected]|

     |Carol}

  reads as  

(foo "Alice" "Bob"
     "Carol")

Note that @|{...}| can be parsed as either an escape expression or as the Racket command part of an @-form. The latter is used in this case (since there is little point in Racket code that uses braces.

  

@|{blah}|

  reads as  

("blah")

2.4.3 Comments

As noted above, there are two kinds of @-form comments: @;{...} is a (nestable) comment for a whole body of text (following the same rules for @-forms), and @;... is a line-comment.

  

@foo{First [email protected];{there is still a

                  newline here;}

     Second line}

  reads as  

(foo "First line"
     "\n"
     "Second line")

One useful property of line-comments is that they continue to the end of the line and all following spaces (or tabs). Using this, you can get further control of the subforms.

  

@foo{A long @;

     [email protected];

     string arg.}

  reads as  

(foo "A long single-string arg.")

Note how this is different from using @||s in that strings around it are not merged.

2.4.4 Spaces, Newlines, and Indentation

The @-form syntax treats spaces and newlines in a special way is meant to be sensible for dealing with text. As mentioned above, spaces at the beginning and end of body lines are discarded, except for spaces between a { and text, or between text and a }.

  

@foo{bar}

  reads as  

(foo "bar")

  

  

@foo{ bar }

  reads as  

(foo " bar ")

  

  

@foo{ bar

     baz }

  reads as  

(foo " bar" "\n"
     "baz ")

A single newline that follows an open brace or precedes a closing brace is discarded, unless there are only newlines in the body; other newlines are read as a "\n" string

  

@foo{bar

}

  reads as  

(foo "bar")

  

  

@foo{

  bar

}

  reads as  

(foo
  "bar")

  

  

@foo{

 

  bar

 

}

  reads as  

(foo
  "\n"
  "bar" "\n")

  

  

@foo{

  bar

 

  baz

}

  reads as  

(foo
  "bar" "\n"
  "\n"
  "baz")

  

  

@foo{

}

  reads as  

(foo "\n")

  

  

@foo{

 

}

  reads as  

(foo "\n"
     "\n")

  

  

@foo{ bar

     baz }

  reads as  

(foo " bar" "\n"
     "baz ")

Spaces at the beginning of body lines do not appear in the resulting S-expressions, but the column of each line is noticed, and all-space indentation strings are added so the result has the same indentation. A indentation string is added to each line according to its distance from the leftmost syntax object (except for empty lines). (Note: if you try these examples on a Racket REPL, you should be aware that the reader does not know about the “> ” prompt.)

  

@foo{

  bar

  baz

  blah

}

  reads as  

(foo
  "bar" "\n"
  "baz" "\n"
  "blah")

  

  

@foo{

  begin

    x++;

  end}

  reads as  

(foo
  "begin" "\n" "  "
  "x++;" "\n"
  "end")

  

  

@foo{

    a

   b

  c}

  reads as  

(foo "  "
     "a" "\n" " "
     "b" "\n"
     "c")

If the first string came from the opening { line, it is not prepended with an indentation (but it can affect the leftmost syntax object used for indentation). This makes sense when formatting structured code as well as text (see the last example in the following block).

  

@foo{bar

       baz

     bbb}

  reads as  

(foo "bar" "\n" "  "
     "baz" "\n"
     "bbb")

  

  

@foo{ bar

        baz

      bbb}

  reads as  

(foo " bar" "\n" "   "
     "baz" "\n" " "
     "bbb")

  

  

@foo{bar

   baz

   bbb}

  reads as  

(foo "bar" "\n"
     "baz" "\n"
     "bbb")

  

  

@foo{ bar

   baz

   bbb}

  reads as  

(foo " bar" "\n"
     "baz" "\n"
     "bbb")

  

  

@foo{ bar

   baz

     bbb}

  reads as  

(foo " bar" "\n"
     "baz" "\n" "  "
     "bbb")

  

  

@text{Some @b{bold

  text}, and

  more text.}

  reads as  

(text "Some " (b "bold" "\n"
                 "text")", and" "\n"
                        "more text.")

Note that each @-form is parsed to an S-expression that has its own indentation. This means that Scribble source can be indented like code, but if indentation matters then you may need to apply indentation of the outer item to all lines of the inner one. For example, in

@code{

  begin

    i = 1, r = 1

    @bold{while i < n do

            r *= i++

          done}

  end

}

a formatter will need to apply the 2-space indentation to the rendering of the bold body.

Note that to get a first-line text to be counted as a leftmost line, line and column accounting should be on for the input port (use-at-readtable turns them on for the current input port). Without this,

@foo{x1

       x2

       x3}

will not have 2-space indentations in the parsed S-expression if source accounting is not on, but

@foo{x1

       x2

     x3}

will (due to the last line). Pay attention to this, as it can be a problem with Racket code, for example:

@code{(define (foo x)

        (+ x 1))}

For rare situations where spaces at the beginning (or end) of lines matter, you can begin (or end) a line with a @||.

  

@foo{

  @|| bar @||

  @|| baz}

  reads as  

(foo
  " bar " "\n"
  " baz")