On this page:
2.1 Notation for Module Documentation
2.2 Notation for Syntactic Form Documentation
2.3 Notation for Function Documentation
2.4 Notation for Structure Type Documentation
2.5 Notation for Parameter Documentation
2.6 Notation for Other Documentation

2 Notation for Documentation

This chapter introduces essential terminology and notation that is used throughout Racket documentation.

2.1 Notation for Module Documentation

Since Racket programs are organized into modules, documentation reflects that organization with an annotation at the beginning of a section or subsection that describes the bindings that a particular module provides.

For example, the section that describes the functionality provided by racket/list starts

 (require racket/list) package: base

Instead of require, some modules are introduced with #lang:

 #lang racket/base package: base

Using #lang means that the module is normally used as the language of a whole module—that is, by a module that starts #lang followed by the language—instead of imported with require. Unless otherwise specified, however, a module name documented with #lang can also be used with require to obtain the language’s bindings.

The module annotation also shows the package that the module belongs to on the right-hand side. For more details about packages, see Package Management in Racket.

Sometimes, a module specification appears at the beginning of a document or at the start of a section that contains many subsections. The document’s section or section’s subsections are meant to “inherit” the module declaration of the enclosing document or section. Thus, bindings documented in The Racket Reference are available from racket and racket/base unless otherwise specified in a section or subsection.

2.2 Notation for Syntactic Form Documentation

+Notation in The Racket Guide introduces this notation for syntactic forms.

Syntactic forms are specified with a grammar. Typically, the grammar starts with an open parenthesis followed by the syntactic form’s name, as in the grammar for if:


(if test-expr then-expr else-expr)

Since every form is expressed in terms of syntax objects, parentheses in a grammar specification indicate a syntax object wrapping a list, and the leading if is an identifier that starts the list whose binding is the if binding of the module being documented—in this case, racket/base. Square brackets in the grammar indicate a syntax-object list in the same way as parentheses, but in places square brackets are normally used by convention in a program’s source.

Italic identifiers in the grammar are metavariables that correspond to other grammar productions. Certain metavariable names have implicit grammar productions:

In a grammar, form ... stands for any number of forms (possibly zero) matching form, while form ...+ stands for one or more forms matching form.

Metavariables without an implicit grammar are defined by productions alongside the syntactic form’s overall grammar. For example, in


(lambda formals body ...+)

formals = id
  | (id ...)
  | (id ...+ . rest-id)

the formals metavariable stands for either an identifier, zero or more identifiers in a syntax-object list, or a syntax object corresponding to a chain of one or more pairs where the chain ends in an identifier instead of an empty list.

Some syntactic forms have multiple top-level grammars, in which case the documentation of the syntactic forms shows multiple grammars. For example,


(init-rest id)


indicates that init-rest can either be alone in its syntax-object list or followed by a single identifier.

Finally, a grammar specification that includes expr metavariables may be augmented with run-time contracts on some of the metavariables, which indicate a predicate that the result of the expression must satisfy at run time. For example,


(parameterize ([parameter-expr value-expr] ...)
  body ...+)
  parameter-expr : parameter?

indicates that the result of each parameter-expr must be a value v for which (parameter? v) returns true.

2.3 Notation for Function Documentation

Procedures and other values are described using a notation based on contracts. In essence, these contracts describe the interfaces of the documented library using Racket predicates and expressions.

For example, the following is the header of the definition of a typical procedure:


(char->integer char)  exact-integer?

  char : char?

The function being defined, char->integer, is typeset as if it were being applied. The metavariables that come after the function name stand in for arguments. The white text in the corner identifies the kind of value that is being documented.

Each metavariable is described with a contract. In the preceding example, the metavariable char has the contract char?. This contract specifies that any argument char that answers true to the char? predicate is valid. The documented function may or may not actually check this property, but the contract signals the intent of the implementer.

The contract on the right of the arrow, exact-integer? in this case, specifies the expected result that is produced by the function.

Contract specifications can be more expressive than just names of predicates. Consider the following header for argmax:


(argmax proc lst)  any

  proc : (-> any/c real?)
  lst : (and/c pair? list?)

The contract (-> any/c real?) denotes a function contract specifying that proc’s argument can be any single value and the result should be a real number. The contract (and/c pair? list?) for lst specifies that lst should pass both pair? and list? (i.e., that it is a non-empty list).

Both -> and and/c are examples of contract combinators. Contract combinators such as or/c, cons/c, listof, and others are used throughout the documentation. Clicking on the hyperlinked combinator name will provide more information on its meaning.

A Racket function may be documented as having one or more optional arguments. The read function is an example of such a function:


(read [in])  any

  in : input-port? = (current-input-port)

The brackets surrounding the in argument in the application syntax indicates that it is an optional argument.

The header for read specifies a contract for the parameter in as usual. To the right of the contract, it also specifies a default value (current-input-port) that is used if read is called with no arguments.

Functions may also be documented as accepting mandatory or optional keyword-based arguments. For example, the sort function has two optional, keyword-based arguments:


(sort lst    
  [#:key extract-key    
  #:cache-keys? cache-keys?])  list?
  lst : list?
  less-than? : (any/c any/c . -> . any/c)
  extract-key : (any/c . -> . any/c) = (lambda (x) x)
  cache-keys? : boolean? = #f

The brackets around the extract-key and cache-keys? arguments indicate that they are optional as before. The contract section of the header shows the default values that are provided for these keyword arguments.

2.4 Notation for Structure Type Documentation

A structure type is also documented using contract notation:


(struct color (red green blue alpha))

  red : (and/c natural-number/c (<=/c 255))
  green : (and/c natural-number/c (<=/c 255))
  blue : (and/c natural-number/c (<=/c 255))
  alpha : (and/c natural-number/c (<=/c 255))

The structure type is typeset as it were declared in the source code of a program using the struct form. Each field of the structure is documented with a corresponding contract that specifies the values that are accepted for that field.

In the example above, the structure type color has four fields: red, green, blue, and alpha. The constructor for the structure type accepts field values that satisfy (and/c natural-number/c (<=/c 255)), i.e., non-negative exact integers up to 255.

Additional keywords may appear after the field names in the documentation for a structure type:


(struct data-source (connector args extensions)
  connector : (or/c 'postgresql 'mysql 'sqlite3 'odbc)
  args : list?
  extensions : (listof (list/c symbol? any/c))

Here, the #:mutable keyword indicates that the fields of instances of the data-source structure type can be mutated with their respective setter functions.

2.5 Notation for Parameter Documentation

A parameter is documented the same way as a function:


(current-command-line-arguments)  (vectorof string?)

(current-command-line-arguments argv)  void?
  argv : (vectorof (and/c string? immutable?))

Since parameters can be referenced or set, there are two entries in the header above. Calling current-command-line-arguments with no arguments accesses the parameter’s value, which must be a vector whose elements pass both string? and immutable?. Calling current-command-line-arguments with a single argument sets the parameter’s value, where the value must be a vector whose elements pass string? (and a guard on the parameter coerces the strings to immutable form, if necessary).

2.6 Notation for Other Documentation

Some libraries provide bindings to constant values. These values are documented with a separate header:


object% : class?

The racket/class library provides the object% value, which is the root of the class hierarchy in Racket. Its documentation header just indicates that it is a value that satisfies the predicate class?.