Thursday, 15 October 2009

Hash of Functions

Hats off!! to larry wall.. a code snippet from his book for me to recall his creative brilliance.

When writing a complex application or network service in Perl, you might want to make a large number of commands available to your users. Such a program might have code like this to examine the user's selection and take appropriate action:

if ($cmd =~ /^exit$/i) { exit }
elsif ($cmd =~ /^help$/i) { show_help() }
elsif ($cmd =~ /^watch$/i) { $watch = 1 }
elsif ($cmd =~ /^mail$/i) { mail_msg($msg) }
elsif ($cmd =~ /^edit$/i) { $edited++; editmsg($msg); }
elsif ($cmd =~ /^delete$/i) { confirm_kill() }
else {
warn "Unknown command: `$cmd'; Try `help' next time\n";

You can also store references to functions in your data structures, just as you can store references to arrays or hashes:

%HoF = ( # Compose a hash of functions
exit => sub { exit },
help => \&show_help,
watch => sub { $watch = 1 },
mail => sub { mail_msg($msg) },
edit => sub { $edited++; editmsg($msg); },
delete => \&confirm_kill,

if ($HoF{lc $cmd}) { $HoF{lc $cmd}->() } # Call function
else { warn "Unknown command: `$cmd'; Try `help' next time\n" }

In the second to last line, we check whether the specified command name (in lowercase) exists in our "dispatch table", %HoF. If so, we invoke the appropriate command by dereferencing the hash value as a function and pass that function an empty argument list. We could also have dereferenced it as &{ $HoF{lc $cmd} }(), or simply $HoF{lc $cmd}().

For more complex datastructures and references refer to :

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