Applying programs and commands#

In the Commands chapter we’ve touched briefly how commands are executed, but there’s a few more general things to cover when it comes to how delayed/partial programs and commands are executed in general.

Application in a nutshell#

We execute programs and commands by applying them to some values—or to no values, in the case of nullary functions and thunks. The form of this “application” varies depending on which kind of thing we’re trying to execute.


For commands, the application follows the same syntax we’ve used to declare the command. That is, if we declare a command like this:

command A + B = // body omitted...

Then we could execute it with:

1 + 2

Likewise, if we declare a command like:

command A then: B and-finally: C = // body omitted...

We’d execute it with:

1 then: 2 and-finally: 3

So the expressions that compute a value will always go in the same place requirements appear in the command declaration.


This is not the case for partial programs. If we have a partial program like the following:

let Add-one = _ + 1;

Then we always apply it by suffixing the program with a parenthesised list of values—which should match the number of requirements we have:


The same is true for regular delayed programs, and partial programs created with curly brackets:

let Hello = { show: "Hello" };
let Add-two = { A in A + 2 };



Thunks are yet another case. When we have a lazy delayed program (or thunk) like the following:

let Three = lazy (1 + 2);

Then our only way of applying this is by using the force special syntax:

force Three;


When we have more complex applications, how exactly do we tell Crochet which one goes first? Crochet has an internal idea of precedence in its notation that decides this. This is similar to the convention you might have seen in school for arithmetic expressions. Crochet’s convention has less rules though.

In Crochet, we first execute function applications, then unary command applications, then binary command applications, and finally keyword command applications.

That is, if we have the following expression:

1 + 2 is-disivible-by: Three() * 2 successor

Then Crochet will see this, more explicitly, as the following parenthesised expression:

(1 + 2) is-divisible-by: ((Three()) * (2 successor))

Meaning that we’ll first execute 1 + 2. Then we’ll execute Three(), then we’ll execute 2 successor. Then _ * _ with the result of those two. And finally _ is-divisible-by: _.

A note on arithmetic convention#

You might have learned in algebra classes that, in arithmetic expressions, there’s a common convention of performing multiplication before addition, and so on. There’s no such convention in Crochet. If you write the following arithmetic expression:

1 + 2 * 3

Crochet will complain, loudly, that your expression is ambiguous, and will refuse to execute this program. To fix it you need to explicitly parenthesise the expressions and decide which one should be executed first. The following are both valid, but compute different values:

(1 + 2) * 3;    // this results in 9

1 + (2 * 3);    // this results in 7

There is, however, an exception to this. It is possible to combine associative binary commands without parenthesis—that is, if Crochet has a guarantee that the different groupings of the operations will not affect the result, then it’s not a problem to combine them without parenthesis. This is only true as far as the unparenthesised operator is the same. In Crochet, the _ ++ _, _ + _, _ * _, _ and _, and _ or _ operators are associative. Meaning that the following expressions are valid:

1 + 2 + 3 + 4;    // always results in 10

1 * 2 * 3 * 4;    // always results in 24

[1] ++ [2] ++ [3] ++ [4]  // always results in [1, 2, 3, 4]

true and true and false;  // always results in false

true or true or false;    // always results in true

Everything else needs to be parenthesised.


When we’re dealing with unparenthesised, complex expressions, they may be grouped differently depending on how they associate. Things can be left-associative (parenthesis favour things to the left) or right-associative (parenthesis favour things to the right). Expressions in Crochet are always left-associative.

That is, if we have a sequence of arithmetic addition, like the following:

1 + 2 + 3 + 4

Then Crochet will see this expression as follows:

(((1 + 2) + 3) + 4)

Note how the parenthesis start on the left and gradually extend to embrace expressions more to the right. This plays into the guarantee that Crochet also executes code more to the left first.

Associativity doesn’t play as much of a role in Crochet as it might in other programming languages, however, because we only allow unparenthesised expressions that are commutative. That is, the result of the entire unparenthesised must be the same regardless of which order Crochet decides to execute it in any case. However, thinking about the particular order Crochet chooses might be important when thinking about performance.


Because the precedence rules in Crochet say that keyword commands always have the same precedence, it’s not possible to combine them without using parenthesis, or storing intermediary results in variables. This makes things a bit inconvenient when these commands are fairly common.

For example, consider the case where you may be trying to shape a collection of moves by their effectiveness. You could write code that looks like the following:

// Get the list of moves the player can use now
let Moves = player available-moves;

// Compute the effectiveness of each possible move
let Moves-with-effectiveness = Moves map: (_ compute-effectiveness);

// Keep the more effective moves first
let Sorted-moves-with-effectiveness =
  Moves-with-effectiveness sort-descending-by: (_ effectiveness);

// We only care about the name of the move
let Move-names = Sorted-moves-with-effectiveness map: (_ name);

This works, but the names we’re using don’t really help us much with reading the program—in fact, because they take so much space stating things that are already there, it ends up making programs a bit more cumbersome to read. And while we could get rid of names by using parenthesis, doing so makes it even worse:

((((player available-moves)
      map: (_ compute-effectiveness))
        sort-descending-by: (_ effectiveness))
          map: (_ name));

Even trying to use the layout of the code to hint at how each of these expressions are related is fraught. The parenthesis are not just distracting—they take too much effort to maintain, too.

For these cases, Crochet allows the use of “pipes” instead. A pipe allows one to apply a command to the result of a previous command. With this we can create a sort of “pipeline”, which tells Crochet: “First do this, then do this other thing to that result, and then this other thing, and then…”.

Using the the pipe command application syntax (|) our code would read like this instead:

player available-moves
  | map: (_ compute-effectiveness)
  | sort-descending-by: (_ effectiveness)
  | map: (_ name);

Functional pipes#

The pipe command application syntax is restricted to a single command at the right, and the result is always taken to be the first argument for that command. With the way Crochet is designed, this is often what you want, and it reduces the amount of plumbing you need to care about.

Sometimes, however, you need a bit more of flexibility. Function application pipes are an alternative for building pipelines where we have more arbitrary expressions, or the target for the result flowing through the pipeline is not always the first argument. Functional pipelines use the |> syntax, and expect a partial program with one parameter on its right.

Using partial application and functional pipelines we would get the following:

player available-moves
  |> _ map: (_ compute-effectiveness)
  |> _ sort-descending-by: (_ effectiveness)
  |> _ map: (_ name);