Sunday, April 19, 2015

Consumed: Parsing command line arguments (F#)

Last year, I set out to write my first node.js application; a small web application for keeping lists of everything I consume. I had something working pretty quickly, deployed it to Heroku and still find myself using it today. Since there's very little use for having it running on a server, and because I wanted something to toy with getting better at F#, I decided to port it to an F# console application.

With the UI gone, I need to resort to passing in arguments from the command line to have my program transform those into valid commands and queries that can be executed.

The set of commands and queries is limited; consume an item, remove an item and query a list of everything consumed.

Ideally I go from a sequence of strings to a typed command or query. However, when the list of arguments can't be parsed, I expect a result telling me what failed just the same.

Since we need the name to identify the command or query, I expect the input to have at least two arguments.

Arguments come in pairs; a key and a value. My first thought was to build a map here, but that made key validation, key transformations and pattern matching harder.  I can actually get away with transforming the input to a sequence of tuples.

Hoping to avoid some mistakes in the input, basic validation makes sure the keys actually look like keys, instead of a value. Keys start with a single or double dash.

Once that validation is out of the way, I strip away those dashes. That should make the two last steps easier.

The name is required, so I wrote a small function that makes sure a specific key exists.

Now that I have a list of arguments,  I can map them into a typed command or query using pattern matching.

Having written all these small functions, I can simply compose them using Scott Wlaschin's Railway oriented programmming.

This is far from a generic command line parser, but it's simple and covers my needs.

Next up, executing those commands and queries, and printing feedback.

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