On this page:
12.1 The golden rule
12.2 The lozenge (◊)
12.2.1 “But I don’t want to use it ...”
12.2.2 Lozenge helpers
12.2.2.1 Dr  Racket toolbar button
12.2.2.2 Dr  Racket key shortcut
12.2.2.3 AHK script for Windows
12.2.2.4 Emacs script
12.2.2.5 Emacs input method
12.2.2.6 Vim (and Evil) digraph sequence
12.2.2.7 Compose key
12.3 The two command styles:   Pollen style & Racket style
12.3.1 The command name
12.3.1.1 Invoking tag functions
12.3.1.2 Invoking other functions
12.3.1.3 Inserting the value of a variable
12.3.1.4 Inserting metas
12.3.1.5 Retrieving metas
12.3.1.6 Inserting a comment
12.3.2 The Racket arguments
12.3.3 The text body
12.4 Embedding character entities
12.5 Adding Pollen-style commands to a Racket file
12.6 Further reading
6.12

12 Pollen command syntax

12.1 The golden rule

Pollen uses a special character — the lozenge, which looks like this: ◊ — to mark commands within a Pollen source file. So when you put a ◊ in your source, whatever comes next will be treated as a command. If you don’t, it will just be interpreted as plain text.

12.2 The lozenge (◊)

I chose the lozenge as the command character because a) it appears in almost every font, b) it’s barely used in ordinary typesetting, c) it’s not used in any programming language that I know of, and d) its shape and color allow it to stand out easily in code without being distracting.

If you’re using DrRacket, you can use the Insert Command Char button at the top of the editing window to — you guessed it — insert the command character.

If you’re using a different editor, here’s how you type it:

Mac: Option + Shift + V
Windows: holding down Alt, type 9674 on the num pad
GNU/Linux, BSD: Type Ctrl + Shift + U, then 25CA, then Enter

For more information on entering arbitrary Unicode glyphs, see Wikipedia.

12.2.1 “But I don’t want to use it ...”

Fine, but you have to pick something as your command character. If you don’t like this one, you can override it within a project — see How to override setup values.

Still, it’s not like I’m asking you to learn APL. Racket supports Unicode, so it’s a little silly to artificially limit ourselves to ASCII.

My advice: don’t knock the lozenge till you try it.

12.2.2 Lozenge helpers
12.2.2.1 DrRacket toolbar button

When you use DrRacket, you’ll see a button in the toolbar that says Insert command char. This will insert the lozenge (or whatever command character you’ve defined for your project).

12.2.2.2 DrRacket key shortcut

Courtesy of Phil Jones: “I created a file called "keys.rkt"

#lang s-exp framework/keybinding-lang

 

(keybinding "c:<" (λ (editor evt) (send editor insert "◊")))

— and loaded it into DrRacket with Edit|Keybindings | Add user-defined keybindings .... Now I can use ctrl + shift + < to put the lozenge in.”

See also Defining Custom Shortcuts in the DrRacket documentation.

12.2.2.3 AHK script for Windows

Courtesy of Matt Wilkie: “Here’s a working AHK script to have double-tap backtick send the lozenge character. It took way more time than I want to think about, once started I couldn’t let go.”

;

; Double-tap backtick sends Pollen command character (◊)

; For some reason I needed to use Unicode 'U+25CA'

; instead of the standard alt-code '9674'

;

; Adapted from http://ahkscript.org/docs/commands/SetTimer.htm

; and http://www.autohotkey.com/board/topic/145507-how-to-use-double-tap-backtick-with-pass-through/

;

#EscapeChar \

$`::

if winc_presses > 0

    {winc_presses += 1

    return

    }

 

winc_presses = 1

SetTimer, TheKey, 250 ; Wait for more presses, in milliseconds

return

 

TheKey:

    SetTimer, TheKey, off

    if winc_presses = 1 ; The key was pressed once.

        {Send `

        }

    else if winc_presses = 2 ; The key was pressed twice.

        {Send {U+25CA}

        }

 

; Regardless of which action above was triggered, reset the count to

; prepare for the next series of presses:

winc_presses = 0

return

An alternative, courtesy of Eli Barzilay: “this turns M-\ to the lozenge”:

!\:: Send {U+25CA}

12.2.2.4 Emacs script

Courtesy of Richard Le: “I chose M-\ because that’s the key for the lambda character in DrRacket.” (Eli Barzilay shortened it.)

(global-set-key "\M-\\" "◊")

12.2.2.5 Emacs input method

Courtesy of Kristoffer Haugsbakk: “Press C-\ rfc1345 RET to choose the rfc1345 input method and toggle it on. When this input method is toggled, can be produced by entering &LZ. The input method can be toggled on and off with C-\.”

12.2.2.6 Vim (and Evil) digraph sequence

Courtesy of Kristoffer Haugsbakk: “While in insert mode in Vim, or insert state in Evil (Emacs), press C-k LZ to enter . C-k lets you enter a digraph (in Vim terminology) which maps to another character. In this case, the digraph LZ maps to .

To make another mapping for this character in Vim, execute the following command: :digraphs ll 9674 to (in this case) use the digraph ll. 9674 is the decimal representation of in Unicode.”

12.2.2.7 Compose key

Courtesy of Reuben Thomas: “When using X11 (common on GNU/Linux and BSD systems), one can use the Compose key. It is often disabled by default; check your desktop environment’s keyboard settings, or at a lower level, to use the Menu key as the Compose key:

setxkbmap -option compose:menu

See man xkeyboard-config for all the ready-made options for the compose key.

Since the lozenge character does not exist in the default compose-mapping file, you need to add this to your "~/.XCompose":

<Multi_key> <l> <l> : "◊"

See man XCompose, or for more details, including many additional Compose bindings, see pointless-xcompose.”

12.3 The two command styles: Pollen style & Racket style

Pollen commands can be entered in one of two styles: Pollen style or Racket style. Both styles start with a lozenge ():

 command name [ Racket arguments ... ] { text body ... }
 ( Racket expression )

Pollen-style commands

A Pollen-style command has the three possible parts after the :

Each of the three parts is optional. You can also nest commands within each other. However:

Here are a few examples of correct Pollen-style commands:

#lang pollen
variable-name
tag{Text inside the tag.}
tag[#:attr "value"]{Text inside the tag}
get-customer-id["Brennan Huff"]
tag{His ID is get-customer-id["Brennan Huff"].}

And some incorrect examples:

#lang pollen
tag {Text inside the tag.} ; space between first and second parts
tag[Text inside the tag] ; text body needs to be within braces
tag{Text inside the tag}[#:attr "value"] ; wrong order

The next section describes each of these parts in detail.

Racket-style commands

If you’re familiar with Racket expressions, you can use the Racket-style commands to embed them within Pollen source files. It’s simple: any Racket expression becomes a Pollen command by adding to the front. So in Racket, this code:

#lang racket
(define band "Level")
(format "~a ~a" band (* 2 3 7))

Can be converted to Pollen like so:

#lang pollen
(define band "Level")
(format "~a ~a" band (* 2 3 7))

And in DrRacket, they produce the same output:

Level 42

Beyond that, there’s not much to say about Racket style — any valid Racket expression will also be a valid Racket-style Pollen command.

The relationship of Pollen style and Racket style

Even if you don’t plan to write a lot of Racket-style commands, you should be aware that under the hood, Pollen is converting all Pollen-style commands to Racket style. So a Pollen-style command that looks like this:

headline[#:size 'enormous]{Man Bites Dog!}

Is actually being turned into this Racket-style command:

(headline #:size 'enormous "Man Bites Dog!")

Thus a Pollen-style command is just an alternate way of writing a Racket-style command. (More broadly, all of Pollen is just an alternate way of using Racket.)

The corollary is that you can always write Pollen commands using whichever style is more convenient or readable. For instance, the earlier example, written in the Racket style:

#lang pollen
(define band "Level")
(format "~a ~a" band (* 2 3 7))

Can be rewritten in Pollen style:

#lang pollen
define[band]{Level}
format["~a ~a" band (* 2 3 7)]

And it will work the same way.

You can combine the two styles in whatever way makes sense to you. I typically reserve Pollen-style commands for when I’m mixing commands into textual material. Meaning, I prefer ◊headline[#:size 'enormous]{Man Bites Dog!} over (headline #:size 'enormous "Man Bites Dog!"). But when I’m writing or using traditional Racket functions, I find Racket-style commands to be more readable (because they correspond to ordinary Racket syntax, and thus can be moved between Pollen and Racket source files more easily). So I prefer (define band "Level") over ◊define[band]{Level}.

12.3.1 The command name

In Pollen, you’ll likely use a command for one of these purposes:

Let’s look at each kind of use.

12.3.1.1 Invoking tag functions

By default, Pollen treats every command name as a tag function. The default tag function creates a tagged X-expression with the command name as the tag, and the text body as the content.

#lang pollen
strong{Fancy Sauce, $1}

'(strong "Fancy Sauce, $1")

To streamline markup, Pollen doesn’t restrict you to a certain set of tags, nor does it make you define your tags ahead of time. Just type a tag, and you can start using it.

#lang pollen
utterly-ridiculous-tag-name{Oh really?}

'(utterly-ridiculous-tag-name "Oh really?")

The one restriction is that you can’t invent names for tags that are already being used for other commands. For instance, map is a name permanently reserved by the Racket function map. It’s also a rarely-used HTML tag. But gosh, you really want to use it. Problem is, if you invoke it directly, Pollen will think you mean the other map:

#lang pollen
map{Fancy Sauce, $1}

map: arity mismatch;
the expected number of arguments does not match the given number
  given: 1
  arguments...:
    "Fancy Sauce, $1"

What to do? Read on.

12.3.1.2 Invoking other functions

Though every command name starts out as a default tag function, it doesn’t necessarily end there. You have two options for invoking other functions: defining your own, or invoking others from Racket.

Defining your own functions

Use the define command to create your own function for a command name. After that, when you use the command name, you’ll get the new behavior. For instance, recall this example showing the default tag-function behavior:

#lang pollen
strong{Fancy Sauce, $1}

'(strong "Fancy Sauce, $1")

We can define strong to do something else, like add to the text:

#lang pollen
(define (strong text) `(strong ,(format "Hey! Listen up! ~a" text)))
strong{Fancy Sauce, $1}

'(strong "Hey! Listen up! Fancy Sauce, $1")

The replacement function has to accept any arguments that might get passed along, but it doesn’t have to do anything with them. For instance, this function definition won’t work because strong is going to get a text body that it’s not defined to handle:

#lang pollen
(define (strong) '(fib "1 1 2 3 5 8 13 ..."))
strong{Fancy Sauce, $1}

strong: arity mismatch;
the expected number of arguments does not match the given number
  expected: 0
  given: 1
  arguments...:
    "Fancy Sauce, $1"

Whereas in this version, strong accepts an argument called text, but then ignores it:

#lang pollen
(define (strong text) '(fib "1 1 2 3 5 8 13 ..."))
strong{Fancy Sauce, $1}

'(fib "1 1 2 3 5 8 13 ...")

The text body can pass an indefinite number of arguments. A well-designed tag function should be able to handle them, unlike these synthetic examples. For a more realistic example, see The text body.

You can attach any behavior to a command name. As your project evolves, you can also update the behavior of a command name. In that way, Pollen commands become a set of hooks to which you can attach more elaborate processing.

Using Racket functions

You aren’t limited to functions you define. Any function from Racket, or any Racket library, can be invoked directly by using it as a command name. Here’s the function range, which creates a list of numbers:

#lang pollen
(range 1 20)

'(range 1 20)

Hold on — that’s not what we want. Where’s the list of numbers? The problem here is that we forgot to import the racket/list library, which contains the definition for range. (If you need to find out what library contains a certain function, the Racket documentation will tell you.) Without racket/list, Pollen just thinks we’re trying to use range as a tag function (and if we had been, then '(range 1 20) would’ve been the right result).

We fix this by using the require command to bring in the racket/list library, which contains the range we want:

#lang pollen
(require racket/list)
(range 1 20)

'(1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19)

Of course, you can also invoke Racket functions indirectly, by attaching them to functions you define for command names:

#lang pollen
(require racket/list)
(define (rick start finish) (range start finish))
(rick 1 20)

'(1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19)

Let’s return to the problem that surfaced in the last section — the fact that some command names can’t be used as tag functions because they’re already being used for other things. You can work around this by defining your own tag function with a non-conflicting name.

For instance, suppose we want to use map as a tag even though Racket is using it for its own function called map. First, we invent a command name that doesn’t conflict. Let’s call it my-map. As you learned above, Pollen will treat a new command name as a tag function by default:

#lang pollen
my-map{How I would love this to be a map.}

'(my-map "How I would love this to be a map.")

But my-map is not the tag we want. We need to define my-map to be a tag function for map. We can do this with the Pollen helper default-tag-function. That function lives in pollen/tag, so we require that too:

#lang pollen
(require pollen/tag)
(define my-map (default-tag-function 'map))
my-map{How I would love this to be a map.}

'(map "How I would love this to be a map.")

Problem solved.

12.3.1.3 Inserting the value of a variable

A Pollen command name usually refers to a function, but it can also refer to a variable, which is a data value. Once you define the variable, you can insert it into your source by using the ◊ notation without any other arguments:

#lang pollen
(define foo "bar")
The value of foo is foo

The value of foo is bar

Be careful — if you include arguments, even blank ones, Pollen will treat the command name as a function. For instance, this next example won’t work, because a variable is not a function:

#lang pollen
(define foo "bar")
The value of foo is foo[]

application: not a procedure;
expected a procedure that can be applied to arguments
  given: "bar"
  arguments...: [none]

To understand what happens here, recall the relationship between Pollen’s command styles. The Pollen-style command ◊foo[] becomes the Racket-style command (foo), which after variable substitution becomes ("bar"). If you try to evaluate ("bar") — e.g., in DrRacket — you’ll get the same error.

The reason we can simply insert ◊foo into the text body of another Pollen command is that the variable foo holds a string (i.e., a text value).

In preprocessor source files, Pollen will convert a variable to a string in a sensible way. For instance, numbers are easily converted:

#lang pollen
(define zam 42)
The value of zam is zam

The value of zam is 42

In an unsaved DrRacket file, or a file without a special Pollen source extension, the #lang pollen designation invokes the Pollen preprocessor by default. You can explicitly invoke preprocessor style by starting a file with #lang pollen/pre. See also Preprocessor (.pp extension).

If the variable holds a container datatype (like a list, hash, or vector), Pollen will produce the Racket text representation of the item. Here, zam is a list of integers:

#lang pollen
(define zam (list 1 2 3))
The value of zam is zam

The value of zam is '(1 2 3)

This feature is included for your convenience. But in general, your readers won’t want to see the Racket representation of a container. So in these cases, you should convert to a string manually in some sensible way. Here, the integers in the list are converted to strings, which are then combined using string-join from the racket/string library:

#lang pollen
(require racket/string)
(define zam (list 1 2 3))
The value of zam is (string-join (map number->string zam) " and ")

The value of zam is 1 and 2 and 3

Pollen will still produce an error if you try to convert an esoteric value to a string. Here, zam is the addition function (+):

#lang pollen
(define zam +)
The value of zam is zam

pollen: Can't convert procedure #<procedure:+> to string

In Pollen markup, the result is different. A Pollen markup file makes an X-expression, not text, so Pollen doesn’t perform any automatic text conversion — that’s your job. Suppose we take the example above — which worked with the Pollen preprocessor — and change the language to pollen/markup:

#lang pollen/markup
(define zam (list 1 2 3))
The value of zam is zam

This time, the file will produce an error:

pollen markup error: in '(root "The value of zam is " (1 2 3)), '(1 2 3) is not a valid element (must be txexpr, string, symbol, XML char, or cdata)

But the second example above, with the explicit conversion using string-join, does work in Pollen markup, because strings are valid X-expressions:

#lang pollen/markup
(require racket/string)
(define zam (list 1 2 3))
The value of zam is (string-join (map number->string zam) " and ")

'(root "The value of zam is " "1 and 2 and 3")

See File formats for more about the differences between Pollen dialects.

One special case to know about. In the examples above, there’s a word space between the variable and the other text. But suppose you need to insert a variable into text so that there’s no space in between. The simple ◊ notation won’t work, because it won’t be clear where the variable name ends and the text begins.

For instance, suppose we want to use a variable edge next to the string px:

#lang pollen
(define edge 100)
p { margin-left: edgepx; }

pollen: Can't convert procedure #<procedure:pollen-tag:edgepx> to string

The example fails because Pollen reads the whole string after the as the single variable name edgepx. Since edgepx isn’t defined, it’s treated as a tag function, and since Pollen can’t convert a function to a string, we get an error.

In these situations, surround the variable name with vertical bars ◊|like so| to explicitly indicate where the variable name ends. The bars are not treated as part of the name, nor are they included in the result. Once we do that, we get what we intended:

#lang pollen
(define edge 100)
p { margin-left: ◊|edge|px; }

p { margin-left: 100px; }

If you use this notation when you don’t need to, nothing bad will happen. The vertical bars are always ignored.

#lang pollen
(define edge 100)
The value of edge is ◊|edge| pixels}

The value of edge is 100 pixels

12.3.1.4 Inserting metas

Metas are key–value pairs embedded in a source file that are not included in the main output when the source is compiled. Rather, they’re gathered and exported as a separate hash table called, unsurprisingly, metas. This hash table is a good place to store information about the document that you might want to use later (for instance, a list of topic categories that the document belongs to).

Pollen occasionally uses metas internally. For instance, the get-template-for function will look in the metas of a source file to see if a template is explicitly specified. The pollen/core module also contains functions for working with metas, such as select-from-metas.

To make a meta, you create a tag with the special define-meta name, followed by a key name, and then a value that’s a single X-expression:

#lang pollen
 
define-meta[dog]{Roxy} ; Pollen-style syntax
some-tag[#:foo "bar"]{Normal tag}
(define-meta cat "Chopper") ; equivalent Racket-style syntax
some-tag[#:zim "zam"]{Another normal tag}

When you run a source file with metas in it, two things happen. First, the metas are removed from the output:

'(some-tag ((key "value")) "Normal tag")

'(some-tag ((key "value")) "Another normal tag")

Second, the metas are collected into a hash table that is exported with the name metas. To see this hash table, run the file above in DrRacket, then switch to the interactions window and type metas at the prompt:

> metas

'#hasheq((dog . "Roxy") (cat . "Chopper") (here-path . "unsaved-editor"))

The only key that’s automatically defined in every meta table is 'here-path, which is the absolute path to the source file. (In this case, because the file hasn’t been saved, you’ll see the "unsaved-editor" name instead.)

Still, you can override this too:

#lang pollen
 
define-meta[dog]{Roxy}
some-tag[#:key "value"]{Normal tag}
(define-meta cat "Chopper")
some-tag[#:key "value"]{Another normal tag}
(define-meta here-path "tesseract")

When you run this code, the result will be the same as before, but this time the metas will be different:

> metas

'#hasheq((dog . "Roxy") (cat . "Chopper") (here-path . "tesseract"))

It doesn’t matter how many metas you put in a source file, nor where you put them. They’ll all be extracted into the metas hash table. The order of the metas is not preserved (because order is not preserved in a hash table). But if you have two metas with the same key, the later one will supersede the earlier one:

#lang pollen
define-meta[dog]{Roxy}
(define-meta dog "Lex")

Though there are two metas named dog, only the second one persists:

> metas

'#hasheq((dog . "Lex") (here-path . "unsaved-editor"))

What if you want to use a sequence of X-expression elements as a meta value? You can convert them into a single X-expression by wrapping them in a containing tag. You can use a new tag, or even just the @ splicing tag:

#lang pollen/markup
(define-meta title @{Conclusion to em{Infinity War}})
 
The title is (select-from-metas 'title metas)

'(root "The title is " "Conclusion to " (em "Infinity War"))

12.3.1.5 Retrieving metas

The metas hashtable is available immediately within the body of your source file. You can use select to get values out of metas.

#lang pollen
(define-meta dog "Roxy")
(select 'dog metas)

Roxy

metas is an immutable hash, so you can also use immutable-hash functions, like hash-ref:

#lang pollen
(define-meta dog "Roxy")
(hash-ref metas 'dog)

Roxy

Because the metas are collected first, you can actually invoke a meta before you define it:

#lang pollen
(select 'dog metas)
(define-meta dog "Roxy")
(define-meta dog "Spooky")

Spooky

This can be useful for setting up fields that you want to include in metas but also have visible in the body of a document, like a title.

#lang pollen/markup
(define-meta title "The Amazing Truth")
h1{(select 'title metas)}

The result of this file will be:

'(root (h1 "The Amazing Truth"))

And the metas:

> metas

'#hasheq((title . "The Amazing Truth") (here-path . "unsaved-editor"))

Pro tip: Within Pollen, the fastest way to get a metas hashtable from another source file is to use cached-metas.

Pro tip #2: Outside Pollen, the metas hashtable is available when you import a Pollen source file in the usual way, but it’s also made available through a submodule called, unsurprisingly, metas.

#lang racket/base
(require "pollen-source.rkt") ; doc and metas and everything else
(require (submod "pollen-source.rkt" metas)) ; just metas

The metas submodule gives you access to the metas hashtable without compiling the rest of the file. So if you need to harvest metas from a set of source files — for instance, page titles (for a table of contents) or categories — using require with the submodule will be faster.

12.3.1.6 Inserting a comment

Two options.

To comment out the rest of a single line, use a lozenge followed by a semicolon ◊;.

#lang pollen
span{This is not a comment}
span{Nor is this} ◊;span{But this is}

'(span "This is not a comment")
'(span "Nor is this")

To comment out a multiline block, use the lozenge–semicolon signal ◊; with curly braces, ◊;{like so}.

#lang pollen
◊;{
span{This is not a comment}
span{Nor is this} ◊;span{But this is}
}
Actually, it's all a comment now

Actually, it's all a comment now

12.3.2 The Racket arguments

The middle part of a Pollen-style command contains the Racket arguments [between square brackets.] Most often, you’ll see these used to pass extra information to commands that operate on text.

For instance, tag functions. Recall from before that any not-yet-defined command name in Pollen is treated as a tag function:

#lang pollen
title{The Beginning of the End}

'(title "The Beginning of the End")

But what if you wanted to add attributes to this tag, so that it comes out like this?

'(title ((class "red")(id "first")) "The Beginning of the End")

You can do it with Racket arguments.

Here’s the hard way. You can type out your list of attributes in Racket format and drop them into the brackets as a single argument:

#lang pollen
title['((class "red")(id "first"))]{The Beginning of the End}

'(title ((class "red") (id "first")) "The Beginning of the End")

But that’s a lot of parentheses to think about. So here’s the easy way. Whenever you use a tag function, there’s a shortcut for inserting attributes. You can enter them as a series of keyword arguments between the Racket-argument brackets. The only caveat is that the values for these keyword arguments have to be strings. So taken together, they look like this:

#lang pollen
title[#:class "red" #:id "first"]{The Beginning of the End}

'(title ((class "red") (id "first")) "The Beginning of the End")

The string arguments can be any valid Racket expressions that produce strings. For instance, this will also work:

#lang pollen
title[#:class (number->string (* 6 7)) #:id "first"]{The Beginning of the End}

'(title ((class "42") (id "first")) "The Beginning of the End")

Since Pollen commands are really just Racket arguments underneath, you can use those too. Here, we’ll define a variable called name and use it in the Racket arguments of title:

#lang pollen
(define name "Brennan")
title[#:class "red" #:id name]{The Beginning of the End}

'(title ((class "read") (id "Brennan")) "The Beginning of the End")

When used in custom tag functions, keyword arguments don’t have to represent attributes. Instead, they can be used to provide options for a particular Pollen command, to avoid redundancy. Suppose that instead of using the h1 ... h6 tags, you want to consolidate them into one command called heading and select the level separately. You can do this with a keyword, in this case #:level, which is passed as a Racket argument:

#lang pollen
(define (heading #:level which text)
   `(,(string->symbol (format "h~a" which)) ,text))
 
heading[#:level 1]{Major league}
heading[#:level 2]{Minor league}
heading[#:level 6]{Trivial league}

'(h1 "Major league")
'(h2 "Minor league")
'(h6 "Trivial league")

Pro tip: See also define-tag-function, which automatically converts keyword arguments into attributes before they reach your function:

#lang pollen
(require pollen/tag)
(define-tag-function (heading attrs elems)
  (define level (cadr (assq 'level attrs)))
  `(,(string->symbol (format "h~a" level)) ,@elems))
 
heading[#:level 1]{Major league}
heading[#:level 2]{Minor league}
heading[#:level 6]{Trivial league}

'(h1 "Major league")
'(h2 "Minor league")
'(h6 "Trivial league")

12.3.3 The text body

The third part of a Pollen-style command is the text body. The text body {appears between curly braces}. It can contain any text you want. The text body can also contain other Pollen commands with their own text body. And they can contain other Pollen commands ... and so on, all the way down.

#lang pollen
div{Do it again. div{And again. div{And yet again.}}}

'(div "Do it again. " (div "And again. " (div "And yet again.")))

Three things to know about the text body.

First, the only character that needs special handling in the text body is the lozenge . A lozenge ordinarily marks a new command. So if you want an actual lozenge to appear in the text, you have to escape it by typing ◊"◊".

#lang pollen
definition{This is the lozenge: "◊"}

'(definition "This is the lozenge: ◊")

Second, the whitespace-trimming policy. Here’s the short version: if there’s a newline at either end of the text body, it is trimmed, and whitespace at the end of each line is selectively trimmed in an intelligent way. So this text body, with newlines on the ends:

#lang pollen
div{
Roomy!
 
I agree.
}

'(div "Roomy!" "\n" "\n" "I agree.")

Yields the same result as this one, without the newlines:

#lang pollen
div{Roomy!
 
I agree.}

'(div "Roomy!" "\n" "\n" "I agree.")

For the long version, please see Spaces, Newlines, and Indentation.

Third, within a multiline text body, newline characters become individual strings that are not merged with adjacent text. So what you end up with is a list of strings, not a single string. That’s why in the last example, we got this:

'(div "Roomy!" "\n" "\n" "I agree.")

Instead of this:

'(div "Roomy!\n\nI agree.")

Under most circumstances, these two tagged X-expressions will behave the same way. The biggest exception is with functions. A function that might operate on a multiline text body needs to be able to handle an indefinite number of strings. For instance, this jejune function only accepts a single argument. It will work with a single-line text body, because that produces a single string:

#lang pollen
(define (jejune text)
   `(jejune ,text))
jejune{Irrational confidence}

'(jejune "Irrational confidence")

But watch what happens with a multiline text body:

#lang pollen
(define (jejune text)
   `(jejune ,text))
jejune{Deeply
        chastened}

jejune: arity mismatch;
the expected number of arguments does not match the given number
  expected: 1
  given: 3
  arguments...:
   "Deeply"
   "\n"
   "chastened"

The answer is to use a rest argument in the function, which takes the “rest” of the arguments — however many there may be — and combines them into a single list. If we rewrite jejune with a rest argument, we can fix the problem:

#lang pollen
(define (jejune . texts)
   `(jejune ,@texts))
jejune{Deeply
        chastened}

'(jejune "Deeply" "\n" "chastened")

12.4 Embedding character entities

XML and HTML support character entities, a way of encoding Unicode characters with a name or number. For instance, in HTML, the copyright symbol © can be encoded by name as &copy; or by number as &#169;.

Entities originated as a way of embedding Unicode characters in an ASCII data stream. Pollen and Racket, however, support Unicode directly. So does every major web browser (though your document may need a Unicode character-set declaration to trigger it). So usually, your best bet is insert Unicode characters directly into your source rather than use entities.

But if you really need entities, here’s what to do. Pollen treats everything as text by default, so you can’t insert entities merely by typing them, because they’ll just be converted to text:

#lang pollen
div{copy
     169}

'(div "copy" "\n" "169")

Instead, named entities are handled as Symbols and numeric entities are, unsurprisingly, Numbers. So you can use the string->symbol and string->number functions to convert your entity input:

#lang pollen
div{string->symbol{copy}
     string->number{169}}

'(div copy "\n" 169)

Notice that in the output, there are no more quote marks around copy and 169, indicating that they’re not strings. When you pass this result to a converter like ->html, the entities will be escaped correctly:

#lang pollen
(require pollen/template)
 
->html{div{copy 169}}
 
->html{div{string->symbol{copy} string->number{169}}}

<div>copy 169</div>

<div>&copy; &#169;</div>

For numeric entities, you can also use a four-digit Unicode hex number by prefacing it with #x, which is the standard Racket prefix for a hex number:

#lang pollen
div{string->number{169}
     string->number{#x00a9}}

'(div 169 "\n" 169)

Of course, you don’t need to use string->symbol and string->number directly in your source. You can also define tag functions that generate entities. The key point is that to be treated as an entity, the return value must be a symbol or number, rather than a string.

12.5 Adding Pollen-style commands to a Racket file

 #lang pollen/mode package: pollen

Just as you can embed any Racket-style command in a Pollen source file, you can go the other way and embed Pollen-style commands in a Racket file. Just insert pollen/mode in the #lang line at the top of your source:

"pollen.rkt"
#lang pollen/mode racket/base
(require pollen/tag)
 
(define link (default-tag-function 'a))
 
(define (home-link)
  (link #:href "index.html" "Click to go home"))
 
(define (home-link-pollen-style)
  link[#:href "index.html"]{Click to go home})
 

Here, both (home-link) and (home-link-pollen-style) will produce the same X-expression as a result:

'(a ((href "index.html")) "Click to go home")

Of course, you can use pollen/mode in any Racket source file, not just "pollen.rkt".

Major caveat: pollen/mode only works with Pollen’s default command character, namely the lozenge (). If you’ve overridden this command character in your "pollen.rkt" file, your custom command character will work everywhere except in pollen/mode. This limitation is necessary to prevent the intractable situation where "pollen.rkt" relies on pollen/mode, but pollen/mode relies on a config setting in "pollen.rkt".

Also keep in mind that pollen/mode is just a syntactic convenience. It doesn’t change any of the underlying semantics of your Racket source file. Your Pollen-style commands are being translated into Racket commands and compiled along with everything else.

Another good way to use Pollen-style commands in Racket is for unit tests with rackunit. With pollen/mode, you can write your unit tests in Pollen style or Racket style (or mix them). This makes it easy to verify that Pollen-style commands will turn into the Racket values that you expect:

"pollen.rkt"
#lang pollen/mode racket/base
(require rackunit)
 
(define (tag-fn arg . text-args)
  `(div ((class ,arg)) ,@text-args))
 
(check-equal? tag-fn["42"]{hello world}
              '(div ((class "42")) "hello world"))
 
(check-equal? (tag-fn "42" "hello world")
              '(div ((class "42")) "hello world"))
 
(check-equal? tag-fn["42"]{hello world}
              'div[((class "42"))]{hello world})
 

12.6 Further reading

The Pollen language is a variant of Racket’s own text-processing language, called Scribble. Thus, most things that can be done with Scribble syntax can also be done with Pollen syntax. For the sake of clarity & brevity, I’ve only shown you the highlights here. But if you want the full story, see @ Syntax in the Scribble documentation.