On this page:
3.1 Invoking mztext
3.2 mztext processing:   the standard command dispatcher
3.3 Provided bindings

3 mztext

mztext is another Racket-based preprocessing language. It can be used as a preprocessor in a similar way to mzpp since it also uses preprocessor/pp-run functionality. However, mztext uses a completely different processing principle, it is similar to TeX rather than the simple interleaving of text and Racket code done by mzpp.

Text is being input from file(s), and by default copied to the standard output. However, there are some magic sequences that trigger handlers that can take over this process—these handlers gain complete control over what is being read and what is printed, and at some point they hand control back to the main loop. On a high-level point of view, this is similar to “programming” in TeX, where macros accept as input the current input stream. The basic mechanism that makes this programming is a composite input port which is a prependable input port—so handlers are not limited to processing input and printing output, they can append their output back on the current input which will be reprocessed.

The bottom line of all this is that mztext is can perform more powerful preprocessing than the mzpp, since you can define your own language as the file is processed.

3.1 Invoking mztext

Use the -h flag to get the available flags. SEE above for an explanation of the --run flag.

3.2 mztext processing: the standard command dispatcher

mztext can use arbitrary magic sequences, but for convenience, there is a default built-in dispatcher that connects Racket code with the preprocessed text—by default, it is triggered by @. When file processing encounters this marker, control is transferred to the command dispatcher. In its turn, the command dispatcher reads a Racket expression (using read), evaluates it, and decides what to do next. In case of a simple Racket value, it is converted to a string and pushed back on the preprocessed input. For example, the following text:



  @(+ 1 2)

  @"@(* 3 4)"

  @(/ (read) 3)12

generates this output:






An explanation of a few lines:

The complete behavior of the command dispatcher follows:

A built-in convenient behavior is that if the evaluation of the Racket expression returned a #<void> or #f value (or multiple values that are all #<void> or #f), then the next newline is swallowed using swallow-newline (see below) if there is just white spaces before it.

During evaluation, printed output is displayed as is, without re-processing. It is not hard to do that, but it is a little expensive, so the choice is to ignore it. (A nice thing to do is to redesign this so each evaluation is taken as a real filter, which is done in its own thread, so when a Racket expression is about to evaluated, it is done in a new thread, and the current input is wired to that thread’s output. However, this is much too heavy for a "simple" preprocesser...)

So far, we get a language that is roughly the same as we get from mzpp (with the added benefit of reprocessing generated text, which could be done in a better way using macros). The special treatment of procedure values is what allows more powerful constructs. There are handled by their arity (preferring a the nullary treatment over the unary one):

Remember that when procedures are used, generated output is not reprocessed, just like evaluating other expressions.

3.3 Provided bindings

 (require preprocessor/mztext) package: preprocessor

Similarly to mzpp, preprocessor/mztext contains both the implementation as well as user-visible bindings.

Dispatching-related bindings:


(command-marker)  string?

(command-marker str)  void?
  str : string?

A string parameter-like procedure that can be used to set a different command marker string. Defaults to @. It can also be set to #f which will disable the command dispatcher altogether. Note that this is a procedure—it cannot be used with parameterize.


(dispatchers)  (listof list?)

(dispatchers disps)  void?
  disps : (listof list?)
A parameter-like procedure (same as command-marker) holding a list of lists—each one a dispatcher regexp and a handler function. The regexp should not have any parenthesized subgroups, use "(?:...)" for grouping. The handler function is invoked whenever the regexp is seen on the input stream: it is invoked on two arguments—the matched string and a continuation thunk. It is then responsible for the rest of the processing, usually invoking the continuation thunk to resume the default preprocessing. For example:

    @(define (foo-handler str cont)

       (add-to-input (list->string

                      (reverse (string->list (get-arg)))))


    @(dispatchers (cons (list "foo" foo-handler) (dispatchers)))






Note that the standard command dispatcher uses the same facility, and it is added by default to the dispatcher list unless command-marker is set to #f.


(make-composite-input v ...)  input-port?

  v : any/c
Creates a composite input port, initialized by the given values (input ports, strings, etc). The resulting port will read data from each of the values in sequence, appending them together to form a single input port. This is very similar to input-port-append, but it is extended to allow prepending additional values to the beginning of the port using add-to-input. The mztext executable relies on this functionality to be able to push text back on the input when it is supposed to be reprocessed, so use only such ports for the current input port.


(add-to-input v ...)  void?

  v : any/c
This should be used to “output” a string (or an input port) back on the current composite input port. As a special case, thunks can be added to the input too—they will be executed when the “read header” goes past them, and their output will be added back instead. This is used to plant handlers that happen when reading beyond a specific point (for example, this is how the directory is changed to the processed file to allow relative includes). Other simple values are converted to strings using format, but this might change.


(paren-pairs)  (listof (list/c string? string?))

(paren-pairs pairs)  void?
  pairs : (listof (list/c string? string?))
This is a parameter holding a list of lists, each one holding two strings which are matching open/close tokens for get-arg.


(get-arg-reads-word?)  boolean?

(get-arg-reads-word? on?)  void?
  on? : any/c
A parameter that holds a boolean value defaulting to #f. If true, then get-arg will read a whole word (non-whitespace string delimited by whitespaces) for arguments that are not parenthesized with a pair in paren-pairs.


(get-arg)  (or/c string? eof-object?)

This function will retrieve a text argument surrounded by a paren pair specified by paren-pairs. First, an open-pattern is searched, and then text is assembled making sure that open-close patterns are respected, until a matching close-pattern is found. When this scan is performed, other parens are ignored, so if the input stream has {[(}, the return value will be "[(". It is possible for both tokens to be the same, which will have no nesting possible. If no open-pattern is found, the first non-whitespace character is used, and if that is also not found before the end of the input, an eof value is returned. For example (using defcommand which uses get-arg):

    @(paren-pairs (cons (list "|" "|") (paren-pairs)))


    @verb abc

    @(get-arg-reads-word? #t)

    @verb abc

    @verb |FOO|








    verb: expecting an argument for `X'


(get-arg*)  (or/c string? eof-object?)

Similar to get-arg, except that the resulting text is first processed. Since arguments are usually text strings, “programming” can be considered as lazy evaluation, which sometimes can be too inefficient (TeX suffers from the same problem). The get-arg* function can be used to reduce some inputs immediately after they have been read.


(swallow-newline)  void?

This is a simple command that simply does this:

(regexp-try-match #rx"^[ \t]*\r?\n" (stdin))

The result is that a newline will be swallowed if there is only whitespace from the current location to the end of the line. Note that as a general principle regexp-try-match should be preferred over regexp-match for mztext’s preprocessing.


(defcommand name args text)  void?

  name : any/c
  args : list?
  text : string?
This is a command that can be used to define simple template commands. It should be used as a command, not from Racket code directly, and it should receive three arguments:

For example, the sample code above:

  @defcommand{ttref}{url text}{<a href="url">@tt{text}</a>}

is translated to the following definition expression:

(define (ttref)
  (let ([url (get-arg)] [text (get-arg)])
    (list "<a href=\"" url "\">@tt{" text "}</a>")))

which is then evaluated. Note that the arguments play a role as both Racket identifiers and textual markers.


(include file ...)  void?

  file : path-string?
This will add all of the given inputs to the composite port and run the preprocessor loop. In addition to the given inputs, some thunks are added to the input port (see add-to-input above) to change directory so relative includes work.

If it is called with no arguments, it will use get-arg to get an input filename, therefore making it possible to use this as a dispatcher command as well.


(preprocess in)  void?

  in : (or/c path-string? input-port?)
This is the main entry point to the preprocessor—creating a new composite port, setting internal parameters, then calling include to start the preprocessing.


stdin : parameter?


stdout : parameter?


stderr : parameter?


cd : parameter?

These are shorter names for the corresponding port parameters and current-directory.


(current-file)  path-string?

(current-file path)  void?
  path : path-string?
This is a parameter that holds the name of the currently processed file, or #f if none.