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MathGroup Archive 2006

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RE: Best practice for naming of options

  • To: mathgroup at smc.vnet.net
  • Subject: [mg71493] RE: [mg71473] Best practice for naming of options
  • From: "David Park" <djmp at earthlink.net>
  • Date: Mon, 20 Nov 2006 18:11:56 -0500 (EST)

Andrew,

What is wrong with using a name like MySpaceScaleFunction, or assuming that
the option is actually associated with some function Foo, FooScaleFunction?
You say that it produces cumbersome option names but if you have a usage
message for it one can then use command completion Ctrl-K to bring up the
options or routines that start with Foo say. So it is not all that
cumbersome, and having longer specific names vastly cuts down on the
possibility of conflicts. In my opinion, longer specific names are much
better than short ambiguous names.

David Park
djmp at earthlink.net
http://home.earthlink.net/~djmp/

From: Andrew Moylan [mailto:andrew.j.moylan at gmail.com]

Hi all,

When writing my own functions that use options, I sometimes have a
problem where option names become shadowed by other packages that are
loaded later. For example, I might want to use an option called
ScaleFunction:

BeginPackage["MySpace`"];
ScaleFunction::"usage" = "hello";
EndPackage[];

Needs["Graphics`"]

Now the name ScaleFunction is shadowed by the option of the same name
from the Graphics package:

Evaluating
  ? ScaleFunction
gives
  Graphics`Common`GraphicsCommon`ScaleFunction

I can think of two possible solutions to this problem, each with a
different problem:

(1) I could try to always choose unique names for my options. This
produces cumbersome option names and in any case only works until I or
someone else writes a package with that option name.

(2) I could use _strings_ for option names instead of symbols:
Func["ScaleFunction" -> x] instead of Func[ScaleFunction -> x]. I have
seen this done sometimes in the built-in Mathematica functions.
Unfortunately, with this approach it no longer becomes possible to
define usage text for options in the usual way:

  "ScaleFunction"::usage = "ScaleFunction is an option to Func that
...";
gives the warning
  Message::name : Message name ScaleFunction::usage is not of the form
\
symbol::name or symbol::name::language.

Is there a way to get the best of both worlds (define usage strings AND
ensure that option names don't become shadowed)?

Cheers,
Andrew

P.S. I observe that the built-in function NSum has an option called
NSumTerms. I think this option would be better called Terms. Could it
be that the writers of that function faced the same dilemma that I am
facing?



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