Sequences of named code-generation stages are called pipelines.

§1. Variables and filenames. For an introduction to pipelines, first read the section Using Inter.

In that section, two variables *in and *out appeared, but no others. Those were automatically set as needed: *in was the file specified first in the command, while *out was the value of the -o output file switch.

In fact, though, any number of variables can be set at the command line. -variable '*magicword=zooge', for example, creates the variable *magicword and sets its initial value to "zooge".

Of course, this has no practical effect unless the pipeline we are running makes use of such a variable. But we might imagine running:

    $ inter/Tangled/inter my.intert -pipeline-file mypl.interpipeline -variable '*textual=v1.intert' -variable '*binary=v2.interb'

where mypl.interpipeline reads:

read <- *in
generate text -> *textual
generate binary -> *binary

This will then write out the same Inter program in two different formats, to two different files.

§2. Variables hold only text, and generally represent filenames. Variable names begin with a star *. When a pipeline runs, the value of a variable is substituted for its name. For example,

    $ inter/Tangled/inter -variable '*X=ex/why' -pipeline-file mypl.interpipeline

creates the variable *X with the textual contents ex/why before running the given pipeline. Inside the pipeline, a line such as:

    generate inform6 -> *X

would then be read as:

    generate inform6 -> ex/why

After variable substitution like this, filenames inside the pipeline description are interpreted as follows:

§3. The special variable *log, which always exists, means the debugging log. A command to write a text file to *log is interpreted instead to mean "spool the output you would otherwise write to the debugging log instead". For example,

    generate inventory -> *log

§4. Pipelines run by Inform. To Inbuild and Inform, pipelines are resources in their own right, rather like extensions or kits. So, for example, the standard distribution includes


which is the one used for standard compilation runs. A project's Materials folder is free to provide a replacement:


...and then this will be used instead when compiling Strange.inform.

1. This sentence in Inform source text:

Use inter pipeline "NAME".

replaces the pipeline normally used for code generation with the one supplied. (That may very well cause the compiler not to produce viable code, of course.) The default Inter pipeline is called compile, and comes built-in. Named pipelines are stored alongside named extensions and other resources used by Inform; so for example you could write:

Use inter pipeline "mypipeline".

And then store the actual pipeline file as:

    Example Work.materials/Pipelines/mypipeline.interpipeline

2. You don't need the Use... sentence, though, if you're willing to choose on the command line instead:

    $ inform7/Tangled/inform7 ... -pipeline NAME

Or, if you want to name a file explicitly, not have it looked for by name:

    $ inform7/Tangled/inform7 ... -pipeline-file FILE

3. Finally, you can also give Inform 7 an explicit pipeline in textual form:

    $ inform7/Tangled/inform7 ... -pipeline-text 'PIPELINE'

Note that Inbuild and Inform 7 respond to all three of -pipeline, -pipeline-file and -pipeline-text, whereas Inter responds only to the last two. (It can't find pipelines by name because it doesn't contain the supervisor module for sorting out resources.)

§5. Syntax of pipeline descriptions. Pipelines are, roughly speaking, just lists of steps. Each step occupies a single line: blank lines are ignored, and so are lines whose first non-white-space character is a !, which are considered comments.

A step description is often as simple as being the name of a stage, but sometimes that name is accompanied by parameters.

The difference between a step and a stage is illustrated by this example:

    This is a comment

    read <- *in

    generate text -> *tout
    generate binary -> *bout

Here there are three steps. The first uses the read stage; the second and third use the generate stage, but with different parameters.

There are three sorts of stage description: those involving material coming in, denoted by a left arrow, those involving some external file being written out, denoted by a right arrow, and those which just process what we have. These take the following forms:


The STAGENAME never contains white space; hyphens are used instead. So, for example, eliminate-redundant-labels is a valid STAGENAME.

The [TREE] is optional. For example:

    read 2 <- *in
    generate 3 -> *out

Pipeline descriptions allow us to manage up to 10 different Inter trees, and these are called 0 to 9. These are all initially empty. Any stage which doesn't specify a tree is considered to apply to 0; so pipelines often never mention the digits 0 to 9 at all because they always work inside 0.

Another optional feature, not currently made use of by any stages, is that the description can specify an exact package in a tree, giving its name in URL form. Thus:

    hypothetical-stage /main/whatever
    hypothetical-stage 6:/main/whatever

The stages currently built in to inter do not work on individual packages, but they did at one time in the past, and the infrastructure for it remains in case useful in future.

SOURCE and DESTINATION specify, usually, files to read or write, but they are often in fact given as variables, whose names start with an asterisk *. Variables have to be set in advance, either at the command line (see above) or by the tool calling for the pipeline to be run, e.g., the supervisor module inside Inform 7.

§6. Pipelines can also include each other. For example, the step:

    run pipeline assimilate

causes the whole assimilate pipeline to be run at that point. Indeed, Inform 7's main pipeline compile uses this to break its task into subtasks:

read <- *in

run pipeline assimilate
run pipeline link
run pipeline optimise

The following does nothing if the variable *tout does not exist and it
will exist only when debugging:
optionally-generate text -> *tout

generate -> *out

§7. Dictionary of stages. The following gives a brief guide to the available stages, in alphabetical order. See also What This Module Does (in pipeline) for how (some of) these stages are used when building kits or projects.

§8. compile-splats. A "splat" node holds a single Inform 6-written statement or directive, and thus represents not-yet-compiled material. This stage converts all remaining splat nodes to Inter code. Note that resolve-conditional-compilation must already have run for this to handle #ifdef and the like properly.

For the implementation, see Compile Splats Stage (in pipeline).

§9. detect-indirect-calls. Handles an edge case in linking where a function call in one compilation unit, e.g., X(1), turned out more complicated because X, defined in another compilation unit, was a variable holding the address of a function, and not as expected the name of a specific function.

For the implementation, see Detect Indirect Calls Stage (in pipeline).

§10. eliminate-redundant-labels. Performs peephole optimisation on functions to remove all labels which are declared but can never be jumped to. At the end of this stage, all labels inside functions are targets of some branch, either by inv !jump or in assembly language.

For the implementation, see Eliminate Redundant Labels Stage (in pipeline).

§11. eliminate-redundant-matter. Works through the dependency graph of the Inter tree to find packages which are never needed (such as functions never called), and remove them, thus making the final executable smaller.

Note that this is experimental, does not yet properly work, and is not used in the built-in compile pipeline.

For the implementation, see Eliminate Redundant Matter Stage (in pipeline).

§12. eliminate-redundant-operations. Performs peephole optimisation on functions to remove arithmetic or logical operations which can be proved to have neither a direct effect nor any side-effect: for example, performing x + 0 rather than just evaluating x.

For the implementation, see Eliminate Redundant Operations Stage (in pipeline).

§13. generate [FORMAT] -> [DESTINATION]. Produces "final code" in some format, writing it to an external file specified as the destination. If not given, the format will be the one chosen by the supervisor module.

Note that the special destination *log writes to the debugging log rather than to some other external file.

The current list of valid formats is: inform6, c, binary, text, inventory. Of these binary and text are faithful, direct representations of Inter trees; inventory is a human-readable summary of the contents; but the others are genuine conversions to code which can be run through other compilers to make executable programs.

For the implementation, see Code Generation (in final).

§14. index. This is functional only when run as part of the compilation pipeline used on code generated by Inform 7; it will (silently) do nothing if used in any other pipeline. Depending on command-line settings, it also updates extension documentation and generates an EPS form of the map of an IF project.

For the implementation, see Index Stage (in index).

§15. load-binary-kits. Kits are libraries of Inter code which support the operation of Inform programs at runtime. When "built" (using inter with the build-kit pipeline), a kit provides a binary Inter file of code for each possible architecture. This stage gathers up all needed kits, and loads them into the current tree, thus considerably expanding it.

Note that the list of "needed" kits has to be specified in advance of the pipeline being run. For Inform compilations, this is handled automatically by the supervisor module, but it can also be done via the command line.

For the implementation, see Load Binary Kits Stage (in pipeline).

§16. load-kit-source <- [SOURCE]. Reads a file of Inform 6-syntax source code and adds the resulting material to the Inter tree in the form of a series of "splat" nodes, one for each statement or directive. Those won't be much use as they stand, but see compile-splats.

For the implementation, see Parsing Stages (in pipeline).

§17. make-identifiers-unique. Ensures that symbols marked as needing to be unique will be translated, during any use of generate, to identifiers which are all different from each other across the entire tree. (In effect, this stage is needed because Inter has private namespaces within packages, whereas the languages we are transpiling to — to some extent C, but certainly Inform 6 — have a single global namespace, where collisions of identifiers would be very unfortunate.)

At the end of this stage, no symbol still has the MAKE_NAME_UNIQUE_ISYMF flag.

For the implementation, see Make Identifiers Unique Stage (in pipeline).

§18. make-synoptic-module. The synoptic module is a top-level section of material in the Inter tree which contains functions and arrays which index or otherwise gather up material ranging across all other modules. For example, each module originally presents itself with its own pieces of literal text, but the synoptic module then collates all of those together, sorted and de-duplicated.

For the implementation, see Make Synoptic Module Stage (in pipeline).

§19. move <- LOCATION. This moves a branch of one Inter tree to a position in another one, reconciling the necessary symbol dependencies. For example, move 1 <- 3:/main/my_fn moves the package /main/my_fn in tree 3 to the same position in tree 1. Note that this is a move, not a copy, and is as fast an operation as we can make it.

This stage is not used in the regular Inform pipelines, but exists to assist testing of the so-called "transmigration" process, which powers load-binary-kits (see above).

For the implementation, see Read, Move, Stop Stages (in pipeline).

§20. new. A completely empty Inter tree is not very useful. new adds the very basic definitions needed, and gives it a /main package.

For the implementation, see New Stage (in pipeline).

§21. optionally-generate [FORMAT] -> DESTINATION. This is identical to generate except that if the DESTINATION is given as a variable which does not exist then no error is produced, and nothing is done.

For the implementation, see Code Generation (in final).

§22. parse-insertions. This looks for INSERT_IST nodes in the tree, a small number of which may have been created by the inform7 compiler in response to uses of Include (- ... -). These can hold arbitrarily long runs of Inform 6-syntax source code, and what parse-insertions does is to break then up into splats, one for each statement or directive. Those won't be much use as they stand, but see compile-splats.

When this completes, no INSERT_IST nodes remain in the tree.

For the implementation, see Parsing Stages (in pipeline).

§23. read <- SOURCE. Copies the contents of the SOURCE file to be the new contents of the tree. The file must be an Inter file, but can be in either binary or textual format.

The special source *memory can be used if we already have a tree set up in slot 0; this is a device used by the supervisor when managing an Inform compilation, because inform7 will already have made an Inter tree in memory, and it would be inefficient to save this out to the file system and then read it in again.

For the implementation, see Read, Move, Stop Stages (in pipeline).

§24. reconcile-verbs. Looks for clashes between any verbs (i.e., command parser imperatives like PURLOIN or LOOK) which are created in different compilation units. For example, if the main source text creates a verb called ABSTRACT, which clashes with the completely different command ABSTRACT defined in CommandParserKit for debugging purposes, then how is the player to differentiate these? The reconcile-verbs stage inserts ! characters in the kit definitions where such clashes occur; thus ABSTRACT would be the source-text-defined command, and !ABSTRACT the kit-defined one.

At the end of this stage, all command parser verbs have distinct textual forms.

For the implementation, see Reconcile Verbs Stage (in pipeline).

§25. resolve-conditional-compilation. Looks for splats arising from Inform 6-syntax conditional compilation directives such as #ifdef, #ifndef, #endif; it then detects whether the relevant symbols are defined, or looks at their values, and deletes sections of code not to be compiled. At the end of this stage, there are no conditional compilation splats left in the tree. For example:

    constant (int32) MAGIC = 12345
    splat IFTRUE &"#iftrue MAGIC == 12345;\n"
    constant (int32) WIZARD = 5
    splat IFNOT &"#ifnot;\n"
    constant (int32) MUGGLE = 0
    splat ENDIF &"#endif;\n"

is resolved to:

    constant (int32) MAGIC = 12345
    constant (int32) WIZARD = 5

For the implementation, see Resolve Conditional Compilation Stage (in pipeline).

§26. shorten-wiring. Wiring is the process by which symbols in one package can refer to definitions in another one; we say S is wired to T if S in one package refers to the meaning defined by T is another one. The linking process can result in extended chains of wiring, with A wired to B which is wired to C which... and so on; the shorten-wiring stage cuts out those intermediate links so that if a symbol S is wired to T then T is not wired to anything else.

For the implementation, see Shorten Wiring Stage (in pipeline).

§27. stop. The special stage stop halts processing of the pipeline midway. At present this is only useful for making experimental edits to pipeline descriptions to see what just the first half does, without deleting the second half of the description.

For the implementation, see Read, Move, Stop Stages (in pipeline).