An overview of the supervisor module's role and abilities.

§1. Prerequisites. The supervisor module is a part of the Inform compiler toolset. It is presented as a literate program or "web". Before diving in:

§2. The Supervisor and its Parent. The supervisor module is part of both inform7 and inbuild, and acts as a build manager. To compile an Inform project is not so atomic a task as it sounds, because the project involves not only the original source text but also some extensions, and they may need kits of Inter code, which may need to be assimilated using pipelines, ... and so on. supervisor manages this: it finds such dependent resources, and sees that they are ready as needed.

When included in inform7, the Supervisor is given a single task which is always the same: build the current Inform 7 project. But when included in inbuild, it might be asked to perform quite a variety of tasks, sometimes several at once, as specified by the user at the command line. (See Main (in inbuild).) In this discussion, "the parent" means the tool which is using supervisor, and might be either inform7 or inbuild.

§3. supervisor has a relationship with its parent tool which involves to and fro: it's not as simple as single one-time call from the parent to supervisor saying "now build this".

There is no single "go" button: instead, the Supervisor provides a suite of functions to call, each acting on a "copy" — an instance of some software at a given filing system location. When inform7 is the parent, it follows the call to Supervisor::go_operational with a single call to Copies::build on the copy representing the current Inform 7 project. But when inbuild is the parent, a variety of other functions may be made.

§4. Genre, work, edition, copy. A "genre" is a category of software or artistic work for us to manage. For example, "Inform 7 extension" and "website template" are both genres. Each different genre is represented by an inbuild_genre object, whose method calls provide the behaviour distinctive to that genre. The currently seven genre objects are created during Supervisor::start, which calls out to ExtensionManager::start, KitManager::start, and so on: the seven sections of Chapter 4: Genre Management are exactly the method calls for the seven genre objects.

A "work" is a single artistic or programming creation; for example, the IF story Bronze by Emily Short might be a work. Each different one we deal with is represented by an inbuild_work object. Works are identified by genre, title and author name, but see Works::normalise_casing for exactly how.

An "edition" is a versioned work; for example, release 7 of Bronze by Emily Short is an edition. These are represented by inbuild_edition objects. Such objects carry with them a note of which virtual machine architectures they work with: see Compatibility (in arch) for more on this.

A "copy" is an instance of an edition actually present somewhere in the file system — note that we might have several copies of the same edition in different places. Each copy known to the Supervisor is an inbuild_copy object.

When copies are claimed, they are typically scanned — exactly how depends on the genre — and this can reveal damage: if so, a copy_error object is attached to the copy for each different defect turned up. These errors are not necessarily reported at once, or at all: if they are reported, the function CopyErrors::write is used to write a suitable command-line error, but it's also possible for the parent to issue its own errors instead. inform7 does this to convert copy errors into Inform problem messages: see Problems With Source Text (in core).2

§5. Searches and requirements. Copies may be strewn all over the user's file system, and it's not for us to go poking around without being asked.3 Instead, the user will give the parent tool some locations at the command line: and those command-line instructions will be processed by supervisor. For example, if the user typed:

    $ inform7 -internal inform7/Internal -external ~/mystuff -project Tadpoles.inform

then all three command-line switches here would actually be parsed by Supervisor::option, rather than by anything in the core module. They would set the "internal" and "external" nest (see Manual (in inbuild)), creating an inbuild_nest object for each. The Inform 7 project for the run would also be set. This would become whose genre is project_bundle_genre.

Other copies would swiftly be needed — the definition of the English language (found inside the Internal nest), the Standard Rules extension, and several more. These are not explicitly named on the command line: instead, they are found by searching through the nests. supervisor does this by creating an inbuild_requirement object to specify what it wants, and then calling its search engine Nests::search_for. This builds a list of inbuild_search_result objects, each pointing to a new copy which matches the requirement given.

Requirements can be quite flexible, and are convertible to and from text: see Requirements::from_text and Requirements::write.4 The crucial function here is Requirements::meets, which tests whether an edition meets the requirement.

§6. Although such searches can be used with vague requirements to scan for, say, everything with a given genre, they can also be used to seek specific pieces of software which we will need. Nests::search_for_best is a version of the search engine which returns a single result (or none): the best one. Best is defined by Nests::better_result and makes careful use of both semantic versioning and the user's intentions to ensure a happy outcome. For example, if an Inform project says

Include Upturned Faces by Raphael.

then Nests::search_for_best will be used to seek which copy of this extension to use.

§7. Discovery. A copy is "claimed" when it is found in the file system: either by being right where the user said it would be, or by a search.

When the search engine wants to look for, say, kits in a given nest, it will ask the kit genre how to do this, by a method call: and this will be handled by KitManager::search_nest_for. That enables kits to be looked for in a different part of a nest than extensions, for example. Similarly, each genre scans and generally vets a copy differently, attaching copy errors for different reasons. But in general, a function like KitManager::new_copy will "claim" the copy.

For most genres, we want each copy to be claimed only once. We might run into the copy of version 1.2 of WorldModelKit at inform7/Internal/Inter for multiple reasons, as a result of several different searches: we want to return the same inbuild_copy object each time we do, rather than create duplicates. This is done with a dictionary of pathnames: i.e., the Kit Manager keeps a dictionary of which pathnames lead to copies it has already claimed. Most other managers do the same.

But if a new inbuild_copy is made, then we also give it a rich set of genre-specific metadata by attaching "content". In this case, that will be an inform_kit object, and code in Kit Services will provide special functionality by working on this inform_kit. If C is a copy which is a kit, then KitManager::from_copy(C) produces its inform_kit object K; conversely, K->as_copy produces C again. They correspond in a one-to-one fashion.

This table summarises the genres, where they managed, what type of metadata object is attached to each copy of that genre, and where such metadata is handled. Note that the two Inform project genres — one for single files, one for whole bundles — share a metadata format: a project is a project, however it is managed on disc.

    extension_genre       Extension Manager        inform_extension  Extension Services
    kit_genre             Kit Manager              inform_kit        Kit Services
    language_genre        Language Manager         inform_language   Language Services
    pipeline_genre        Pipeline Manager         inform_pipeline   Pipeline Services
    project_bundle_genre  Project Bundle Manager   inform_project    Project Services
    project_file_genre    Project File Manager     inform_project    Project Services
    template_genre        Template Manager         inform_template   Template Services

§8. Build graph. See Build Graphs for the infrastructure of how a dependency graph is stored. Basically these consist of build_vertex objects joined together by edges, represented by lists of other vertices — each vertex has two lists, one of "use edges", the other of "build edges". See the manual at Using Inbuild (in inbuild) for an explanation and examples.

There are three "colours" of vertex: copy, file and requirement. Each copy vertex corresponds to a single inbuild_copy and vice versa: thus, the dependencies for a copy are represented by the component of the graph which runs out from its vertex. File vertices correspond to single files needed during a build process, and requirement vertices to unfilled requirements, such as extensions which could not be found.

The three colours of vertex are created by Graphs::copy_vertex, Graphs::file_vertex and Graphs::req_vertex respectively, and the two colours of edge by Graphs::need_this_to_build and Graphs::need_this_to_use.

§9. When are graphs actually built? It would be appealing to do this the moment a copy is claimed (i.e., as soon as the inbuild_copy object is created), but this is impractical: it happens before we know enough about dependencies. So when a copy is claimed it gets an isolated copy vertex with no edges, as a placeholder.

The answer in fact depends on genre. For pipelines, languages and website templates, there are no dependencies, so there's nothing to build. For kits, extensions and projects, the task is performed by Kits::construct_graph, Extensions::construct_graph and Projects::construct_graph. Kits are graphed when the Supervisor "goes operational", because Supervisor::go_operational calls Copies::construct_graph for every extant copy.

But extensions and projects are graphed later on, and only on demand. This is because they have rich dependency graphs which can be determined only by reading and parsing their complete source texts, which is slow when the supervisor has to handle thousands of extensions at a time (for example, when performing a census inside the Inform app, or to install or copy extensions). So we only graph what we need.5

§10. Reading source text. For any copy, Copies::get_source_text will instruct the Supervisor to read in the Inform source text associated with it — if any: this does nothing for languages, pipelines, website templates or kits. Text for a copy is read at most once, and is cached so that a second read produces the same result as the first.

Reading is performed by Projects::read_source_text_for and Extensions::read_source_text_for. For extensions this involves reading only a single file, but for projects it can involve multiple files. Each such is read by a call to SourceText::read_file, which then sends out to the words module to break the text file into a stream of words: see Text From Files (in words). But it is SourceText::read_file which prints console messages like these:

    I've now read your source text, which is 70 words long.
    I've also read Basic Inform by Graham Nelson, which is 7645 words long.
    I've also read English Language by Graham Nelson, which is 2328 words long.
    I've also read Standard Rules by Graham Nelson, which is 32123 words long.

Any lexical errors arising in words are converted by us into copy errors and attached to the inbuild_copy object for the extension or project.

The text is not left as a simple stream of words, but is also "sentence-broken" into a syntax tree: that service is also one we subcontract out, to the syntax module. (See Sentences (in syntax) for details of how.) Once again, syntax errors can arise, and once again, these are converted into copy errors.

It might seem beyond the scope of a build manager to have to construct a syntax tree for the Inform source text it encounters. But (a) we have to do this to identify the Include ... sentences in them, and thus detect extension dependencies, and (b) the syntax tree is only a rudimentary one at this stage, parsing only a few "structural sentences".

§11. The definition of "structural sentence" is given in the form of Preform grammar in Source Text. (Preform is the natural-language parsing engine provided by the words module, and which the InC dialect of C provides a simple way to type into code.)

For reasons which will become clear shortly, the sentences we care most about are extension inclusions and headings. Headings are sentences such as:

Chapter the First - The Voyage

These are detected for us by the sentence-breaker in syntax, which calls out to our function Headings::place when it finds one. Each is given a heading object. We will do three things with headings:

§12. What happens next involves is carefully timed. What we want is to look through for sentences like this one:

Include Holy Bat Artefacts by Bruce Wayne. that we can see what extensions the project/extension we are reading will further need. And this is performed by the Inclusions::traverse function, which crawls over the syntax tree looking for such. However, if an extension inclusion occurs under a heading in the source text like this one:

Chapter 9 - External Files (not for Z-machine)

and the current virtual machine doesn't meet stipulation, then we must ignore the inclusion and there's no dependency; and similarly:

Section 1 - Figures (for figures language element only)

Because of this, we make sure to call Projects::activate_elements before looking for inclusion sentences, in order to know whether or not, e.g., the figures language element is present.

Worst of all is the case of an extension inclusion coming underneath a heading like this:

Section 15 - Bolts (for use with Locksmith by Emily Short)

We can only base the decision on whether we have so far included Locksmith. Otherwise, it would be easy to set up flip-flop like paradoxes where if X is not present, Y is present, and vice versa, leaving it a matter of chance which of those states actually happens.

§13. At any rate, when Inclusions::traverse finds an Include sentence which it decides is valid, it calls Inclusions::fulfill_request_to_include_extension. This performs a search for the best compatible copy of the extension named — see above — and, once such a copy is found, calls Inclusions::load to merge its text into the current syntax tree. (Note: it doesn't form an isolated syntax tree of its own.) This is why Inform reads the text of an extension as if it appeared at the same position as the Include sentence.

When a valid Include is found, Inclusions::fulfill_request_to_include_extension also puts a dependency edge in between the vertex for our copy and the vertex for the new extension's copy. That will be a use edge if our copy is also an extension — i.e., you can't use Existing Extension unless you also have New Extension — but a build edge if our copy is a project — i.e., you can't build Existing Project unless you also have New Extension.

By the end of the process, therefore, all dependencies on or between extensions will have been added to the build graph.

§14. Finally comes the complicated business of rearranging the syntax tree due to headings like:

Chapter 7a (in place of Chapter 7 in Applied Pathology by Attila Hun)

This is performed by Headings::satisfy_individual_heading_dependency, and it has to be done after all the extension inclusions have been made. It's a step only performed for the syntax tree of a whole project: if we've just made an isolated tree for a single extension, we don't bother, because we couldn't compile that in isolation anyway.

§15. This is all quite a long road, and the way is strewn with potential errors. What if a requested extension can't be found? Or is damaged? Or not compatible with our VM? Or if a heading is "in place of" one which isn't where it claimed? And so on. Such issues are converted into still more copy errors.

If supervisor is running in the parent inbuild, then all errors are all issued to the console when text reading is complete. But if it is running in the parent inform7, they are suppressed for now, and will be picked up later and issued as problem messages by Problems With Source Text (in core).

§16. Now that we have read in the text of a project/extension, we know all of its dependencies on other extensions. If we were reading an extension, we now have its complete graph made, because it can only be dependent on other extensions. But a project also depends on kits of Inter codes, on a language definition, and so forth: and also on the files it draws its source text from. See Projects::construct_graph for the details.

§17. Incremental builds. So, then, at this point we can determine the complete build graph for any copy. The parent can do several things:

A "build" is incremental, and uses time-stamps of files to avoid unnecessary duplication of previous compilation work; a "rebuild" is not. They are otherwise the same, both calling IncrementalBuild::build. This works rather like the traditional Unix tool make: if it wants to build the resource which a vertex represents, it first has to build the resources which that vertex depends on, i.e., has edges out to.

How does one "build a vertex", though? The answer is that if a vertex has been given a build_script, one follows this script. The script is only a list of build_step objects, and each step is an application of a build_skill. There are only a few skills known to the Supervisor, created by Supervisor::start. For example, assimilating a kit is a skill; but the need to apply this skill to a particular copy of WorldModelKit is a build step.

Some build steps can be carried out in two different ways: externally, by issuing a command to the shell; or internally, by calling a function in some module also present in the parent tool. The Supervisor chooses which way according to the build_methodology object passed to IncrementalBuild::build to configure how it should go about its business.

§18. Extension census. That's basically everything except for the lengthy but unimportant code in Chapter 7: Extension Indexing, which constructs a mini-website of extension documentation for use inside the GUI app. None of this affects how builds are made. See The Mini-Website for the site's makeup. A little metadata is cached between runs of inform7 in a file called the Dictionary, and the search for all installed extensions is called the Census.