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Man Pages

Manual Reference Pages  -  BIGTOP::DOCS::MODULES (3)

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Bigtop::Docs::Modules - An annotated list of modules in the Bigtop distribution



This document goes into some depth on each piece of of the Bigtop distribution. Some of the details are left for the POD of the pieces themselves.

If you want to know exactly what’s legal in a bigtop file, look in Bigtop::Docs::Syntax or the more concise (and less complete) Bigtop::Docs::AutoKeywords. Or, you could look where tentmaker looks: Bigtop::Keywords. is primarily a documentation module. It does provide two useful functions for backend authors. One writes files on the disk the other makes directory paths. See its docs for details.


This is the real workhorse of Bigtop. It is a grammar driven parser for Bigtop files. Interactions with this parser are usually indirect. End users use the bigtop script, which in turn uses the parser to first build an abstract syntax tree (AST) and then to generate output by passing the AST to the backends. Developers should write backends which receive the AST in methods named for what they should produce (see Backends below).

Parsing Bigtop specifications

If you have a file on the disk and want to parse it into an abstract syntax tree (AST), call Bigtop::Parser->parse_file( $file_name ). This returns the AST.

The bigtop script is quite simple. (It relies on Bigtop::ScriptHelp when it needs to manufacture or modify bigtop source files.) Mostly, it handles command line options, then directly passes the rest of its command line arguments to gen_from_file in Bigtop::Parser. gen_from_file reads the file into memory and passes it and the other command line arguments to gen_from_string.

gen_from_string first parses the config section of the Bigtop file to find the backends. It requires each of those (using Bigtop::Parser->import), then calls gen_YourType on each one that is not marked no_gen.

The backend’s gen_YourType is called as a class method. It receives the base directory of the build (where the user wants files to end up), the AST, and the input file name (if one is available).

Once you have an AST, you can call methods on it. Most of these will return lists (whose element are most often strings).

The most useful method provided is walk_postorder. It takes care of walking the tree. For each element, it calls walk_postorder for all of the children, pushing their output lists into a meta-list. Then it passes that result to the action in the current class. This is a depth first traversal. (If there is no action for the current class, walk_postorder returns the collection of child output unmodified; except that if the array of such output is empty, it returns undef and not an empty array.)

You can pass a single item of data (one scalar) to walk_postorder. That item (which is usually a hash reference or object) is in turn passed to all walk_postorder methods in the descendents as they are called. All of the walk_postorder methods pass this item on to the action methods when they call them.

To make this concrete, consider what the Bigtop::Backend::Control::Gantry does in its gen_Control method:

    my $sub_modules = $bigtop_tree->walk_postorder(
            module_dir => $module_dir,
            app_name   => $app_name,
            lookup     => $wadl_tree->{application}{lookup},
            #... more hash keys

This specifies the callback action as output_controller. Each output_controller has a definition like this:

    sub output_controller {
        my $self         = shift;
        my $child_output = shift;
        my $data         = shift;

        # ...

Where $self is the current tree element, $child_output is the result returned from all of this element’s children (as an array reference), and the data hash originally passed to walk_postorder (the one that contains module_dir, app_name, lookup, etc.). Keep in mind that this is a post order (depth first) traversal, so children finish making their output before parents are called on to make output. In particular, this means you can’t feed your children, or prune off their behavior (though you could discard their output). The initial caller must pre-feed all the children. Children must prune for themselves.

[footnote: If you do want to avoid child behavior in a parent, you can change the name of the action method in the child classes. This makes the parent the end of the first recursion, allowing it to decide whether or not to start a new recursion on its subtree. Upon deciding to initiate a new recursion, it can feed the children whatever they need. This technique is less useful in generators, where the child output is usually straightforward (like a set of column definitions for the body of a CREATE TABLE statement in SQL). Where it shines is in the methods of Bigtop::Parser which manipulate already parsed trees on behalf of tentmaker.]

The output_controller action methods live in packages named for rules in the grammar. See directly below for the package names and how to implement them.


The AST lives in a hash. This section explains the anatomy of that hash. It is presented as a nested list so you can see the tree structure by indentation. The top level element is blessed into the bigtop_file package.

It responds to these methods: get_config (returns the config subtree) and get_appname (among others).

It has two children. The first is configuration (available through get_config) which is a hash reference representing the config section of the Bigtop file. The configuration child is not part of the AST you walk when generating output, but its info can be essential to your backend.

Since this description was written, the tree has grown. I decided to leave this section as is, rather than increase its already somewhat daunting complexity. Mainly this reflects my laziness, but I think it will aid your laziness as well. You can gain an initial understanding without as much detail. Further, most of the new things the tree node classes do support the tentmaker, which I hope you don’t need to work on.

The tree continues with the other child. First I will show a simple outline of the whole tree as generated by outliner a script in the lib/Bigtop/Docs directory of the distribution. I’ve compressed the output of outliner to compress the tree vertically. This means that attributes which are not themselves AST nodes are listed in line with their parent.

Below the summary, I will show it again with discussion. Note that in both the summary and the full discussion, nodes appear in logical order as they normally would in a Bigtop source file (modulo placing rare nodes near the bottom). This is not the same order as the productions in the grammar.

In summary:

    application __NAME__ __BODY__:
            app_config_block __BODY__:
                app_config_statement __KEYWORD__ __ARGS__
            app_statement __KEYWORD__ __ARGS__
            table_block __IDENT__ __NAME__ __TYPE__ __BODY__:
                __IDENT__ __NAME__ __ARGS__ __TYPE__ __BODY__:
                    field_statement __KEYWORD__ __DEF__:
                        field_statement_def __ARGS__
            controller_block __IDENT__ __NAME__ __TYPE__ __BODY__:
                controller_method __IDENT__ __NAME__ __TYPE__ __BODY__:
                controller_config_block __BODY__:
                    controller_config_statement __KEYWORD__ __ARGS__
                controller_literal_block __IDENT__ __BACKEND__ __BODY__
                controller_statement __KEYWORD__ __ARGS__
            join_table __IDENT__ __NAME__ __BODY__:
            literal_block __IDENT__ __BACKEND__ __BODY__
            seq_block __IDENT__ __NAME__ __TYPE__ __BODY__

application Responds to thes method:

get_name returns the app name.

show_idents dumps out the name, type, and ident of every ident bearing node. Useful when building tests of tree manipulations.

There are many other methods, most support tentmaker.

Has these children:
__NAME__ A string with the app name in it. This is available through get_appname on the whole tree or through get_name on the application subtree.
__BODY__ Created by Parse::RecDescent’s autotree scheme. Has one child:
block(s?) This child is an array (ref) of objects, each blessed into the block class. Since autotree builds this for us, there is some litter. We are only concerned with children whose package names end with _block or _statement. These children are:
app_statement Represents a simple statement at the app level. Has two keys:
__KEYWORD__ The statement’s keyword (like authors).
__ARGS__ An arg_list (see below).
app_config_block Represents an app level config block. Has one child:
__BODY__ An array (possibly undef) of objects blessed into:
app_config_statement Has two attributes:
__KEYWORD__ The name of the set var.
__ARGS__ An arg_list (see below).
table_block Responds to get_name which returns the name of the block’s table. The attributes of a table node are:
__IDENT__ The internal and unchanging name of the node.
__NAME__ The name of the constructed sequence or table.
__TYPE__ As string, either sequences or tables.
__BODY__ The body of the block. This is an array (ref) of nodes blessed into:
table_element_block There are two types of these: statements and field blocks. Both are blessed into the table_element_block class. They have the following keys:
__IDENT__ For field blocks only. The internal and unchanging name of the node.
__NAME__ For field blocks only. The name of the field (and its SQL column).
__ARGS__ For statements only, the arguments of the statement. This is an arg_list, see below.
__TYPE__ Either ’field’ for field blocks or the statement keyword for statements.
__BODY__ Either the statement keyword for statements, or an array (ref) of nodes blessed into:
field_statement The class for field blocks. These nodes have the following keys:
__KEYWORD__ The keyword of the statement.
__DEF__ A node blessed into the field_statement_def package, which has a single key:
__ARGS__ An arg list, see below.
controller_block Responds to get_name which returns the name of the controller.

Has these children:
__IDENT__ The internal and unchanging name of the node.
__NAME__ The name of the controller relative to the app name, available through get_name.
__TYPE__ Controllers are specified as:

    controller Name is type {...}

This attribute is the controller’s type.

Note that if the type is base_controller, the controller cannot have an explicit name, but must be written as:

    controller is base_controller {...}

__BODY__ This is an array (ref) of nodes blessed into one of these classes: controller_method, controller_statement, controller_config_block, controller_literal_block. The first two are the most common.

Controller config blocks are quite rare. They specify controller level adjustments to the apps top level config block. These are either new variables only this controller wants, or replacement values this controller needs in place of global values.

Controller literal blocks allow placement of literal text into the httpd.conf Location for this controller.

All of these types are described further below:
controller_method Represents a method. Responds to get_name which returns the method’s name. Has these children:
__IDENT__ Unique and unchanging internal name.
__NAME__ A string attribute. The name of the method available through get_name.
__TYPE__ A string attribute. As with controllers, methods have types:

    method name is type { ... }

This is the type name. There should probably be an accessor for this.

__BODY__ The body of the method, including all of its statements. Responds to these methods: get_method_name, get_controller_name, and get_table_name (which works if the controller has a controls_table statement).

Blessed into:
method_body An array (ref) of nodes blessed into the method_statement class, whose keys are:
__KEYWORD__ The statement’s keyword.
__ARGS__ An arg_list (see below).

controller_config_block Has a single key:
__BODY__ An array (ref) of nodes blessed into:
controller_config_statement Each of these is a leaf with two attributes:
__KEYWORD__ The config variable’s name.
__ARGS__ An arg_list (see below).
controller_literal_block This is really a statement, not a block (the name stuck before I decided statements would be easier to work with).

Responds to make_output which is similar to the method of that name in the literal_block package. The key difference is that this one does not handle multiple backend types gracefully. If the backend type you ask for matches, you get the output. No hash keyed by backend type is available. (Trailing new lines are supplied exactly as for make_output in the literal_block package.)

A leaf with two attributes:
__IDENT__ Internal and unchanging name.
__BACKEND__ The backend which the user wants to handle the literal.
__BODY__ A string to put literally in the __BACKEND__’s output.

It’s easier to call make_output than to fish in these manually.

controller_statement These are the simple statements in the controller block (like controls_table). They have two keys:
__KEYWORD__ The statement name.
__ARGS__ An arg list (see below). This is optional and may therefore be undef.

join_table Represents a many-to-many relationship between two tables and the implicit table which goes between them. Has three keys:
__IDENT__ The internal invariant name of the block. These are used by tentmaker to make updates to the existing tree and may vary from parse to parse.
__NAME__ The name of the implicit table. The SQL backend will make SQL statements to generate this table in the schema.
__BODY__ An array (ref) of statements in the block. There must be a joins statement. There may be an optional names statement. Each array element blessed into:
join_table_statement These are somewhat like field_statements, but they are simpler since both legal statements expect exactly one pair.
__KEYWORD__ The statement keyword, must be either joins or names. Exactly one joins statement must be present (if the parse is valid). At most one names statement may be present. These rules are enforced by the backend.
__DEF__ An arg_list containing a single pair.
literal_block This is a leaf node. It responds to one highly useful method: make_output. Backends call it on the current subtree (remember it’s a leaf) passing in their backend type. If the current literal block has the same type, the text of the backquoted string in the Bigtop file is returned. (A trailing new line is added to the user’s input unless that input already had trailing whitespace.) If the current node is of a different type, undef is returned.

There is an optional additional parameter: want_hash. Pass a true value if you need the output as

    [ { $backend_type => $output } ]

instead of the default:

    [ $output ]

This is useful if your backend handles multiple literal blocks in different ways. For example, PerlTop and PerlBlock literals are both handled by Bigtop::Backend::Gantry::HttpdConf. It needs the hash form to know where to put the literal output.

literal_blocks have three attributes:
__IDENT__ Internal unchanging name.
__BACKEND__ The name of the backend this literal is intended for.
__BODY__ The literal text for the backend.

Usually it is easier to call make_output than to fish for these.

seq_block Responds to get_name. Represents a sequence block. Only the Postgres SQL backend understands sequence blocks. All other backends ignore them completely, even if a table includes a sequence statement. Has the following keys:
__IDENT__ The internal and unchanging name of the node.
__NAME__ The name of the sequence.
__TYPE__ Hold over from when sequences were blessed into the same package as tables. Deprecated and may be removed.
__BODY__ If there were any legal sequence statements (which there aren’t), this would be an array ref holding the statements in the sequence block. As it is, you can’t use this.

In addtion to those packages, there is one which is a frequent leaf:
arg_list An arg_list is an array whose elements are either single strings or pairs. There is no help in Bigtop::Parser for these. They look like this:

        { key => value2 },

While the items in an arg_list are not blessed, the whole list is. The arg_list pacakge in Bigtop::Parser provides many convenience methods for getting and setting data in the list. Here are some highlights:
get_first_arg When you know that your statement only uses one arg, call this to get it. It saves you having to fish in the array for the first arg. If the first arg is a pair, you will receive a hash with one key.
get_args Returns all of the args as valid Bigtop input. The above example would come back as:

    value1, key, value2, value3

This is useful when you don’t want quoted values and you don’t expect pairs.

get_quoted_args Primarily useful when deparsing. Returns the arg list as a string which is valid bigtop input. This adds all needed backquotes (but none that aren’t required).
get_unquoted_args Returns an array of the args, but with pairs converted to strings like so:

    key => value2

Only occasionally useful by backends.

Most backend either use get_first_arg, or walk the list themselves.


To see what the current backends do, consult Bigtop::Docs::Syntax. To write your own, keep reading.

Each backend should have a generation method called gen_BackendType (where BackendType is part of the package name: Bigtop::Backend::BackendType::Backend). These are called as class methods with the build directory, the AST generated in Bigtop::Parser, and the source file name (if one is available).

In addition to the generation methods, if your backend wants to work with the TentMaker, you must also implement what_do_you_make and backend_block_keywords. See the example below for what these should do.

The gen_* methods produce output on the disk. For testing, you can call the methods that the gen_* methods call. Usually these are prefixed with output_, but that is not enforced. Or you can call the gen_* method and test the generated files (say with Test::Files) as the Bigtop test suite tends to do.

To know what a particular backend will do, see Bigtop::Docs::Keywords or Bigtop::Docs::Syntax. That is also where you will see a list of the keywords they understand and what values those keywords take.

To write a backend, you need to write the gen_* method and have one package for each AST element type you care about. It is easiset to see this by example. A good example is Bigtop::Backend::SQL::SQLite. I’ll show it here so you can see how it goes with commentary interspersed amongst the code. To see the whole of it, look for lib/Bigtop/Backend/SQL/ in the Bigtop distribution. (Note that I have removed some details to make this presentation easier, and the real version may have been updated more recently than this discussion.)


There is nothing really fancy about the start of a backend:

 package Bigtop::Backend::SQL::SQLite;
 use strict; use warnings;

 use Bigtop::Backend::SQL;
 use Inline;

Note that the package name must begin with Bigtop::Backend:: in order for the bigtop and tentmaker scripts to find it.

I use Bigtop::Backend::SQL, which registers the SQL keywords with the Bigtop parser. Actually, Bigtop::Backend::SQL uses Bigtop::Keywords which is a central repository of all keywords any backend could want. It is really best to add the keywords there. Among other things it makes maintenance easier. But this is not a requirement (even for proper tentmaker functioning).

In all of my backends I use Inline::TT to aid in generating the output. It needs Inline loaded. (See setup_template below for how templates are installed for use.)

TentMaker requirements

 sub what_do_you_make {
     return [
         [ docs/schema.sqlite => SQLite database schema ],

what_do_you_make should return an array reference describing the things your backend writes on the disk. Each array element is also an array reference with two entries. First is the name of something made by the module, second is a brief description of what that piece has in it. These appear as documentation in the tentmaker application.

 sub backend_block_keywords {
     return [
           { keyword => no_gen,
             label   => No Gen,
             descr   => Skip everything for this backend,
             type    => boolean },

           { keyword => template,
             label   => Alternate Template,
             descr   => A custom TT template.,
             type    => text },

backend_block_keywords is similar to what_do_you_make. It lists all the valid keywords which can go in the backend’s block in the config section at the top of the Bigtop file. These appear in order in the far right column of the Backends tab of tentmaker. The above keys are required, if you need a default use the default key. If the type is boolean, spell out true or false as the default value (these are going to HTML and/or Javascript as strings). If you don’t specify a default, you get false (unchecked) for booleans and blank for strings.

The generating sub

 sub gen_SQL {
     my $base_dir = shift;
     my $tree     = shift;

The bigtop script will call gen_SQL (via gen_from_sting) when the user has this backend in their config section and invokes bigtop with SQL or all in the list of build items.

The class name is not needed, so I shifted it into the ether.

The $base_dir is where the output goes.

The $tree is the full AST (see above for details).

     # walk tree generating sql
     my $lookup       = $tree->{application}{lookup};
     my $sql          = $tree->walk_postorder( output_sql_lite, $lookup );
     my $sql_output   = join , @{ $sql };

The lookup subtree of the application subtree provides easier access to the data in the tree (though it doesn’t have all the connectors the AST has for parsing use, in particular it uses hashes exclusively, so it never intentionally preserves order).

I let Bigtop::Parser’s walk_postorder do the visiting of tree nodes for me. It will call ’output_sql_lite’ on each of them. I implement that on the packages my SQL generator cares about below. I pass the lookup hash to walk_postorder so it will be available to the callbacks.

Note that the name of the walk_postorder action needs to be unique among all Bigtop::Backend::* modules. This prevents subroutine redefinitions (and their warnings) when multiple SQL backends are in use. It also makes tentmaker run more quietly in all cases. Choose names with some tag relating to your backend to avoid namespace collisions.

The output of walk_postorder is always an array reference. I join it together and store it in $sql_output.

     # write the schema.postgres
     my $docs_dir     = File::Spec->catdir( $base_dir, docs );
     mkdir $docs_dir;

By the convention of our shop, the schema.sqlite file lives in the docs directory of the generated distribution. Here, I make that directory (if that fails we’ll hear loud screaming shortly).

All that remains is to put the output into the file:

     my $sql_file     = File::Spec->catfile( $docs_dir, schema.sqlite );

     open my $SQL, >, $sql_file or die "Couldnt write $sql_file: $!\n";

     print $SQL $sql_output;

     close $SQL or die "Couldnt close $sql_file: $!\n";

So, the whole generation method is only 22 lines. Except for the specific use of ’sqlite’ or ’lite’, this method is the same for the other SQL backends. Of course, there is still a lot left for me to do.

Output appearance control

Like most backends, this one uses Inline::TT to control the appearance of the output. If users don’t like the appearance, they have only to copy the template into another file, edit it to suit them, and tell the module by including a template statement in the config block for the backend:

    config {
        SQL Postgres { template ``; }
        # ...

Here is my default template:

   our $template_is_setup = 0;
   our $default_template_text = <<EO_TT_blocks;
   [% BLOCK sql_block %]
   CREATE [% keyword %] [% name %][% child_output %]
   [% END %]
   [% BLOCK table_body %]
   [% FOREACH child_element IN child_output %]
   [% child_element +%][% UNLESS loop.last %],[% END %]
   [% END %]
   [% END %]
   [% BLOCK table_element_block %]    [% name %] [% child_output %][% END %]
   [% BLOCK field_statement %]
   [% keywords.join(   ) %]
   [% END %]
   [% BLOCK insert_statement %]
   INSERT INTO [% table %] ( [% columns.join( ,  ) %] )
       VALUES ( [% values.join( ,  ) %] );
   [% END %]
   [% BLOCK three_way %]
   CREATE TABLE [% table_name %] (
   [% FOREACH foreign_key IN foreign_keys %]
       [% foreign_key %] INTEGER[% UNLESS loop.last %],[% END +%]
   [% END %]
   [% END %]

There are six blocks — whose names usually correspond to grammar rules — each of which may be used repeatedly while generating output:
sql_block Wraps the body of an SQL CREATE statement with ’CREATE name’.
table_body Wraps all of the column definitions in each CREATE TABLE statement with parentheses.
table_element_block Makes the column definition statements for CREATE TABLE bodies.
field_statement Concatenates the individual definition clauses for a column definition statement.
insert_statement Makes the INSERT statements which correspond to data statements in the Bigtop file.
three_way Makes the CREATE TABLE block for implicit tables which join other tables. These come from join_table blocks in the Bigtop file which in turn come from a<->b in ASCII art passed to bigtop or tentmaker at the command line.
To make the template operative, requires implementing setup_template:

    sub setup_template {
        my $class         = shift;
        my $template_text = shift || $default_template_text;

        return if ( $template_is_setup );

                TT                  => $template_text,
                POST_CHOMP          => 1,
                TRIM_LEADING_SPACE  => 0,
                TRIM_TRAILING_SPACE => 0,

        $template_is_setup = 1;

The parser calls this (if the package can respond to it) prior to calling gen_SQL. If the user has supplied an alernate template, it is passed to setup_template.

To avoid bad template binding, $template_is_setup keeps track of whether we’ve been here before.

Inline’s bind method creates subs in the current name space for callbacks to use. Note that if $template_text is a file name, that file will be bound correctly.

I’ve tried to abstract out this code so all backends can share it, but the nature of Inline bindings makes that difficult, so I gave up.

Real work

All that remains is the real work. We need to implement output_sql in about half a dozen packages.


 package # table_block
 use strict; use warnings;

 sub output_sql_lite {
     my $self         = shift;
     my $child_output = shift;
     return if ( $self->_skip_this_block );
     my %output;
     foreach my $statement ( @{ $child_output } ) {
         my ( $type, $output ) = @{ $statement };
         push @{ $output{ $type } }, $output;
     my $child_out_str = Bigtop::Backend::SQL::SQLite::table_body(
         { child_output => $output{table_body} }
     if ( defined $output{insert_statements} ) {
         $child_out_str .= "\n" . join "\n", @{ $output{insert_statements} };
     my $output = Bigtop::Backend::SQL::SQLite::sql_block(
             keyword      => $self->get_create_keyword(),
             child_output => $child_out_str,
             name         => $self->get_name(),
     return [ $output ];

As all callbacks do, this one receives the current tree node as its invocant and the output of its children as parameters. (It also receives the data passed to walk_postorder, but this method doesn’t need it.)

The child output comes from the walk_postorder method of this package. It is always an array reference. In this case, that array has one or more subarrays. Each of those has two elements: type and text. The types are: table_body and insert_statements. The table_body elements must go inside the body of the CREATE TABLE statement. The insert_statements must be placed after the CREATE TABLE statement. There is one of those for each data statement in the table block of the Bigtop file.

While the child output is always an array reference, its contents are up to you. We’ll see how I formed the child output for this package below, when we walk into the child packages. Usually I only put arrays in it, to avoid confusion.

Once the child output is divided into two pieces, I first call the table_body template BLOCK. Then I join the insert statements together as strings. Finally, I call the sql_block template BLOCK. I’ve used the get_name provided by the sql_block package in Bigtop::Parser. The get_create_keyword sub is defined in Bigtop::Backend::SQL. The same method (with different output) is defined there for the seq_block package used by Bigtop::Backend::SQL::Postgres to build sequence statements.

Note that I am careful to give my output back in an array, even though I have only one item. This is required by all walk_postorder actions.


 package # table_element_block
 use strict; use warnings;

 sub output_sql_lite {
     my $self         = shift;
     my $child_output = shift;

     if ( defined $child_output) {

         my $child_out_str = join "\n", @{ $child_output };

         my $output = Bigtop::Backend::SQL::SQLite::table_element_block(
             { name => $self->get_name(), child_output => $child_out_str }

         return [ [ table_body => $output ] ];

There are two kinds of children for the table_element_block: fields (which are themselves blocks) and statements (where are leaves in the AST). So, if there is child output, we can safely assume that this node is a field block. In which case, we join the child output, send it to the table_element_block TT BLOCK and return the output, being careful to note that it belongs in the table_body.

Note that I always return arrays, even if I want to return a hash. This avoids rare but nasty bugs when the returned values pass through packages which aren’t responding to the current action.

     else {
         return unless ( $self->{__TYPE__} eq data );
         my @columns;
         my @values;
         foreach my $insertion ( @{ $self->{__ARGS__} } ) {
             my ( $column, $value ) = %{ $insertion };
             $value = "$value" unless $value =~ /^\d+$/;
             push @columns, $column;
             push @values,  $value;
         my $output = Bigtop::Backend::SQL::SQLite::insert_statement(
                 table   => $self->get_table_name,
                 columns => \@columns,
                 values  => \@values,
         return [ [ insert_statements => $output ] ];

If there is no child output, we must be working on a statement. But, in this backend, the only statements I care about are data statements. So, I return unless this is one of those, which I know by checking the __TYPE__ key of the node’s hash.

Recall that data statements look like this:

    data f_name => Phil, l_name => Crow;

The __ARGS__ for the node is an arg_list (which is a blessed array). The foreach walks that array hashifying each entry, since the user provided these as pairs. The value is quoted to keep SQL happy, unless it is an integer. Both key and value are pushed into arrays for easy use by the insert_statement TT BLOCK. The result is returned with a note that the output is for the insert_statements list.


Now we are arriving at the most intricate piece. It handles the only statement in the field block we care about: is.

 package # field_statement
 use strict; use warnings;

 my %expansion_for = (
     int4               => INTEGER,
     primary_key        => PRIMARY KEY,
     assign_by_sequence => AUTOINCREMENT,
     auto               => AUTOINCREMENT,

 sub output_sql_lite {
     my $self   = shift;
     shift;  # there is no child output
     my $lookup = shift;

     return unless $self->get_name() eq is;

     my @keywords;
     foreach my $arg ( @{ $self->{__DEF__}{__ARGS__} } ) {
         my $expanded_form = $expansion_for{$arg};

         if ( defined $expanded_form ) {
             push @keywords, $expanded_form;
         else {
             push @keywords, $arg;
     my $output = Bigtop::Backend::SQL::SQLite::field_statement(
         { keywords => \@keywords }

     return [ $output ];

Now we see $lookup coming into the sub. I gave it to the original call to walk_postorder, which has been dutifully passing it to all the output_sql subs it calls. It’s finally come to the place that needs it (see below).

If the statement’s keyword is not ’is’, output_sql returns undef.

For ’is’ statements, it loops through the __DEF__ __ARGS__. Each of those is one of the comma separated clauses or clause abbreviations in the ’is’ statement. For example:

    is int4, primary_key, auto;

has three items in its list: int4, primary_key, and auto.

For each of those, output_sql looks in the expansion_for hash to see if there is alternate text for the input word. If it finds alternate text, it uses it. Otherwise, it merely uses the arg directly. The input order is preserved in the output. This is the mechanism that allows all Bigtop input files to use int4, primary_key, and auto. Each backend uses a scheme like this one (though Postgres’ is more complex) to generate the SQL for its database engine.

Once the proper clauses have all been pushed into the keywords array, it is passed to the field_statement TT BLOCK.


To allow you to put additional SQL statements into the schema.* file, Bigtop provides the literal SQL statement. This package handles it:

 package literal_block;
 use strict; use warnings;

 sub output_sql {
     my $self = shift;

     return $self->make_output( SQL );

Bigtop::Parser provides make_output in its literal_block package to facilitate literal statements of all sorts. Simply tell it what backend type you are interested in. If the node you’re working on is of that type, it makes meaningful output (giving back an array reference with one element containing the full literal string from the user’s statement). Otherwise, it returns undef which is discarded by the proper walk_postorder method.


Join tables are manufactured tables whose only purpose is to embody a many-to-many relationship between other tables.

 sub output_sql {
     my $self         = shift;
     my $child_output = shift;

     my $three_way    = Bigtop::Backend::SQL::SQLite::three_way(
             table_name   => $self->{__NAME__},
             foreign_keys => $child_output,

     return [ $three_way ];

This method just passes the buck to the three_way TT block.


 sub output_sql {
     my $self         = shift;
     my $child_output = shift;

     return unless $self->{__KEYWORD__} eq joins;

     my @tables = %{ $self->{__DEF__}->get_first_arg() };

     return \@tables;


The __DEF__ key stores the joins or names statement pair, it is an arg_list object. These respond to get_first_arg and other methods. Since there is only ever one pair allowed for either of these statements, we just want that one pair. It comes back as a hash, but we must once again make it an array to comply with walk_postorder’s return value API.

The rest of the module is all POD.

The lookup hash

The lookup hash is stored inside the AST. You can get it out like so:

    my $lookup = $tree->{application}{lookup};

as shown in the gen_SQL method shown above.

The keys in the lookup hash are (these are optional, so only some of them might appear in your hash):
app_statements This subhash represents all the simple statements at the app level. Its keys are the statement keywords. The values are arg_lists of the values for the statement. arg_lists are the only arrays in the lookup hash.
controllers This subhash represents all the controllers in the Bigtop app section. Its keys are the controller names. Each value is a hash with these keys (some of which are optional):
methods This subhash represents all the methods defined for the controller. It is keyed by method name. The value is a hash with two keys:
statements Just like the app_statements subhash at the top level.
type (Always present and defined.)

A string with the type supplied in the Bigtop file.

configs Just like the configs subhash at the top level (see below).
statements Just like the app_statements subhash at the top level. These are the simple statements of the controller.
type (Always present, but could be undef.)

This is the controller’s type. It will be a string storing the type from the Bigtop file for this controller or undef if no type was given by the user.

configs The keys are config names. The values are arg_lists with a single element. If the config is marked no_accessor, that element will be a hash keyed by the value storing no_accessor. Otherwise, that element will be a simple string.
tables This subhash represents all the tables in the Bigtop file. It is keyed by table name and has these subkeys (which are optional):
data (Useless.)

This has a single key __ARGS__ which stores the arg_list for the last data statement in the table.

fields This is a subhash keyed by the name of the field storing subhashes of simple statements keyed by the statement keyword and storing a hash with a single key ’args’ whose value is an arg_list.
foreign_display This has a single key __ARGS__ which is an arg_list whose single element is the text of the foreign_display template for this table.
sequence This has a single key __ARGS__ which is an arg_list whose single element is the sequence name for this table.
join_tables This subhash represents all join_tables in the Bigtop file, but each one appears twice — once for each table involved in the many-to-many relationship. The keys of the hash are the names of the tables on either side of the many-to-many. The values are hashes, which are slightly complex. Here is an example:

    join_tables => {
        skill => { joins => { job   => job_skill } },
        job   => { joins => { skill => job_skill } },
        fox   => { joins => { sock  => fox_sock  },
                   name  => socks },
        sock  => { joins => { fox   => fox_sock  },
                   name  => foxes },

which corresponds to these join_table blocks:

    join_table job_skill { joins job => skill; }
    join_table fox_sock  { joins fox => sock; names foxes => socks; }

Note that I said that the lookup hash is easier to use than direct AST walking. But I never said it was trivial or even well designed. It was easy to build.

Here is the gist of the lookup hash in summary (as generated by outliner):



Phil Crow <>
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