Exercise 1.2.9

More Printing

As I said in the previous exercise, Common Lisp has a lot of functions for printing, including one named print, which you'll see here in this exercise. I'll also show you how the same functionality can be implemented with write, so you can get a feel for specializing a very general interface---a common development pattern in Common Lisp.

print works exactly as you would expect a print function to work. You pass it an object to print and a stream to print it to. It prints the object between a new-line character and a space---note: print prints the object readably, in other words, in a format suitable to be read by the Lisp reader, escaping special characters.

Let's see it in action, along with an equivalent version using write:

(print "hello, multiverse!")
(print "hello again, multiverse!" t)
(print "hello, multiverse, are you there?" nil)
(progn (terpri t)
       (write "hello, multiverse!" :stream t :escape t)
       (write-char #\Space t))

There are a few new things here, which we can go over quickly for now. They will be explained in more detail later.

First, notice that the print function takes two arguments: the object you want to print, and then the stream you want to print the object to. You can use the boolean truth symbol t as shorthand for *standard-output*. You don't have to pass the second argument---the default is nil, so the first line of code is the same in principle as the third.

progn, one of the special operators, tells Lisp to evaluate each expression in its body sequentially, in the order they appear.

terpri stands for "terminate printing". It's used to send a new-line character to a stream. It seems slightly illogical to use it at the beginning of a printing sequence, but that is how the print function is implemented.

For the write function, I've introduced two new keyword parameters, :stream and :escape, which tell write where to print the object parameter, and whether or not what's printed should be escaped, respectively.

Lastly, there is write-char, which is like write, but only prints a single character object to a stream.

What You Should See

* (print "hello, multiverse!")

"hello, multiverse!"
"hello, multiverse!"
* (print "hello again, multiverse!" t)

"hello again, multiverse!"
"hello again, multiverse!"
* (print "hello, multiverse, are you there?" nil)

"hello, multiverse, are you there?"
"hello, multiverse, are you there?"
* (progn (terpri t)
         (write "hello, multiverse!" :stream t :escape t)
         (write-char #\Space t))

"hello, multiverse!"

Everything make sense?

A little word on the last example---notice how the return value of the whole progn form is different from print? In Lisp, if you don't specify a return value (and in so doing, leave the expression early, before evaluation reaches the end), the return value of the last evaluated form in the expression is returned from the top-most expression. In this case, write-char is the last expression in the progn, so its return value, #\Space, is returned by the progn.

Obviously, you'll notice, the print function is doing something different---but we'll get to that soon.

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