5.6 Using the Module System

The current structure of the module system has been designed with some specific organisations for large programs in mind. Many large programs define a basic library layer on top of which the actual program itself is defined. The module user, acting as the default module for all other modules of the program can be used to distribute these definitions over all program module without introducing the need to import this common layer each time explicitly. It can also be used to redefine built-in predicates if this is required to maintain compatibility to some other Prolog implementation. Typically, the loadfile of a large application looks like this:

:- use_module(compatibility).   % load XYZ prolog compatibility

:- use_module(                  % load generic parts
        [ error                 % errors and warnings
        , goodies               % general goodies (library extensions)
        , debug                 % application specific debugging
        , virtual_machine       % virtual machine of application
        , ...                   % more generic stuff

:- ensure_loaded(
        [ ...                   % the application itself

The `use_module' declarations will import the public predicates from the generic modules into the user module. The `ensure_loaded' directive loads the modules that constitute the actual application. It is assumed these modules import predicates from each other using use_module/[1,2] as far as necessary.

In combination with the object-oriented schema described below it is possible to define a neat modular architecture. The generic code defines general utilities and the message passing predicates (invoke/3 in the example below). The application modules define classes that communicate using the message passing predicates.

5.6.1 Object Oriented Programming

Another typical way to use the module system is for defining classes within an object oriented paradigm. The class structure and the methods of a class can be defined in a module and the explicit module-boundary overruling describes in section 5.7.2 can by used by the message passing code to invoke the behaviour. An outline of this mechanism is given below.

%       Define class point

:- module(point, []).           % class point, no exports

%        name           type,           default access
%                                       value

variable(x,             integer,        0,      both).
variable(y,             integer,        0,      both).

%         method name   predicate name  arguments

behaviour(mirror,       mirror,         []).

mirror(P) :-
        fetch(P, x, X),
        fetch(P, y, Y),
        store(P, y, X),
        store(P, x, Y).

The predicates fetch/3 and store/3 are predicates that change instance variables of instances. The figure below indicates how message passing can easily be implemented:

%       invoke(+Instance, +Selector, ?ArgumentList)
%       send a message to an instance

invoke(I, S, Args) :-
        class_of_instance(I, Class),
        Class:behaviour(S, P, ArgCheck), !,
        convert_arguments(ArgCheck, Args, ConvArgs),
        Goal =.. [P|ConvArgs],

The construct <Module>:<Goal> explicitly calls Goal in module Module. It is discussed in more detail in section 5.7.