I’m new to Julia, loving it. As I’m used to Common Lisp, I kinda miss a pathname structure. Of course I understand strings are easier to deal with, yet they lead to mistakes. The package FilePaths.jl is nice, yet it is weird to have to call string(path) when using other packages like OdsIO or CSV. I think it’s not a nice practice to define methods belonging to another one’s package for another one’s classes (e.g. csv_read(file::Path; kwargs...) = CSV.read(string(file); kwargs...)), since a third person could redefine them another way.
One approach would be to create methods for functions that expects strings, e.g.
For that reason, I was thinking about creating a new package with pathnames as a subtype of AbstractString, specifying a unique string representation for each pathname (like TCL does, what a nice language!). That way, one deal with pathnames as structures and use them in methods that expects strings. Plus, it would be ease to extend this interface to, e.g., URLs, sockets, etc., and having them to function appropriately.
I feel the same way occasionally, even though I was complaining about it being a bit baroque the time I was using CL. I guess that’s karma for me
I think this could be a neat approach; the only caveat I see is supporting all of the string interface as the set of valid pathnames may not be closed under all string operations. Eg what happens for your type * an arbitrary string (may or may not be a pathname)?
But in any case, I think this is worth experimenting with.
No discussion of Paths is complete without pointing out FilePathsBase.jl. It doesn’t solve the particular issue you’re discussing but it is worth being aware of if you’re working and thinking about solutions in this space.
I find the reasoning for making this change a bit odd. They wrote the only reason we’ve been subtyping it is to make interop with existing filesystem methods easier. Compatibility with all existing code that uses file paths does not seem like a minor benefit to me! Without it, I find this approach to be of very limited utility — it’s not practical to require all existing filesystem code (in both Base and packages) to be updated, or to require every caller to perform a conversion.
Yes, implementing a full-featured AbstractString interface does require you to implement a fair number of methods, but the benefits of compatibility are huge.
I can see that I was in favor of dropping the inheritance from AbstractString back when that change was made, but I have to admit I no longer understand why… Maybe we should revisit that?
The only reasoning I can come up with now is that maybe one wants to encourage API design where a AbstractString is not treated as a path? Say parse(x::AbstractString) would parse the content of x directly, and parse(x::Path) would load a file and parse. But of course that even works if Path inherits from AbstractString, so that is probably not a great argument.
Isn’t the easier way of doing this simply support ::Path in CSV or other packages that deal with it? This shifts the burden to package maintainers to have a function csv_read(::Path) but isn’t this a feature of Julia? i.e. that whether using a string or Path, it should just “work”?
I don’t think that CSV should add new methods to read etc. to support ::Path. Rather the contrary, I think that the advice is keeping such functions as generic as possible, such that they will “magically” work even with new types that the authors never knew of, if those types (like the proposed Path <: AbstractString) are created with a sufficiently rich interface.
That’s the message that I got from this video, I hope I interpreted it in the right way:
Hmm, I didn’t think of it this way. So if Path < AbstringString that would would be easier since many methods across many packages already accept a string.
I always thought that as a package developer if I expose a type, it should be up to other package maintainers to write methods to dispatch on that type. I guess it depends on how “abstract” the type is.
The whole reason multiple dispatch works so well is that if you write generic code, and someone makes a type that matches the interface, you get code re-use that no one had to plan. Stuff like this is why people in the discourse put so much emphasis on non over-typing your functions or structs.
Even if it is made to be <:AbstractString, maybe a path does not need to support all of the relevant interface. Eg it could be perfectly reasonable for * to error on results that are not valid paths, or can’t be interpreted as such.
Other things you can have if path is not a string are specialized getindex and iterate. It’s kind of cute if you can do path[end] to mean basename(path). Things like path[end-3:end] for constructing relative path is useful sometimes.