cppinternals.info: Token Spacing

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Token Spacing

   First, let's look at an issue that only concerns the stand-alone
preprocessor: we want to guarantee that re-reading its preprocessed
output results in an identical token stream.  Without taking special
measures, this might not be the case because of macro substitution.
For example:

#define PLUS +
#define EMPTY
#define f(x) =x=
==> + + - - + + = = =
==> ++ -- ++ ===

   One solution would be to simply insert a space between all adjacent
tokens.  However, we would like to keep space insertion to a minimum,
both for aesthetic reasons and because it causes problems for people who
still try to abuse the preprocessor for things like Fortran source and
   For now, just notice that when tokens are added (or removed, as
shown by the `EMPTY' example) from the original lexed token stream, we
need to check for accidental token pasting.  We call this "paste
avoidance".  Token addition and removal can only occur because of macro
expansion, but accidental pasting can occur in many places: both before
and after each macro replacement, each argument replacement, and
additionally each token created by the `#' and `##' operators.
   Let's look at how the preprocessor gets whitespace output correct
normally.  The `cpp_token' structure contains a flags byte, and one of
those flags is `PREV_WHITE'.  This is flagged by the lexer, and
indicates that the token was preceded by whitespace of some form other
than a new line.  The stand-alone preprocessor can use this flag to
decide whether to insert a space between tokens in the output.
   Now consider the result of the following macro expansion:

#define add(x, y, z) x + y +z;
sum = add (1,2, 3);
==> sum = 1 + 2 +3;

   The interesting thing here is that the tokens `1' and `2' are output
with a preceding space, and `3' is output without a preceding space,
but when lexed none of these tokens had that property.  Careful
consideration reveals that `1' gets its preceding whitespace from the
space preceding `add' in the macro invocation, _not_ replacement list.
`2' gets its whitespace from the space preceding the parameter `y' in
the macro replacement list, and `3' has no preceding space because
parameter `z' has none in the replacement list.
   Once lexed, tokens are effectively fixed and cannot be altered, since
pointers to them might be held in many places, in particular by
in-progress macro expansions.  So instead of modifying the two tokens
above, the preprocessor inserts a special token, which I call a
"padding token", into the token stream to indicate that spacing of the
subsequent token is special.  The preprocessor inserts padding tokens
in front of every macro expansion and expanded macro argument.  These
point to a "source token" from which the subsequent real token should
inherit its spacing.  In the above example, the source tokens are `add'
in the macro invocation, and `y' and `z' in the macro replacement list,
   It is quite easy to get multiple padding tokens in a row, for
example if a macro's first replacement token expands straight into
another macro.

#define foo bar
#define bar baz
==> [baz]

   Here, two padding tokens are generated with sources the `foo' token
between the brackets, and the `bar' token from foo's replacement list,
respectively.  Clearly the first padding token is the one we should
use, so our output code should contain a rule that the first padding
token in a sequence is the one that matters.
   But what if we happen to leave a macro expansion?  Adjusting the
above example slightly:
     #define foo bar
     #define bar EMPTY baz
     #define EMPTY
     [foo] EMPTY;
             ==> [ baz] ;
   As shown, now there should be a space before `baz' and the semicolon
in the output.
   The rules we decided above fail for `baz': we generate three padding
tokens, one per macro invocation, before the token `baz'.  We would
then have it take its spacing from the first of these, which carries
source token `foo' with no leading space.
   It is vital that cpplib get spacing correct in these examples since
any of these macro expansions could be stringified, where spacing
   So, this demonstrates that not just entering macro and argument
expansions, but leaving them requires special handling too.  I made
cpplib insert a padding token with a `NULL' source token when leaving
macro expansions, as well as after each replaced argument in a macro's
replacement list.  It also inserts appropriate padding tokens on either
side of tokens created by the `#' and `##' operators.  I expanded the
rule so that, if we see a padding token with a `NULL' source token,
_and_ that source token has no leading space, then we behave as if we
have seen no padding tokens at all.  A quick check shows this rule will
then get the above example correct as well.
   Now a relationship with paste avoidance is apparent: we have to be
careful about paste avoidance in exactly the same locations we have
padding tokens in order to get white space correct.  This makes
implementation of paste avoidance easy: wherever the stand-alone
preprocessor is fixing up spacing because of padding tokens, and it
turns out that no space is needed, it has to take the extra step to
check that a space is not needed after all to avoid an accidental paste.
The function `cpp_avoid_paste' advises whether a space is required
between two consecutive tokens.  To avoid excessive spacing, it tries
hard to only require a space if one is likely to be necessary, but for
reasons of efficiency it is slightly conservative and might recommend a
space where one is not strictly needed.