This package has been deprecated

    Author message:

    lacona is no longer used. For the Lacona addon cli tool, install `lacona-cli`. For the language parser, install `elliptical`.

    lacona

    0.39.0 • Public • Published

    lacona

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    lacona is a Javascript library for building interactive natural language text interfaces. It parses and interacts with input according to a dynamic but well-defined schema.

    First of all, lacona is not:

    • a library to extract meaningful information from unstructured text, like nltk. lacona does not know anything about English (or any other language's) grammar. Rather, it parses a subset of all possible strings according to a predefined schema.
    • a voice command system, like Siri. lacona only operates on text (though it could conceivably as a layer in such an application).
    • a static string parser, like regular expressions. lacona schemata are dynamic - can execute arbitrary code, pull data from external sources, and interact with one another. Abstractions are provided to make these complex tasks as reasonable as possible.
    • designed for automated parsing. lacona is designed to build interactive textural interfaces - that is, it operates on incomplete inputs in addition to complete ones. It provides things like intelligent suggestions, sorting, autocomplete, and syntax highlighting.
    • an application. lacona (lowercase, in a code block; also 'lacona library') is an open-source, general purpose language processing library. It is being developed alongside a proprietary natural language command line application called Lacona (capitalized; also 'Lacona app'), which you can learn more about at lacona.io.

    The beauty behind lacona comes from its language model. Language is modeled as a composition of language objects (called phrases). These phrases can be combined, composed, and extended to generate complex linguistic constructs easily. phrases reduce natural language input to as plain Javascript objects, so the input can be acted upon. This model abstracts much of the difficulty away from the developer, allowing them to compose schemata by combining existing powerful structures. Read on below for more detail.

    Development Notice

    While lacona is versioned 0.x, it is considered unstable and api is expected to change. If you would like to contribute or use Lacona, please get in touch and let me know of your plans on Github, Twitter (@brandonhorst), or by email.

    Installation

    npm install lacona
    

    Testing

    • npm run validate

    Directories

    • src: Source (ES6/JSX)
    • lib: Compiled source (ES5)
    • test Tests (ES6/JSX)
    • tmp Compiled tests (ES5)
    • doc

    Building for the Browser

    Because it is built modularly, Lacona is best consumed in the browser using Browserify.

    Usage Example

    /** @jsx laconaPhrase.createElement */
     
    var lacona = require('lacona')
    var laconaPhrase = require('lacona-phrase')
    var parser = new lacona.Parser()
     
    parser.grammar = (
      <sequence>
        <literal text='do' category='action' />
        <label text='something' id='whatToDo'>
          <literal text='something' value='something' />
        </label>
      </sequence>
    )
     
    var results = parser.parseArray('do som')
     
    console.log(results)
    /*
    [ { words:
      [ {
        text: 'do ',
        input: true,
        category: 'action'
      }, {
        text: 'som',
        input: true,
        argument: 'something',
        category: undefined
      }, {
        text: 'ething',
        input: false,
        argument: 'something',
        category: undefined
      } ],
      score: 1,
      result: { whatToDo: 'something' }
    } ]
    */

    Getting Started

    Why Lacona

    lacona is used to build interactive natural language text interfaces. For certain applications, this is a much more powerful and natural interface than a traditional GUI or command line.

    I want to make a tool that reminds me to do something at a certain time. The OSX/iOS Reminders app does this through a GUI interface or thorugh Siri. But we want to build a tool that allows natural language text input, because this is the easiest way for people in an office or a coffee shop using a keyboard. For ease-of-use, the tool should be able to understand anything that you would say to a friend.

    When you dive into this problem, you realize that there are tons of ways to say this with natural language. For example:

    • remind me to go shoe shopping tomorrow at 8am
    • tomorrow at 8am, remind me to go shoe shopping
    • remind me to go shoe shopping at 8am the day after tomorrow
    • remind me to go shoe shopping tomorrow morning
    • remind me to go shoe shopping on the morning of the 23rd
    • remind me to go shoe shopping next monday at 8

    Those are just a few examples - I'm sure you could think of many more. Moreover, if you really want the tool to "understand anything that you would say to a friend," more complicated options arise.

    • remind me to go shoe shopping the day before Jake's birthday
    • remind me to go shoe shopping 2 weeks before my vacation
    • remind me to go shoe shopping next time I go grocery shopping

    Lacona is designed to understand inputs like these, and it is designed to make the developer's life as simple as possible. The developer doesn't need to know the intricacies of language parsing - they can construct their language parser by combining existing building blocks.

    'remind me to' {task name} {date and time}
    -OR-
    {date and time}, 'remind me to' {task name}
    

    That doesn't look to bad. Because {task name} and a {date and time} are abstracted away, they can be addressed and reasoned about independently. This is exactly what lacona is designed to do. So let's do it!

    Technical Aside

    lacona schemata are all written in pure Javascript. However, because if their complex nested structure, it is recommended that developers use a syntactic sugar known as JSX. JSX was developed for React but is not tied to the HTML DOM in any way. It provides the most elegant way to build Lacona schemata.

    We recommend that you develop your schemata using JSX and transpile them using babel - that is how everything is developed internally. This guide will use JSX, as well as some ES2015 and even ES7 functionality. Though all development is possible using ES5 alone, babel compilation is highly recommended.

    For an ES5 example, please see this Gist.

    A Basic lacona Schema

    Let's develop a schema to handle our Reminder tool. It will look like this.

    /** @jsx createElement */
     
    import { createElement, Phrase } from 'lacona-phrase'
    import { String } from 'lacona-phrase-string'
    import { DateTime } from 'lacona-phrase-datetime'
     
    class Reminder extends Phrase {
      describe () {
        return (
          <choice>
            <sequence>
              <literal text='remind me to ' category='action' />
              <String id='taskname' argument='reminder' />
              <literal text=' ' />
              <DateTime id='dateAndTime' />
            </sequence>
            <sequence>
              <DateTime id='dateAndTime' />
              <literal text=', remind me to ' category='action' />
              <String id='taskname' argument='reminder' />
            </sequence>
          </choice>
        )
      }
    }

    That's doesn't look too bad, huh? Let's break it down.

    JSX Pragma

    Our first line is a comment.

    /** @jsx createElement */

    But it's not just any comment - this is a Pragma for the Babel JSX transpiler. It means "every time you see an XML tag in this file, transform it into a call to the createElement function." If you want to see this transformation in action, copy the code into the online Babel transpiler.

    If you don't include this comment, you are going get a React is not defined error, because the default behavior maps tags to React.createElement.

    Imports

    import { createElement, Phrase } from 'lacona-phrase'
    import { String } from 'lacona-phrase-string'
    import { DateTime } from 'lacona-phrase-datetime'

    In lacona, schemata are called phrases. They are actually classes that extend a class called Phrase. The Phrase class lives in the lacona-phrase module. lacona-phrase also contains createElement, which is used by the JSX transformation, so we should import that as well.

    Notice that we are not even importing the lacona module. lacona is used for parsing strings - simple schema definitions do not use it. We'll use it later, don't worry.

    lacona-phrase-string and lacona-phrase-datetime contain preexisting phrases. These two are core lacona phrases, but anyone can develop custom phrases.

    The Phrase Itself

    export class Reminder extends Phrase {
      describe () {
        return (
          <choice>
            <sequence>
              <literal text='remind me to ' category='action' />
              <String id='taskName' argument='reminder' />
              <literal text=' ' />
              <DateTime id='dateAndTime' />
            </sequence>
            <sequence>
              <DateTime id='dateAndTime' />
              <literal text=', remind me to ' category='action' />
              <String id='taskName' argument='reminder' />
            </sequence>
          </choice>
        )
      }
    }

    We've got a class called Reminder that extends Phrase. It has a single method called describe which takes no arguments. describe does not have any logic per se - it returns an object that is specified her with JSX syntax. This is normal - describe is a declarative way of specifying how a Phrase is defined, and it is generally fairly simple.

    In this JSX syntax, all lowercase elements represent phrases that are built into Lacona, and all uppercase elements should be the names of Phrase classes in the local scope.

    Just like all Javascript functions, describe must return a single object. In this case, it is returning a choice. choice means "any of my child elements are valid options".

    The choice contains two sequences. sequence means "my child elements must occur in order."

    Each sequence is slightly different, because there are multiple ways to say this same sentence in English, but they're not difficult to understand. Notice that some of the child elements have attributes, which are called props. props modify the behavior of phrases. For example, the literal phrase means "match whatever string is provided in my text prop." The DateTime and String elements have a prop called id. This is used for specifying the element for the purpose of organizing its data in results, which we will talk about later.

    The String elements also have a prop called argument. Because String is a custom Phrase, there is nothing special about this property. In reality, this controls argument output with this String's Word'.

    So all of this is just a fancy way of specifying exactly what we sent out to specify:

    'remind me to' {task name} {date and time}
    -OR-
    {date and time}, 'remind me to' {task name}
    

    Note that this Phrase is completely static. We'll deal with dynamic behavior later on in Sources.

    Using the Parser

    So we have our Phrase, now let's figure out how to actually parse some input according to it. Here's the code:

    /** @jsx createElement */
    import { createElement } from 'lacona-phrase'
    import { Parser } from 'lacona'
    import { Reminder } from './reminder'
     
    const parser = new Parser({
      grammar: <Reminder />
    })
     
    function doParse(input) {
      const parseResults = parser.parseArray(input)
      console.log(parseResults, {depth: null})
    }
     
    process.stdin.setEncoding('utf8')
     
    process.stdin.on('readable', () => {
      const chunk = process.stdin.read()
      if (chunk !== null) {
        const input = chunk.trim()
        doParse(input)
      }
    })

    Pragma and Imports

    /** @jsx createElement */
     
    import { createElement } from 'lacona-phrase'
    import { Parser } from 'lacona'
    import { Reminder } from './reminder'

    We're still using JSX, so we need our JSX pragma. This time, we're importing the Reminder Phrase that we created already, and we are also loading the Parser class from lacona. This is the class that actually does the parsing for us.

    Configuring the Parser

    const parser = new Parser({
      grammar: <Reminder />
    })

    We create an instance of the Parser class, and we pass it an object with a single property: grammar. grammar contains a single JSX element - the Reminder which we created earlier.

    Parsing

    function doParse(input) {
      const parseResults = parser.parseArray(input)
      console.log(parseResults, {depth: null})
    }
     
    process.stdin.setEncoding('utf8')
     
    process.stdin.on('readable', () => {
      const chunk = process.stdin.read()
      if (chunk !== null) {
        const input = chunk.trim()
        doParse(input)
      }
    })

    There's some Node mumbo jumbo for reading text input here, but the the important part is we are calling the parseArray method on our Parser instance. We pass it a string for the input, and it returns an array of possible results. These results have a lot of data, so we will analyze them together.

    Output

    Let's try it out. When we launch our app (perhaps using babel-node), it prompts us for input. Let's say we input rem, which is the beginning of "remember". Here's what it returns:

    [ {
      words: [
        {
          text: 'rem',
          input: true,
          category: 'action'
        }, {
          text: 'ind me to ',
          input: false
        }, {
          text: 'string',
          input: false,
          placeholder: true,
          argument: 'string'
        }, {
          text: ' ',
          input: false
        }, {
          text: 'date and time',
          input: false,
          placeholder: true
        }
      ],
      score: 0.0001,
      qualifiers: [],
      result: {}
    } ]

    Let's take a look. It is returning an array with a single item: an object with properties words, score, and result.

    • score: Number - between 0 and 1 that represents how the results should be sorted when displayed to the user. The higher the score, the farther to the top it should sort. Note that the results from parseArray are not sorted automatically according to the score. Of course, in this case, it doesn't matter - we only have one result.
    • result: Any - an object that describes the data that lacona has gleaned from the input. In this case, the user has not input any actual data - just the string rem - so result is empty.
    • qualifiers: [String] - a list of qualifiers for this output. Qualifiers are arbitrary strings that any phrase in the parse chain can output. These can be used by the interface to distinguish between different outputs with the same words. For example, if a command allows you to "call Mom", but "Mom" has two different phone numbers, one could have qualifiers: ['cell'] and the other could have qualifiers: ['home']. In this case, there is no ambiguity so there are no qualifiers.
    • words: [Word] - describes how lacona understands the given input and its autocompletion suggestions. Each Word is an object with these properties.
      • text: String - the text itself.
      • input: Boolean is a Boolean that represents whether or not this word was a part of the input. If true, this word is a match of the input. If input is false, then this word is a suggestion.
      • category: String - an arbitrary string which can be used for syntax highlighting, which comes from the category property on various phrases. While any string can be used as a category, the standard categories are action for verbs and conjunction for punctuation and grammatical necessities.
      • placeholder: Boolean (optional) - represents whether the text is an literal recommendation, or just an indicator of possible input. Placeholders are used to make it clear to the user what they should enter as they type. If words contains no objects with placeholder: true, then the output is considered complete.
      • argument: String (optional) - the text prop of the highest level <label argument={true} />. This is used to classify output. Commands will use <label /> to group sections of the command that can be considered independently.

    Our application should take this output and display it nicely to the user. For example, this output could be rendered

    remind me to string date and time

    In this way, we show the user a pleasant interface as they are typing their command.

    Advanced Parsing

    Let's take a closer look at how the lacona parser works, so we will be ready to build more advanced phrases. I will condense our code from earlier into a single file.

    /** @jsx createElement */
    import { createElement, Phrase } from 'lacona-phrase'
    import String from 'lacona-phrase-string'
    import DateTime from 'lacona-phrase-datetime'
    import { Parser } from 'lacona'
     
    class Reminder extends Phrase {
      describe () {
        return (
          <choice>
            <sequence>
              <literal text='remind me to ' category='action' />
              <String id='taskName' />
              <literal text=' ' />
              <DateTime id='dateAndTime' />
            </sequence>
            <sequence>
              <DateTime id='dateAndTime' />
              <literal text=', remind me to ' category='action' />
              <String id='taskName' />
            </sequence>
          </choice>
        )
      }
    }
     
    const parser = new Parser({
      grammar: <Reminder />
    })
     
    const parseResults = parser.parseArray('tomorrow at noon, rem')
    console.log(parseResults, {depth: null})

    For the purposes of this example, we have hardcoded the input string, rem.

    To figure out what Lacona is doing under the covers, let's imagine a ficticious function like so:

    parsePhrase(input: String, grammar: LaconaElement) =>
      [{remainingString: String, result: Any, score: Number, words: [Word]}]

    It takes an input string and a LaconaElement (that is, a Phrase specified in JSX syntax). It parses input according to grammar and then returns an object with:

    • remainingString - the input that has not yet been consumed
    • result - a plain JS object that represents the understanding of the data
    • score - a Number (0 < score <= 1) that determines the quality of the match, used for sorting
    • words - an array of Word objects, which describe how the output should be displayed

    Lacona works by recursively calling parsePhrase. We will trace the execution through its steps to understand how it works.

    Root Level

    When parseArray('rem') is called, lacona will call parsePhrase('tomorrow at noon, rem', parser.grammar).

    Level 1 - in parsePhrase('tomorrow at noon, rem', parser.grammar)

    parser.grammar is a LaconaElement that points to the Reminder Phrase. lacona automatically instantiates Reminder and call Reminder::describe(). This returns a <choice />, which is another LaconaElement, so it will recursively call parsePhrase('rem', <return value of Reminder::describe()>).

    Level 2 - in parsePhrase('tomorrow at noon, rem', <choice>...</choice>)

    <choice /> is a built-in lacona phrase. It represents a branch in the parse chain. This means that it will call parsePhrase for each child (2, in this case), and combine their outputs. It parses them in the order that they are presented. In this case, both children are sequences, so we will call them sequence #1 and sequence #2.

    Level 3 - in parsePhrase('tomorrow at noon, rem', <sequence #1 />...</sequence>)

    <sequence /> is a built-in lacona phrase. It parses its children one-after-the-other, passing the results of each parse to the next child. This sequence has 3 children, so it will parse them all in order.

    Level 4 - in parsePhrase('tomorrow at noon, rem', <literal text='remind me to ' category='action' />)

    Finally, we start doing some actual string parsing. <literal /> is a built-in lacona phrase. It matches a literal string, specified in the text prop. In order to match, both the text and the input must start the same way. In this case, the tomorrow at noon, rem and remind me to are obviously different, so this literal does not match. Therefore, it returns an empty array, meaning no results.

    Level 3 - in parsePhrase('tomorrow at noon, rem', <sequence #1 />...</sequence>)

    Our first child returned no results, so this entire <sequence /> is invalid. It also returns an empty array.

    Level 2 - in parsePhrase('tomorrow at noon, rem', <choice>...</choice>)

    We now move on to the second child of our <choice />. In this case, it is another <sequence />, which we will call #2.

    Level 3 - in parsePhrase('tomorrow at noon, rem', <sequence #2 />...</sequence>)

    Just like <sequence #1 />, we will parse the children in order.

    Level 4 - in parsePhrase('tomorrow at noon, rem', <DateTime id='dateAndTime' />)

    DateTime is capitalized, so it is a phrase defined in the local scope. In this case, it is DateTime from lacona-phrase-datetime. DateTime is a very complicated Phrase, but we don't need to worry about that complexity. All that we need to know is that it understands all the various ways to specify a specific point in time. See the source for more details, but suffice it to say that it returns an object that looks like this:

    [
      {
        remainingString: ' at noon, rem',
        result: new Date('2015-10-12 08:00:00'), // Date object representing tomorrow at 08:00 (8am)
        score: 0.27,
        words: [{text: 'tomorrow', input: true, argument: 'date'}]
      }, {
        remainingString: ', rem',
        result: new Date('2015-10-12 12:00:00'), // Date object representing tomorrow at 12:00 (noon)
        score: 0.23,
        words: [
          {text: 'tomorrow', input: true, argument: 'date'}
          {text: ' at ', input: true, category: 'conjunction'}
          {text: 'noon', input: true, argument: 'time'}
        ]
      }
    ]

    Note that it returns two separate outputs. This means that <DateTime /> must have a <choice /> in it somewhere, because it has branched the parse. The first result has only consumed the string tomorrow, and the second result has consumed tomorrow at noon. As far as the DateTime is concerned, both of those are valid. The output that consumed fewer characters has a higher score.

    The result properties are standard JavaScript objects (in this case, Date) that describe the intent of the input. Note for the branch that only consumed tomorrow, the <DateTime /> is assuming a time of 08:00 (8am). lacona phrases are built to deal with the ambiguity of language.

    Level 3 - in parsePhrase('tomorrow at noon, rem', <sequence #2 />...</sequence>)

    Back to our <sequence #2 />. Because our first child returned two results, we need to parse the second child with the remainingString from both results, in the order that they were returned. Let's do the first one - at noon, rem

    Level 4 - in parsePhrase(' at noon, rem', <literal text=', remind me to ' category='action' />)

    We know how <literal />s work. at noon, rem and , remind me to do not match, so this returns an empty array.

    Level 3 - in parsePhrase('tomorrow at noon, rem', <sequence #2 />...</sequence>)

    Now we need to parse the second child again with the second remainingString - , rem.

    Level 4 - in parsePhrase(', rem', <literal text=', remind me to ' category='action' />)

    Now we have a match! The input , rem matches the beginning of the text prop , remind me to, so we are good-to-go. The <literal /> returns an object like this:

    [{
      remainingString: null,
      result: undefined,
      score: 1,
      words: [
        {text: ', rem', category: 'action', input: true},
        {text: 'ind me to ', category: 'action', input: false}
      ]
    }]

    The entire string has been consumed, so remainingString is null. The literal had no value prop, so the result is undefined. There are 2 words, one with input === true because it was part of the original input, and one with input === false because it is simply a suggestion. Both words also take on the literal's category, an optional prop that can be used for syntax highlighting.

    Level 3 - in parsePhrase(null, <sequence #1 />...</sequence>)

    Now we are back in <sequence #2 /> again. We will parse the third child in the sequence with the remainingString from the second child.

    Level 4 - in parsePhrase(null, <String id='taskName' />)

    String is capitalized, so it is a phrase defined in the local scope. In this case, it is String from lacona-phrase-string. String is a very simple Phrase, so we can look at it directly. See the source for more details, but suffice it to say that the String::describe() method returns <label text='string'><freetext ...</freetext></label>. So we will call parsePhrase with that.

    Level 5 - in parsePharse(null, <label text='string'>...</label>)

    label is a built-in lacona phrase. It serves two main purposes - categorizing sections of a command according to an argument, and suppressing parsing through the use of placeholders. Both functions are enabled by default, and can be disabled with argument={false} or suppress={false}.

    In this case, argument and suppress are both true. Because suppress is true and input is null, the label will not parse it's child, but will instead simply return this object.

    [{
      remainingString: null,
      result: undefined,
      score: 0.01
      words: [{text: 'string', argument: 'string', placeholder: 'true'}]
    }]

    A short aside about arguments and suppression.

    Arguments

    An argument represents a named subset of a command. Ultimately, its purpose is to show the user what it understands a given string to represent. Take, for example, the string text Vicky to Jake. Without any context, that string could mean at least 2 different things:

    • text the string "to Jake" a person named "Vicky"
    • text the string "Vicky" to a person named "Jake"

    To resolve this ambiguity, lacona uses arguments. For example, it could output:

    • [{text: 'text '}, {text: 'Vicky', argument: 'contact'}, {text: ' '}, {text: 'to Jake', argument: 'message'}]
    • [{text: 'text '}, {text: 'Vicky', argument: 'message'}, {text: ' to '}, {text: 'Jake', argument: 'contact'}]

    Note that while arguments may often correspond with results, they are functionally completely separate.

    Suppression

    Normally, <label /> will call parsePhrase child. However, it can suppress this parsing in certain circumstances. When parsing is suppressed, the label will instead output a Word with placeholder: true. This shows the user what they can input in that situation. Additionally, it improves performance because it prevents extraneous parsing once the input has already been parsed.

    By default, <label /> will output a placeholder if its input string is null, but this behavior can be modified with props.

    Level 4 - in parsePhrase(null, <String id='taskName' />)

    After a Phrase successfully parses the elements from it's describe() method, it simply returns the results - in this case,

    [{
      remainingString: null,
      result: undefined,
      score: 0.01,
      words: [{text: 'string', argument: 'string', placeholder: 'true'}]
    }]
    Level 3 - in parsePhrase('rem', <sequence #2 />...</sequence>)

    We have parsed every child of our <sequence #2 />! All children parsed successfully, so the <sequence /> will now combine the outputs.

    • remainingString - the same as the last child's remainingString
    • result - an object with {<child's id prop>: <child's result>} for each child
    • score - the score of all children multiplied together
    • words - all child words concatenated

    At long last, the parse of <sequence #2 /> returns

    [{
      remainingString: null,
      result: {
        dateAndTime: new Date('2015-10-12 12:00:00'),
        taskName: undefined
      },
      score: 0.0023,
      words: [
        {text: 'tomorrow', input: true, argument: 'date'}
        {text: ' at ', input: true, category: 'conjunction'}
        {text: 'noon', input: true, argument: 'time'}
        {text: ', rem', category: 'action', input: true},
        {text: 'ind me to ', category: 'action', input: false},
        {text: 'string', argument: 'string', placeholder: 'true'}
      ]
    }]
    Level 2 - in parsePhrase('tomorrow at noon, rem', <choice>...</choice>)

    Our <choice /> has parsed both of its children, so it returns all of the valid results. In this case, there is just the one, coming from <sequence #2 />.

    Level 1 - in parsePhrase('tomorrow at noon, rem', parser.grammar)

    Finally, we are back the top level - the Parser's grammar itself. The Parser will automatically filter out all results whose remainingString is not null or ''. Because our only result has remainingString: null, we don't need to worry about that. Therefore, it will return our final result (without the unneeded remainingString property).

    Root Level

    Parser.parseArray has finally returned! We get our final result and print it to the console:

    [{
      remainingString: null,
      result: {
        dateAndTime: new Date('2015-10-12 12:00:00'),
        taskName: undefined
      },
      score: 0.0023,
      words: [
        {text: 'tomorrow', input: true, argument: 'date'}
        {text: ' at ', input: true, category: 'conjunction'}
        {text: 'noon', input: true, argument: 'time'}
        {text: ', rem', category: 'action', input: true},
        {text: 'ind me to ', category: 'action', input: false},
        {text: 'string', argument: 'string', placeholder: 'true'}
      ]
    }]

    Translating Phrases

    Because the Lacona parser is so generic, you can accept sentences in any language at all, even languages with distinctly different grammatical structures. Some languages change the verb order, or the character direction, or lack spaces. Even so, lacona can make sense out of the texts and allow effective parsing.

    Coming Soon

    Sources

    So far, everything we have seen about Phrases are completely static. Lacona also allows for dynamic phrases. However, in order to manage complexity, dynamic behavior is abstracted through Sources.

    Sources are owned by Phrases. Each Phrase defines which sources it needs, and the sources are automatically managed for the Phrase. This is sometimes known as "sideways data loading," because the Phrase had information that does not come from its parent. It dramatically simplifies the grammar by allowing phrases to be entirely abstracted.

    An Example

    /** @jsx createElement */
     
    import { createElement, Phrase, Source } from 'lacona-phrase'
    import { readdir } from 'fs'
    import { join } from 'path'
    import { Parser } from 'lacona'
     
    class DirectoryContents extends Source {
      state = []
     
      onCreate () {
        readdir(this.props.path, (err, files) => {
          if (!err) {
            this.setData(files)
          }
        })
      }
    }
     
    class File extends Phrase {
      observe () {
        return <DirectoryContents path={this.props.directory} />
      }
     
      describe () {
        const items = this.source.data.map(filename => {
          return {text: filename, value: join(this.props.directory, filename)}
        })
     
        return <list items={items} />
      }
    }
     
    function doParse() {
      const output = parser.parseArray('open Cal')
      console.log(output)
    }
     
    const parser = new Parser({
      grammar: (
        <sequence>
          <literal text='open ' />
          <File directory='/Applications' id='appPath' />
        </sequence>
      )
    })
     
    parser.on('update', doParse)
    doParse()
     
    /*
    []
    */
     
    /*
    [
      {
        result: {
          appPath: /Applications/Calculator.App
        },
        score: 1,
        words: [
          {text: 'open ', input: true}
          {text: 'Cal ', input: true}
          {text: 'endar.app ', input: false}
        ]
      }, {
        result: {
          appPath: /Applications/Calendar.App
        },
        score: 1,
        words: [
          {text: 'open ', input: true}
          {text: 'Cal ', input: true}
          {text: 'culator.app ', input: false}
        ]
      }
    ]
    */

    Pragma and Imports

    /** @jsx createElement */
     
    import { createElement, Phrase, Source } from 'lacona-phrase'
    import { readdir } from 'fs'
    import { join } from 'path'
    import { Parser } from 'lacona'
     

    We're still using JSX, so we still need the createElement pragma.

    We need a new class from lacona-phrase now - Source. All sources must extend this class.

    For this example, we will assume a node.js environment. fs.readdir is a function which asyncronously returns an array of filenames within a given directory. path.join joins path components into a normalized path.

    Source Definition

    class DirectoryContents extends Source {
      onCreate () {
        this.setData([])
     
        readdir(this.props.path, (err, files) => {
          if (!err) {
            this.setData(files)
          }
        })
      }
    }

    We create a new class called DirectoryContents that extends Source. It has a single method, onCreate(). onCreate is automatically called whenever a new source is instantiated, which is managed automatically.

    Every Source has a method called setData(newData). This replaces Source's data property, and forces all Phrases using this source to be re-described.

    In this case, the onCreate() method calls setData immediately to set the initial data to an empty string. It then kicks off an asyncronous request (readdir()). When the callback is called, it will call setData again, this time with actual data. In this case, setData is an array of strings, but it can be any JavaScript object or literal.

    Always use setData(newData) to update the Source's data - never mutate the data property directly.

    Note that for developers coming from React: setData does not merge object properties like setState. It always replaces the data object entirely.

    Phrase Definition

    class File extends Phrase {
      observe () {
        return <DirectoryContents path={this.props.directory} />
      }
     
      describe () {
        const items = this.source.data.map(filename => {
          return {text: filename, value: join(this.props.directory, filename)}
        })
     
        return <list items={items} />
      }
    }

    Here we have a typical Phrase called TempFile. In addition to the normal describe() method, we have a new one - observe(). observe() works very similarly to describe() - it takes no arguments, and it declaratively returns a LaconaElement (specified with JSX). However, in this case, the LaconaElements represent Sources, not Phrases. The similarities are intentional - Sources can be used and combined in the same powerful way that Phrases can be.

    Just like describe(), observe() can make use of this.props. And, of course, it can pass props to the Sources that it uses.

    In this case, we are returning a single LaconaElement - <DirectoryContents />. We are passing it a prop called path, which is really just one of our props called directory.

    We don't need to know how <DirectoryContents /> works. We don't care if it's sync or async. All we know is that if we give it a path, it will set its data to a list of filenames in the directory specified by that path.

    In our describe() method, we are making use of this source. The Phrase specified by the LaconaElement returned from observe() is accessible as this.source. We can access the data property directly. In this case, we are converting the array of filenames to an items array for use in a <list /> Phrase.

    Note that in this situation, describe() is actually going to be called twice - once when the File phrase is created (and this.source.data is an empty array), and once when the readdir callback is called and the source calls setData again. The Phrase will know that its source has new data, and it will call describe again. Now, this.source.data is a full array.

    Tying Things Up

    function doParse() {
      const output = parser.parseArray('open Cal')
      console.log(output)
    }
     
    const parser = new Parser({
      grammar: (
        <sequence>
          <literal text='open ' />
          <File directory='/Applications' id='appPath' />
        </sequence>
      )
    })
     
    parser.on('update', doParse)
    doParse()

    Here, we are providing the lacona Parser with a grammar just as before. However, we also see something new - Parser is a standard Node EventEmitter. You can subscribe to an event called update, which will be triggered when any Source used in the grammar is updated. In this case, we're calling doParse right after parser is instantiated, and after its update event.

    Output

    /*
    []
    */
     
    /*
    [
      {
        result: {
          appPath: /Applications/Calculator.App
        },
        score: 1,
        words: [
          {text: 'open ', input: true}
          {text: 'Cal ', input: true}
          {text: 'endar.app ', input: false}
        ]
      }, {
        result: {
          appPath: /Applications/Calendar.App
        },
        score: 1,
        words: [
          {text: 'open ', input: true}
          {text: 'Cal ', input: true}
          {text: 'culator.app ', input: false}
        ]
      }
    ]
    */

    We see that console.log is called twice. The first time it is called (immediately), the output is an empty array. The DirectoryContents Source had no data, so the File returned a <list /> with no items.

    The second console.log is called only a few fractions of a second later, but this time with data. The readdir call has triggered the callback, updating the Source's data property, triggering the parser::update event, and ultimately causing a reparse with the desired list items.

    The Phrase is still fully declarative. All of the external interaction and the asyncronous behavior are relegated to the Source.

    API Reference

    Built-in Phrases

    All builtin phrases start with lowercase letters. These are the core building-blocks that all custom Phrases are built atop.

    literal

    Matches or suggests a single literal string.

    Result

    Any - the contents of the value prop, or undefined

    Score

    The contents of the score prop. Defaults to 1

    Props

    • text: String - The string to accept as input.
    • value: Any - The value that this literal should export to the results object
    • fuzzy: Boolean - whether or not to use fuzzy matching for this literal. Note that fuzzy matching should rarely be used for literals - if you want to fuzzy match many items, use a list.
    • decorator: Boolean - if true, then suggest text even if it does not match the input. Useful for displaying implicit information.
    • qualifier: String
    • category: String - a category to output to the words object. Useful for syntax highlighting.
    • score: Number - The score of this item, used for sorting. Higher numbers sort higher. Defaults to 1.

    Example

    parser.grammar = <literal text='Lacona' value='http://lacona.io' category='website' score={ />
    parser.parseArray('Lac')
    /* [
      {
        words: [
          {
            text: 'Lac',
            category: 'website',
            input: true
          }, {
            text: 'ona',
            category: 'website'
            input: false
          }
        ],
        score: 1,
        result: 'http://lacona.io'
      }
    */

    choice

    Branches the parsing logic. The parse will clone its current state and continue for each child independently. Consumes no characters.

    Result

    Any - One of the following items:

    • the contents of the value prop
    • if there is no value prop, the result of the child for the followed branch
    • if the child has an id prop, the result will be an Object of the form {[childId]: childResult}

    Score

    The score of the child.

    Props

    • children - The choice can contain any number of child elements. Each child represents a separate branch that the parse can flow through.
    • limit: Integer - If <limit> children are parsed successfully (all the way to the end of the parse chain), then stop attempting to parse further children. This is very useful in situations where some children are synomyous, and there is no need suggest multiples of them.
    • value: Any - The value that this choice should export to the results object. Using this is rare - usually you will want a choice to pass through the values of its children
    • qualifier: String

    Example

    parser.grammar = (
      <choice limit={2}>
        <literal text='Google' value='http://google.com' />
        <literal text='Gmail' value='http://mail.google.com' />
        <literal text='Google Maps' value='http://maps.google.com' />
        <literal text='Google Drive' value='http://drive.google.com' />
      </choice>
    )
    parser.parseArray('Goog')
    /* [
      {
        words: [
          {
            text: 'Goo',
            input: true
          }, {
            text: 'gle',
            input: false
          }
        ],
        score: 1,
        result: 'http://google.com'
      },
      {
        words: [
          {
            text: 'Goo',
            input: true
          }, {
            text: 'gle Maps',
            input: false
          }
        ],
        score: 1,
        result: 'http://maps.google.com'
      }
    */

    sequence

    Parses its children in order, one after the other.

    Optional

    Every child of a sequence can set a property called optional. If it is true, It results in an implicit branch in the parse chain.

    If optional is set, the child can choose to set the props limited and preferred, which effect the output. All of these props are simply shorthand expressions, which map to choices under the covers. All 3 props default to false. Here is how they are mapped:

    optional
      <sequence>
        <literal text='Google' />
        <literal text=' Maps' optional />
      </sequence>
     
      // becomes
     
      <sequence>
        <literal text='Google' />
        <choice>
          <literal text='' />
          <literal text=' Maps' />
        </choice>
      </sequence>
    optional preferred

    Note the orders of the resulting choice's children.

      <sequence>
        <literal text='Google' />
        <literal text=' Maps' optional preferred />
      </sequence>
     
      // becomes
     
      <sequence>
        <literal text='Google' />
        <choice>
          <literal text=' Maps' />
          <literal text='' />
        </choice>
      </sequence>
    optional limited

    Note the limit of the resulting choice. This is an easy way to say "accept this child if it's there, but don't suggest it."

      <sequence>
        <literal text='Google' />
        <literal text=' Maps' optional limited />
      </sequence>
     
      // becomes
     
      <sequence>
        <literal text='Google' />
        <choice limit={1}>
          <literal text='' />
          <literal text=' Maps' />
        </choice>
      </sequence>
    optional preferred limited

    This is an easy way to say "accept this child if it's not there, but don't suggest its absence."

      <sequence>
        <literal text='Google' />
        <literal text=' Maps' optional preferred limited />
      </sequence>
     
      // becomes
     
      <sequence>
        <literal text='Google' />
        <choice limit={1}>
          <literal text=' Maps' />
          <literal text='' />
        </choice>
      </sequence>

    There is another piece of functionality known as the ellipsis. If you sent a <sequence />s child to have ellipsis={true}, then it means "it is OK to stop here - make the rest of the sequence optional". This limits the options displayed to the user and can substantially improve understanding and performance. These two descriptions are precisely equivalent:

    <sequence>
      <literal text='The ' />
      <literal text='Batman' ellipsis />
      <literal text=' and Robin' />
    </literal>
     
    //becomes
     
    <sequence>
      <literal text='The ' />
      <literal text='Batman' />
      <sequence optional limited merge>
        <literal text=' and Robin' />
      </sequence>
    </literal>

    Result

    Any - One of the following items

    • the contents of the value prop
    • if there is no value prop, an Object that is composed of the results of the children:
      • If the child has an id prop, the resulting Object will have a key {[childId]: childResult}
      • If the child has the prop merge, the child's result will be merged into the resulting Object using _.merge.

    Score

    The score of all parsed children, multiplied together.

    Props

    • children - The sequence can contain any number of child elements. Each child will be parsed in order. See the optional section for more information.
    • unique: Boolean - If true, the sequence will check the id prop of each child before parsing. If the child's id prop is already in the result object (from an child earlier in the chain), it will be skipped. Useful with optional children.

    Example

    parser.grammar = (
      <sequence>
        <literal text='Google' value='google' id='base' />
        <literal text=' Maps' value='maps' id='sub' score={0.5} optional />
        <literal text=' rocks!' />
      </sequence>
    )
    parser.parseArray('Goog')
    /* [
      {
        words: [
          {
            text: 'Goo',
            input: true
          }, {
            text: 'gle',
            input: false
          }, {
            text: ' rocks!',
            input: false
          }
        ],
        score: 1,
        result: {
          base: 'google'
        }
      }, {
        words: [
          {
            text: 'Goo',
            input: true
          }, {
            text: 'gle',
            input: false
          }, {
            text: ' Maps',
            input: false
          }, {
            text: ' rocks!',
            input: false
          }
        ],
        score: 0.5,
        result: {
          base: 'google',
          sub: 'maps'
        }
      }
    */

    repeat

    Allows an element to be repeated multiple times, with an optional separator.

    Result

    Array - An array of the values of each child, in the order they were parsed

    Score

    1

    Props

    • child - The repeat can contain a single child element, which will be parsed repeatedly.
    • separator: LaconaElement - A single element, which will be placed in sequence between every repetition. Its result is ignored.
    • unique: Boolean - If true, the repeat will not allow repetitions that have the same result. That is to say, the repeat's result is guaranteed to be unique.
    • max: Integer - the maximum number of repetitions to allow. Defaults to unlimited.
    • min: Integer - the minimum number of repetitions to allow. Defaults to 1.

    Example

    parser.grammar = (
      <repeat separator={<literal text=' ' category='conjunction'/>} max={3}>
        <literal text='wort' value='go' />
      </repeat>
    )
    parser.parseArray('wort wort')
    /* [
      {
        words: [
          {
            text: 'wort',
            input: true
          }, {
            text: ' ',
            category: 'conjunction',
            input: true
          }, {
            text: 'wort',
            input: true
          }
        ],
        score: 1,
        result: ['go', 'go']
      }, {
        words: [
          {
            text: 'wort',
            input: true
          }, {
            text: ' ',
            category: 'conjunction',
            input: true
          }, {
            text: 'wort',
            input: true
          }, {
            text: ' ',
            category: 'conjunction',
            input: false
          }, {
            text: 'wort',
            input: false
          }
        ],
        score: 1,
        result: ['go', 'go', 'go']
      }
    */

    label

    Used to provide additional metadata for within a grammar. This provides users with hints to the available options in the flexible way. This also improves performance by limiting the number of parse branches.

    Score

    labels have a very low score, to ensure that completed suggestions appear before incomplete ones.

    Props

    • child: LaconaElement - the child that becomes a part of the label.
    • text: String - this text is used as the argument name and the suppress placeholder, if either is true
    • argument: Boolean - defaults to true. If true, all words that come from this parse segment will contain an argument property, which will equal the text of this label. Note that currently only the first <label argument /> in the chain is exported.
    • suppress: Boolean - defaults to true. If true, parses that have consumed the entire input string will not continue into this label's child. Instead, it will output a word with {text: <text>, placeholder: true} This improves performance and usability, as it limits the amount of suggestions that are output for an incomplete input.
    • suppressEmpty: Boolean - defaults to false. If true, this label will also suppress inputs that are an empty string. That is to say, if the preceding elements consume the entire input string but have not yet made any suggestions, this label will still suppress the input.
    • suppressWhen: Function(input: String) => Boolean - When this label is parsed, it will call this function. If it returns true, this label will suppress the input (returning a placeholder), even if the input is non-null. This is useful to describe incomplete but non-suggestable input.
      • For example, imagine a phrase is designed to accept a 3-digit integer, but the user has only entered a single digit. The input is not yet valid, and it does not make sense to suggest a completion, but it also needs to show the user that they are on their way to a valid input. In this case, it makes sense to use something like suppressWhen={(input) => /^\d{1,2}$/.test(input)}.

    freetext

    Accept arbitrary input. Note that this phrase contains significant implicit branching, as it will attempt to validate and parse every substring between substr(0, 1) and substr(0). Use the splitOn and limit properties to improve performance.

    Result

    String - the substring that was validated and parsed.

    Score

    If the score property is not provided, higher scores are given to shorter substrings. Therefore, the highest-scored parse chain will be the one in which the freetext consumed the fewest characters.

    Props

    • splitOn: String | RegExp - Argument to String::split to determine which substrings to attempt parsing.
    • consumeAll: Boolean - Do not attempt to parse substrings, only parse the entire remaining string. Improves performance if the freetext is the final phrase in a command
    • filter: Function(input: String) => Boolean - Better-performing shorthand for <filter function={filter}><freetext ...otherProps /></filter>.
    • limit: Integer - If <limit> substrings are parsed successfully (all the way to the end of the parse chain), then stop attempting to parse further substrings.
    • score: Number - The score of this item, used for sorting. Higher numbers sort higher. Defaults to 1.

    filter

    Filter output of its child by passing results to an arbitrary function.

    Props

    • child - parse the child, but reject it unless function returns true
    • function - Function(result: Any) => Boolean - a function that takes the result of the child and returns true to pass it through or false to reject it

    Example

    parser.grammar = (
      <filter function={_.isString}>
        <list items={[
          {text: 'some string', value: 'string'},
          {text: 'some object', value: {key: 'value'}}
        ]} />
      </filter>
    )
    parser.parseArray('some ')
    /* [{
      words: [
        {
          text: 'some ',
          input: true
        }, {
          text: 'string',
          input: false
        }
      ],
      score: 1,
      result: 'string'
    }] */

    map

    Modify child results with an arbitrary function.

    Props

    • child: LaconaElement - the child to parse
    • function - Function(result: Any) => Any - a function that takes the result of the child and returns a new result

    Example

    parser.grammar = (
      <map function={_.trim}>
      <literal text='lacona' value='     lacona     ' />
      </repeat>
    )
    parser.parseArray('lac')
    /* [{
      words: [
        {
          text: 'lac',
          input: true
        }, {
          text: 'ona',
          input: false
        }
      ],
      score: 1,
      result: 'lacona'
    }] */

    tap

    Does not effect parsing at all. Calls a callback if the parse reaches it, and continues parsing. Useful for triggering sources and debugging.

    Props

    • child: LaconaElement - the child to pass the parse to
    • function - Function(input: String) - called everytime this element is parsed,

    Example

    parser.grammar = (
      <tap function={console.log}>
        <literal text='lacona' />
      </repeat>
    )
    parser.parseArray('lac')
    /* logs: lac */

    list

    Logically, a list can be thought of as a choice of literals. However, it has enhancements that allow it to work better for large lists, especially when limiting and fuzzy matching is used. It also performs better.

    In general, everytime you have a choice containing only literals, you should use a list instead. If you have a choice that is has a limit whose children are literals with fuzzy, you must use list, or the output may be incorrect.

    Result

    Any - The value of the item, or undefined

    Props

    • items: Array<{String | Object}> - An array valid items. The parse will branch for each one. If item is a String, it is equivalent to {text: item}. Each item is an Object with these properties:
      • text: String - The text to parse
      • value: Any - The list's result in this parse branch
      • qualifier: String
    • fuzzy: Boolean - If true, the items will be fuzzy matched.
    • limit: Integer - If <limit> items are parsed successfully (all the way to the end of the parse chain), then stop attempting to parse further children. Note that if fuzzy is true, then fuzzy sorting is applied before limiting, so the best matches will not be limited.
    • qualifier: String

    Example

    parser.grammar = <list limit={2} items={[
      {text: 'Google', value: 'http://google.com'},
      {text: 'Gmail', value: 'http://mail.google.com'},
      {text: 'Google Maps', value: 'http://maps.google.com'},
      {text: 'Google Drive', value: 'http://drive.google.com'}
    ]} />
    parser.parseArray('gm')
    /* [
      {
        words: [
          {
            text: 'Gm',
            input: true
          }, {
            text: 'ail',
            input: false
          }
        ],
        score: 1,
        result: 'http://mail.google.com'
      },
      {
        words: [
          {
            text: 'Goo',
            input: true
          }, {
            text: 'gle Maps',
            input: false
          }
        ],
        score: 1,
        result: 'http://maps.google.com'
      }
    */

    raw

    The lowest-level phrase, which allows completely arbitrary manipulation of outputs. See tests for examples, but only use as a last resort.

    Install

    npm i lacona

    DownloadsWeekly Downloads

    62

    Version

    0.39.0

    License

    MIT

    Last publish

    Collaborators

    • brandonhorst