Книга: Practical Common Lisp

Optional Parameters

Optional Parameters

While many functions, like verbose-sum, need only required parameters, not all functions are quite so simple. Sometimes a function will have a parameter that only certain callers will care about, perhaps because there's a reasonable default value. An example is a function that creates a data structure that can grow as needed. Since the data structure can grow, it doesn't matter—from a correctness point of view—what the initial size is. But callers who have a good idea how many items they're going to put into the data structure may be able to improve performance by specifying a specific initial size. Most callers, though, would probably rather let the code that implements the data structure pick a good general-purpose value. In Common Lisp you can accommodate both kinds of callers by using an optional parameter; callers who don't care will get a reasonable default, and other callers can provide a specific value.[58]

To define a function with optional parameters, after the names of any required parameters, place the symbol &optional followed by the names of the optional parameters. A simple example looks like this:

(defun foo (a b &optional c d) (list a b c d))

When the function is called, arguments are first bound to the required parameters. After all the required parameters have been given values, if there are any arguments left, their values are assigned to the optional parameters. If the arguments run out before the optional parameters do, the remaining optional parameters are bound to the value NIL. Thus, the function defined previously gives the following results:

(foo 1 2) ==> (1 2 NIL NIL)
(foo 1 2 3) ==> (1 2 3 NIL)
(foo 1 2 3 4) ==> (1 2 3 4)

Lisp will still check that an appropriate number of arguments are passed to the function—in this case between two and four, inclusive—and will signal an error if the function is called with too few or too many.

Of course, you'll often want a different default value than NIL. You can specify the default value by replacing the parameter name with a list containing a name and an expression. The expression will be evaluated only if the caller doesn't pass enough arguments to provide a value for the optional parameter. The common case is simply to provide a value as the expression.

(defun foo (a &optional (b 10)) (list a b))

This function requires one argument that will be bound to the parameter a. The second parameter, b, will take either the value of the second argument, if there is one, or 10.

(foo 1 2) ==> (1 2)
(foo 1) ==> (1 10)

Sometimes, however, you may need more flexibility in choosing the default value. You may want to compute a default value based on other parameters. And you can—the default-value expression can refer to parameters that occur earlier in the parameter list. If you were writing a function that returned some sort of representation of a rectangle and you wanted to make it especially convenient to make squares, you might use an argument list like this:

(defun make-rectangle (width &optional (height width)) ...)

which would cause the height parameter to take the same value as the width parameter unless explicitly specified.

Occasionally, it's useful to know whether the value of an optional argument was supplied by the caller or is the default value. Rather than writing code to check whether the value of the parameter is the default (which doesn't work anyway, if the caller happens to explicitly pass the default value), you can add another variable name to the parameter specifier after the default-value expression. This variable will be bound to true if the caller actually supplied an argument for this parameter and NIL otherwise. By convention, these variables are usually named the same as the actual parameter with a "-supplied-p" on the end. For example:

(defun foo (a b &optional (c 3 c-supplied-p))
(list a b c c-supplied-p))

This gives results like this:

(foo 1 2) ==> (1 2 3 NIL)
(foo 1 2 3) ==> (1 2 3 T)
(foo 1 2 4) ==> (1 2 4 T)

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