SPAD Style Guide

Maximum line length

No firm rule, but use about 70 characters unless that causes problems. Try to avoid lines longer than 78 characters.

File splitting during compilation

There is a script src/scripts/unpack_file that splits .spad source files at )abbrev boundaries. As a result, everything before the first )abbrev will be discarded.

In particular, it means that there cannot be a global macro definition for the whole .spad file.

Literate documentation

SPAD files can contain LaTeX parts. Such documentation must be included into blocks of the form:

)if LiterateDoc

These parts must form a proper LaTeX document. The code parts are included and typeset via the listings package.

To support a weak form of literate programming, the two files

are provided.

The file fmt.spad can be taken as an example.

cd fricas
awk -f src/doc/literatedoc.awk src/algebra/fmt.spad > fmt.tex
TEXINPUTS=:src/doc pdflatex fmt.tex


Do not use tabs, but rather explicit spaces.

Block indentation

4 spaces (no tabs)

Whitespaces around punctuation

  • “:” space before and after

  • “,” space after (but not before)

  • “;” space after (but not before)

  • ‘+’ spaces optional for most arithmetic infix operations

  • “-” no space after for unary operations

Continuation lines

Use explicit _ (underscore) even when not required

Function signature

Use explicit types, that is:

func(a : Integer) : Integer ==

rather than:

func(a) ==

Empty list

use []$T rather than empty()$T

=> (early exit)

The ternary operator cond ? a : b known from the C programming language can be encoded in SPAD as follows.


e := (v > 0 => 1; -1)


e := if v > 0 then 1 else -1

Dangling else

If there is space then the best option is all on one line

if .... then .... else ....

Otherwise it should be like this

if ... then

elt vs. qelt

We encourage better error messages over speed, i.e., use elt. qelt should only be used in cases where it is clear from the context that no index error can happen.

_+ vs. “+”

Prefer the escaped version of an operator instead of letting it look like a string, i.e. use

_+(a : %, b : %) : Boolean ==

instead of

"+"(a : %, b : %) : Boolean ==

Boolean valued functions

Functions that return boolean values have names that end in ?. Define:

positive? : Integer -> Boolean

instead of:

isPositive : Integer -> Boolean

Destructive operations

Identifiers of functions that modify their arguments should be ended with an exclamation mark (!) to remind other programmers that they should be very careful in using such functions.

Compare reverse with reverse!.

Non-public constructors

Constructors starting with “Inner” are meant for library developers but not for end-users.

Calling unary functions


foo arg

instead of


for unary functions if the argument is simple.