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6.21 Modules

When programs become large, naming conflicts can occur when a function or global variable defined in one file has the same name as a function or global variable in another file. Even just a similarity between function names can cause hard-to-find bugs, since a programmer might type the wrong function name.

The approach used to tackle this problem is called information encapsulation, which consists of packaging functional units into a given name space that is clearly separated from other name spaces.

The language features that allow this are usually called the module system because programs are broken up into modules that are compiled separately (or loaded separately in an interpreter).

Older languages, like C, have limited support for name space manipulation and protection. In C a variable or function is public by default, and can be made local to a module with the static keyword. But you cannot reference public variables and functions from another module with different names.

More advanced module systems have become a common feature in recently designed languages: ML, Python, Perl, and Modula 3 all allow the renaming of objects from a foreign module, so they will not clutter the global name space.

In addition, Guile offers variables as first-class objects. They can be used for interacting with the module system.


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