[llvm-dev] Layering Requirements in the LLVM Coding Style Guide

David Blaikie via llvm-dev llvm-dev at lists.llvm.org
Tue Jan 16 09:21:51 PST 2018

Context: I've been looking at experimenting with using Modular Code
Generation (My talk at last year's LLVM dev meeting
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lYYxDXgbUZ0 is about the best reference at
the moment) when building the LLVM project, as a good experiment for the
feature. This can/does enforce a stronger layering invariant than LLVM has
historically been enforced. So I'm curious to get buy-in and maybe document
this if it's something people like the idea of.

I'm starting this discussion here rather than in an actual code review on
llvm-commits since it seems like it could do with a bit of a wider
discussion, but once/if the general direction is agreed on, I'll send a
patch for review of specific wording for the LLVM Coding Standards.

Currently the LLVM Coding Standards
<https://llvm.org/docs/CodingStandards.html> doesn't say much/anything
about layering. 'A Public Header File *is* a Module'
talks about modules of functionality, mostly trying to describe why a
header file should be self contained - but uses anachronistic language
about modules that doesn't line up with the implicit or explicit modules
concepts in use today, I think.

I propose making this wording a bit more explicit, including:

1) Headers should be standalone (include all their dependencies - this is
mentioned in the "is a Module" piece, by way of a technique to help ensure
this, but not explicit as a goal itself).

2) Files intended to be included in a particular context (that aren't
safe/benign to include multiple times, in multiple .cpp files, etc) should
use a '.inc' or '.def' (.def specifically for those "define a macro,
include the header which will reference that macro" style setups we have in
a few places).

And the actual layering issue:
3) Each library should only include headers or otherwise reference entities
from libraries it depends on. Including in headers and inline functions. A
simple/explicit way to put this: every inline function should be able to be
moved into a .cpp file and the build (with a unix linker - one that cannot
handle circular library dependencies) should still succeed.

This last point is the most interesting - and I hope one that people
generally find desirable, so it might not be immediately obvious why it may
be contentious or difficult:

LLVM violates this constraint by using inline functions in headers to avoid
certain layering constraints that might otherwise cause the build to fail.
A couple of major examples I've hit are:

similar: This one's especially tricky - the header is part of libSupport,
but each function in here depends on a different subset of targets
(creating a circular dependency) - to call the given function the
programmer needs to choose the right dependencies to link to or the program
will not link.
Clang Diagnostics <https://reviews.llvm.org/D41357> (work in progress): The
diagnostics for each component are in their own component directories, but
are then all included from libClangBasic, a library none of those
components depends on. (so this isn't so much an inlining case as #include
based circular dependency)

Generally I'd like to get buy-in that stricter layering is desirable, and
that these few cases are at least sub-optimal, if accepted for now.

Happy to go into more details about any of this, examples, etc, but I
realize this is already a bit long.
- Dave
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