[cfe-dev] [RFC] Adding support for clang-format making further code modifying changes

MyDeveloper Day via cfe-dev cfe-dev at lists.llvm.org
Tue Aug 10 13:53:42 PDT 2021

Thank you so much for  taking the time to read, let alone comment on the
RFC, obviously knowing your opinion is important.

I'm very much encouraging that any such features that change the code would
be "off-by-default", I also think that getting these features out there
will hopefully help to improve them further.

I'm not an east const person, but I have converted large parts of LLVM to
be east const to test this without any issues, but I've also used it to
identify places in LLVM that are NOT west const,

I feel many projects could use these kinds of capabilities. (I know mine
can, I really don't want to have to persuade every new developer who joins
that their style is not our style), in my view this really matches with
clang-format ethos of ending "whitespace" wars!

Thanks again for your input.


On Tue, Aug 10, 2021 at 8:02 PM Chris Lattner <clattner at nondot.org> wrote:

> First of all, thank you so much for writing up this clear and mostly
> balanced summary of the situation, the concerns, and the decision point
> ahead here.
> I think there is a something fundamental problem to the nature of this
> discussion: we can all make semi-informed guesses about how well a
> particular format will work in practice, but we can’t know until there is
> usage experience.  Furthermore, clang-format has multiple different
> communities with different tradeoffs, and imposing a new format on an
> existing codebase has concerns.
> Clang format is already highly parameterized to support this, are you
> saying that there is pushback on adding new off-by-default capabilities to
> clang-format, or is the pushback about adding these capabilities to
> existing language modes (llvm style, google style, etc)?  I don’t see an
> obvious problem with introducing off-by-default capabilities.
> I can see a reasonable concern about introducing “const moving” or other
> new things into existing formats by default - that could be disruptive, and
> depends a lot about how well the algorithm and implementation works in
> practice.  Two thoughts on how to make progress here:
> 1) You could implement these things in an off-by-default setting, ship it
> out to lots of people, then gain data somehow (e.g. ask for feedback).
> 2) We could introduce a new top level “changing my code is allowed” mode
> to clang-format and put these checks into that.  You could even
> conceptually move namespace commenting and include sorting to that mode,
> making clang-format more consistent.
> -Chris
> On Aug 9, 2021, at 12:36 PM, MyDeveloper Day via cfe-dev <
> cfe-dev at lists.llvm.org> wrote:
> Hi all,
> As a frequent user and maintainer of clang-format I would like to
> formalize a change to the "charter" of what clang-format can/could/should do
> Motivation
> ==========
> As you all know clang-format parses source code and can manipulate the
> tokens to produce consistently formatted code (most of the time), its
> become ubiquitous in the industry and its integration into
> popular editors & IDEs such as vim/visual studio/code mean it very simple
> for users to get setup and running producing good looking code.
> clang-format does not use semantic information, and as such it doesn't
> need includes, defines or compiler flags to interpret code. Clang-format is
> generally guessing that certain sequences of tokens from the lexer
> represent certain patterns. It's a good guess but it gets it wrong from
> time to time, hence trading correctness for performance.
> Because of this clang-format is fast (not maybe as fast as we'd like) but
> fast enough to be part of in a "save" operation such that the code is
> formatted as the ide saves your work.
> Mostly clang-format manipulates only whitespace, but over the years there
> have been a number of extremely useful features that have broken this rule,
> namely include sorting, namespace commenting to name a few.
> The usage scenario of clang-format has also changed slightly to include a
> non modifying advisory role identifying clang-format violations (as in our
> own llvm-premerge checks), which can greatly aid the code review process by
> removing the need to constantly ask for the code to be formatted correctly
> or follow the LLVM convention.
> Recently a number of new features have been proposed that would also alter
> code, insertion of braces, east/west const conversion that can be performed
> at "save" speeds.
> As no semantic information is present, this raises the question as to
> whether clang-format could actually break your code.
> This has actually always been the case especially since the introduction
> of include sorting, but also we all know that clang-format can break your
> code from the visual perspective too and hence the need for // clang-format
> off/on
> In the most part include sorting not only might break your code noisily
> such that it won't compile, but it can also break it silently,
> and because IncludeSorting is on by default this breakage could
> potentially go unnoticed.
> https://stackoverflow.com/questions/37927553/can-clang-format-break-my-code
> https://travisdowns.github.io/blog/2019/11/19/toupper.html
> I don't think it can be in any doubt that IncludeSorting is a nice feature
> used by 100,000's of developers without too many issues, but there is some
> suggestion that its inclusion as "on by default" was potentially a mistake.
> Proposals for other new features that modify the code in a similar way are
> getting some push back for changing the "charter" of clang-format when it
> could be considered to have already changed.
> This is causing friction on the review of some features and so it was
> suggested to present an RFC to gain wider consensus on the concept of
> clang-format changing code.
> Mostly when a code modifying change is submitted the view is that this
> isn't clang-formats job but more clang-tidy, however clang-tidy requires
> full access to all include files and compiler definitions and only works on
> the preprocessor paths of the code you are analyzing for and its speed and
> hence its frequency of use is drastically reduced.
> Some clang-format based modifications can in theory be made with a
> relatively high level of confidence without paying the price and the
> configuration complexity of getting all the
> semantic information. https://reviews.llvm.org/D105701.
> There is potentially for clang-format to introduce breaking changes and
> whilst this could in theory cause noisy breakages they could also in theory
> produce silent ones.
> These new features want to be run at "reformat" speeds & frequency and
> benefit from the rich Ecosystem of inclusion and integration in IDEs and
> editors that clang-format enjoys.
> This RFC is to try to gain some consensus as to what clang-format can do
> and what the conditions/constraints should be if allowed to do so.
> Benefits
> ========
> The benefits are that clang-format can be used to further make code
> modifications to adhere to a coding convention (insertion/removal of
> braces),
> clang-format could be used to validate and correct coding convention
> (left/right const),  and could be used to remove unnecessary semicolons or
> potentially convert code to trailing return types all of which could be
> performed at "reformat" speeds.
> Whilst some of these capabilities are available in clang-tidy, it requires
> significant infrastructure to often perform these often relatively simple
> operations and it's unlikely
> that all users of clang-format are set up to perform these actions in
> clang-tidy.
> There are likely a number of clang-tidy modifications that could in theory
> be made at "reformat" speeds with such an approach. But there really needs
> some agreement that it's OK for clang-format to modify the code.
> Allowing these kinds of modification capabilities could lead to a new set
> of "Resharper" style capabilities being added to clang-format,
> capable of bringing source code quickly into line with coding conventions.
> Concerns
> ========
> Correctness is King, the concern is your formatting tool should not
> perform operations that could break your code. (this is already the case)
> It's perhaps not clang-format's job to do this.
> I should personally declare myself as being in favor of allowing
> clang-format to modify code, I think it only fair that I let others reply
> to the RFC with their own concerns.
> Constraints
> ===========
> To minimize the impact to existing users, We suggest that a number of
> constraints be generally considered good practice when submitting reviews
> for clang-format with modifying changes
> 1) Code Modifying Features should always be off by default
> The user should have to make a positive affirmative action to use such a
> feature
> 2) Code Modifying Features configuration options should be highlighted as
> such in the ClangFormatStyleOptions.rst such that its clear these are
> potentially code breaking options
> 3) Existing "Code Modifying Features" do not have to adhere to 1) but the
> documentation should be updated to adhere to 2)
> 4) Code Modifying Features should be conservative to be "correct first"
> before being "complete".
> i.e. If it's possible a change could be ambiguous it should tend towards
> not making the incorrect change at all rather than forcing an incorrect
> change. (This could cause some
>     cases to be missed)
> Request
> =======
> I would like to get some general agreement that it's OK for future reviews
> of code modification changes to become part of clang-format (as they are in
> IncludeSorting) assuming the best practices are
> followed to protect users from unwanted changes.
> Feedback would be appreciated
> MyDeveloperDay
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