Dynamic tags, fake arguments, and AST mangling in SPIP

Sometimes a dynamic SPIP tag (one evaluated at request time) needs details about the template, but this information is not available. This post describes a technique for passing data from the AST into the tag's static and dynamic evaluation functions. Posted by Thomas Sutton on March 11, 2009

One occasion in which SPIP’s dynamic tag facilities is a little lacking is when you need to access details of the AST – perhaps the name of the template file, perhaps something else – to generate your content. In this post I’ll describe the obvious (but wrong) approach to passing values into a dynamic tag and another technique that actually works.

You should know about the SPIP, its template language, static tags, dynamic tags and be comfortable with PHP before reading this article.

Unlike static tags – which are implemented by a single function – dynamic tags are comprised of a set of three functions (in a magically named file) which are called by the SPIP engine as appropriate. This first of these three functions (identical to the single function of static tags) is called something like balise_FOO() and is responsible asking SPIP to call the other two functions: balise_FOO_stat() – which performs whatever static calculations are required – and balise_FOO_dyn() which performs the dynamic calculations and display the final content to the user.

An example might make this more clearer. Suppose I’m creating a #HITS tag to output the number of hits an article has received. My balise_HITS function arranges for SPIP to call the balise_HITS_* functions like so:

  1. It calls balise_HITS_stat to determine the static parameters for the tag (e.g. “id_article=36”).

  2. It arranges to call balise_HITS_dyn, passing it the static parameters as determined by balise_HITS_stat.

  3. balise_HITS_dyn uses the static parameters to query the database, etc. and produces the appropriate output.

The code to implement the #HITS tag might look like this:

One way this can fall down is if I want to access details of, for example, the SPIP templates in determining my static parameters. By the time I’m determining the parameters, I no longer have access to the abstract-syntax tree node passed to balise_FOO. All I’ve got at this point, is an array of arguments to the tag and an array of filters applied to the tag.

The obvious solution

The obvious solution is to add the value to the “$args” array I pass to calculer_balise_dynamique(). Alas, this will not work as $args is not (in spite of its usual name) an array of arguments. It is, in fact, an array of the names of arguments which SPIP is to automatically fetch and pass on the the balise_*_stat() call. Appending the name of the template file ("squelettes/foo.html", for instance) to $args tells SPIP to look for a variable called squelettes/foo.html in the context the tag is being used and pass it through to the next function. Needless to say, this doesn’t work.

The correct solution

The correct solution to this problem is to arrange for SPIP to add the values you want to the $arguments array (or perhaps the $filters array, but this may not be a good idea). This array contains the values I requested in the call to calculer_balise_dynamique along with the values of the parameters passed into the tag in the template. If I can’t use the former route, then it’ll have to be the second – I’ll need to add a another “fake” parameter to the AST node before I call calculer_balise_dynamique. (Yes, I agree. This is a rather odd way to accomplish my goal, but that’s how it goes in SPIP-land).

There are two parts of the SPIP AST that are relevant here: the Champ nodes that represent tags, and the Texte nodes the represent “strings” (amongst other things). The $p that is passed to my balise_* functions is an instance of the Champ class and I’m going to add a new instance of the Texte class representing my new “fake” parameter. Creating the new object is pretty simple, just construct it and set it’s type and texte members. The following example adds a new parameter containing the name of the template file:

First the previous code gets the name of the template file from the AST node for the tag being processed. Then it creates a new Texte object with the filename as its value. It ensures that the $p->param member of the Champ object is an array (and yes, it does seem to start with a NULL so that we can pretend that the arrays are 1-indexed) and then appends the new object to it. All that’s left is to call calculer_balise_dynamique as usual.

With this done, the value of the new “fake” parameter will be evaluated and passed to the balise_TEMPLATE_stat() call in the $args array and then (if I choose) passed on to the balise_TEMPLATE_dyn() call.


This technique still strikes me as a bit odd, but it’s the only way I can see to implement this effect without introducing global variables. In my opinion, calculer_balise_dynamique should take an array of argument values as an optional fourth argument, but needing to do this sort of thing is probably fairly rare (though I have seen it in the code for one or two built-in tags). Even if this technique is the “Right Way(TM)” to pass extra values around, then it really does need a helper function like interprete_argument_balise instead of mucking around with AST internals in every tag that need it.

This post was published on March 11, 2009 and last modified on October 4, 2021. It is tagged with: spip, php, code, syntax, ast, mangling.