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C'est la Z

Learning Elisp 10 - elisp data structures

I'm leaving our next elisp project for when I get back from my vacation but realized I could make a short video with some preliminaries - some elisp tools that we'll need that we can get out of the way.

Specifically, elisp's built in data structures.

We've already used the list data structure and in this video we go a bit more in depth.

Lists are great for, well, list processing but they're not great for random access. For that we can use vectors. Think of them like arrays in other languages but with a functional way of accessing:

  (setq v [10 20 30 40 50]) ;; define a vector
  (aref v 1) ;; returns the 20, the value in index 1
  (aset v 1 100) ;; stores 100 in index i
  ;; the vector will now have [10 100 30 40 50]

  (mapcar #'1+ v)
  ;; the above returns a new list with (2 101 31 41 51)

Note in that last example above we can use mapcar which we covered in an earlier video on vectors as well as lists but the return is a new list, not a vector.

We also cover elisp hash tables which are similar to python dictionaries. With them you can store and retrieve values based on keys (key value pairs). We're not actually going to use them in the next project so you can see the video for details.

The data structure we will be using are association lists. You can think of them as a lightweight hash table. Basically a list of pairs. A pair is a special form of a list that only has two items (well, not exactly but see the video for details). We write them by putting a period between the two elements - (1 . 2) - that's a pair with 1 as the first part and 2 as the second.

Here's an association list and how we use it:

  (setq a '((1 . "one value") (2 . "two value") (3 . "three value")))
  (assoc 2 a) ;; returns (2 . "two value")
  (cdr (assoc 2 a)) ;; returns "two value"
  (rest (assoc 2 a)) ;; also returns "two value"

In our next project, we'll use association lists to store the string names for emojis as the keys and the actual emojis for the values.

That's it for now. More in a few weeks.


The code for the series is still up here:

but this episode doesn't have any specific code.

The videos:

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