ESTree AST iterator suitable for transducing

transducers, compiler, estree, iterator, ast, estree-ast-traversal, javascript, transducer, transpiler
npm install estransducers@1.4.9



Transducers as alternative to visitors for ESTree AST traversal.

Transducers in JavaScript

The primary goal of transducers is to run a pipeline of transformations of an input stream of values without creating intermediate values. The functions describing computations are decoupled, so this makes program design cleaner and easier to develop and maintain.

Such decoupled design probably became popular in JavaScript after jquery library. Similar tools have been implemented by other libraries and became popular too. Here is an example of separating two computations with jquery map function:


In the example produce may read some big file and store read values in a jQuery object. While store stores computed values into another file. Each function may either remove or add several new elements to the collection. First it runs f function over the whole collection and store intermediate result in memory, and after it runs g over it and again intermediate result is in memory, and only after the final result is stored into file. For big or probably even infinite streams this is clearly not acceptable.

The task is often occurring and there are many solutions. For example nodejs streams and pipe operation adding stream transformer to some other stream. Or Clojure transducers (different to the ones used in the library) with a few ports to JS, like transducers-js or in Ramda.

Clojure transducers transform consumers (called reducing function in clojure), while transducers for this library transform producers, and this is a fundamental difference making these transducers easier to define and use in JS. Making and combining transducers became a plain JS programming task, no needs to study other libraries interfaces protocols. Many parts of JS may be utilized here, like ES6 generators functions, or different control statements, etc.

Here is an example of transducer mapping stream values.

function map(fun) {
  return function*(input) {
    for(const i of input) {
      yield fun(i)

It is different to jquery map since it cannot remove or replace a single element with a few but it is pretty obvious how to create similar trivial transducers for these tasks. It is not required to make generic transducers at all. It may be some specific ones implementing the concrete task. It just reads one or several input iterators with for-of or with next, calculates something, stores current state in local variables, and sends output values with yield expression. It is still easy to compose it with some other transducers doing another part of the job. Unless some of the transducers intentionally buffer input values, nothing is stored in memory.

There is a paper about transducers transforming producers (like in this library): Lazy v. Yield: Incremental, Linear Pretty-printing from 2012 (the first mention of clojure transducers (transforming consumers) is probably this 2014 blog post. In the paper transducers are used to ensure linear complexity for pretty-printing with hierarchical document encoding similar to the one employed by this library.

Using terminology from the paper stream of values is generated by producer. For example it is a generator function reading data from channel and returning chunks with yield expression. Or it may be just some Array passed to input of transducers pipeline or anything iterable.

Results of computation are passed to consumer function. Array.from is one of as such function. It just writes all resulting values into in-memory array. This may also be a function writing values into channel.

With help function's manipulation libraries like Ramda creating and manipulating of such transducers is even simpler. For example pipe function composes transducers into a single one because transducers are just functions.

Here is a jquery example may be written using Ramda pipe:


and next is absolutely the same:


i.e. no intermediate value, and execution of f and g is interleaved for each element of input iterator.

AST transducers

Unlike streams AST is hierarchical but we still can turn it into sequence. For complex node it emits value for begin and end and children in between. This is very similar to visitors where value hierarchy is flattened into corresponding handlers call. So transducers and visitors are related like internals and externals iterators.

The library doesn't export any transducers, it only exports producer and consumer as functions:

  • produce - takes AST node and returns stream of AST traversal events
  • consume - takes stream and build AST node from it

It also exports Tag object for default AST field and type names.

Calling consume may be not necessary if AST is updated in place, however this may be not a good idea.

The event stream is an object with following fields:

  • enter - boolean displaying traversal enters node
  • leave - boolean displaying traversal exits node
  • value - An object with original AST node value in node field, it is shared between enter and leave.
  • pos - name of the field, it is not a string but a special tag value, the default tags are in Tag map exported by the library
  • type - node type tag, like for pos

If it is node without children enter and leave are both true.

Here is an example of variable value substitution transducer.

function* subst(dict, s) {
  for(const i of s) {
    switch (i.type) {
    case Tag.Identifier:
      const n = dict[]
      if (n) {
        if (i.enter)
          yield* produce(n,i.pos)
    case Scope:
      if (i.enter) {
        dict = Object.create(dict)
        for (const j in i.value)
          dict[j] = false
      } else
        dict = Object.getPrototypeOf(dict)
    yield i

This is pretty simple and comprehensible. No awareness of visitors library protocol is required. For example top stop iteration visitors typically require to signal it somehow, for example, with special value for function's result. Here it is just plain javascript break statement.

An special node type (Scope) is handled here for variables with the same name but defined in sub-functions definitions. If we don't want to touch them we may run scope calculation transducer before, injecting such Scope nodes. They will be ignored by consume function.

The usage is pretty simple, for example to rename i variables to `j':

    consume(subst({i:{type:"Identifier", name: "j"}}, scope(produce(ast))))

Or much cleaner with Ramda:

    subst({i:{type:"Identifier", name: "j"}}),

There are more details in test/rename.js


Copyright © 2016,2017 Vitaliy Akimov

Distributed under the terms of The MIT License (MIT).