2.15 Syntax Notes

SWI-Prolog uses ISO-Prolog standard syntax, which is closely compatible to Edinburgh Prolog syntax. A description of this syntax can be found in the Prolog books referenced in the introduction. Below are some non-standard or non-common constructs that are accepted by SWI-Prolog:

2.15.1 ISO Syntax Support

SWI-Prolog offers ISO compatible extensions to the Edinburgh syntax. Processor Character Set

The processor character set specifies the class of each character used for parsing Prolog source text. Character classification is fixed to use UCS/Unicode as provided by the C-library wchar_t based primitives. See also section 2.17. Character Escape Syntax

Within quoted atoms (using single quotes: '<atom>' special characters are represented using escape-sequences. An escape sequence is lead in by the backslash (\) character. The list of escape sequences is compatible with the ISO standard, but contains one extension and the interpretation of numerically specified characters is slightly more flexible to improve compatibility.

Alert character. Normally the ASCII character 7 (beep).
Backspace character.
No output. All input characters up to but not including the first non-layout character are skipped. This allows for the specification of pretty-looking long lines. For compatibility with Quintus Prolog. Not supported by ISO. Example:
format('This is a long line that would look better if it was \c
       split across multiple physical lines in the input')
No output. Skips input till the next non-layout character or to the end of the next line. Same intention as \c but ISO compatible.
Form-feed character.
Next-line character.
Carriage-return only (i.e. go back to the start of the line).
Horizontal tab-character.
Vertical tab-character (ASCII 11).
Hexadecimal specification of a character. The closing \ is obligatory according to the ISO standard, but optional in SWI-Prolog to enhance compatibility to the older Edinburgh standard. The code \xa\3 emits the character 10 (hexadecimal `a') followed by `3'. Characters specified this way are interpreted as Unicode characters. See also \u.
Unicode character specification where the character is specified using exactly 4 hexadecimal digits. This is an extension to the ISO standard fixing two problems. First of all, where \x defines a numeric character code, it doesn't specify the character set in which the character should be interpreted. Second, it is not needed to use the idiosyncratic closing \ ISO Prolog syntax.
Same as \uXXXX, but using 8 digits to cover the whole Unicode set.
Octal character specification. The rules and remarks for hexadecimal specifications apply to octal specifications as well.
Any character immediately preceded by a \ and not covered by the above escape sequences is copied verbatim. Thus, '\\' is an atom consisting of a single \ and '\'' and '''' both describe the atom with a single '.

Character escaping is only available if the current_prolog_flag(character_escapes, true) is active (default). See current_prolog_flag/2. Character escapes conflict with writef/2 in two ways: \40 is interpreted as decimal 40 by writef/2, but character escapes handling by read has already interpreted as 32 (40 octal). Also, \l is translated to a single `l'. It is advised to use the more widely supported format/[2,3] predicate instead. If you insist upon using writef/2, either switch character_escapes to false, or use double \\, as in writef('\\l'). Syntax for non-decimal numbers

SWI-Prolog implements both Edinburgh and ISO representations for non-decimal numbers. According to Edinburgh syntax, such numbers are written as <radix>'<number>, where <radix> is a number between 2 and 36. ISO defines binary, octal and hexadecimal numbers using 0[bxo]<number>. For example: A is 0b100 \/ 0xf00 is a valid expression. Such numbers are always unsigned. Unicode Prolog source

The ISO standard specifies the Prolog syntax in ASCII characters. As SWI-Prolog supports Unicode in source files we must extend the syntax. This section describes the implication for the source files, while writing international source files is described in section 3.1.3.

The SWI-Prolog Unicode character classification is based on version 4.1.0 of the Unicode standard. Please note that char_type/2 and friends, intended to be used with all text except Prolog source code is based on the C-library locale-based classification routines. Singleton variable checking

A singleton variable is a variable that appears only one time in a clause. It can always be replaced by _, the anonymous variable. In some cases however people prefer to give the variable a name. As mistyping a variable is a common mistake, Prolog systems generally give a warning (controlled by style_check/1) if a variable is used only once. The system can be informed a variable is known to appear once by starting it with an underscore. E.g. _Name. Please note that any variable, except plain _ shares with variables of the same name. The term t(_X, _X) is equivalent to t(X, X), which is different from t(_, _).

As Unicode requires variables to start with an underscore in many languages this schema needs to be extended.9After a proposal by Richard O'Keefe. First we define the two classes of named variables.

Any normal variable appearing exactly ones in the clause and any named singleton variables appearing more than once are reported. Below are some examples with warnings in the right column. Singleton messages can be suppressed using the style_check/1 directive.

test(_a).Singleton variables: [_a]
test(A).Singleton variables: [A]
test(_, _).
test(_a, _a).
test(__a, __a).Singleton-marked variables appearing more than once: [__a]
test(_A, _A).Singleton-marked variables appearing more than once: [_A]
test(A, A).