I see in the Mathematica install a Macros` package. In windows the paths is for example:

C:\Program Files\Wolfram Research\Mathematica\10.1\SystemFiles\Components\Macros

I read sometimes that Mathematica lacks proper Macro support like in lisp but is this an attempt to do similar things like in lisp ? Could there be any practical use from this package in the daily lives of mere mortal MM programmers ?


1 Answer 1


I am not really familiar with LISP macros but from what little I think I know these do not appear to be strongly related. Rather they appear to be utility functions for function authors; it seems that a number of recently added internal top-level definitions use them. Some of them clearly do use meta-programming type expansions so perhaps they are closer to what you want than I think.

I have been meaning for some while to look through these and see if I could figure out what they do and which of them are generally useful. I guess this is as good a time as any to start.

For future reference here are the public package symbols in 10.1:

names = Names["Macros`*"]


{"Macros`AbortFailure", "Macros`BlockSetOptionValues", "Macros`CatchFailure",
"Macros`CheckFailure", "Macros`ConditionalRHS", "Macros`DeclareMacro",
"Macros`FailOnMessages", "Macros`HoldSequence", "Macros`IgnoreFailure",
"Macros`InactivateFull", "Macros`InactiveSymbol", "Macros`MessageNames",
"Macros`OptionValuePatterns", "Macros`OptionValues", "Macros`Panic",
"Macros`ParseInactives", "Macros`ReleaseHoldSequence", "Macros`SetArgumentCount",
"Macros`SetUsage", "Macros`ThrowFailure", "Macros`ToFailure", "Macros`UnevaluatedLHS",
"Macros`Verify", "Macros`VerifyFalse", "Macros`VerifyTrue", "Macros`$FailRHS",
"Macros`$FailureScope", "Macros`$FailureScopeStack", "Macros`$MacroHead"}

One of these has a usage message:


SetUsage[f , "usage "] attaches a usage message to f in which the special symbols \$ and \$$ can be used as they are in DocuTools.

SetUsage[f , "Subscript[usage, 1] ", "Subscript[usage, 2] ", …] concatenates several usage messages to f , each of which will show as one line when displayed with ?.

Since I am not a DocuTools user this is rather enigmatic to me but a peek at the definition of SetUsage shows that its core function is:

GeneralUtilities`PrintDefinitions @ Macros`Macros`PackagePrivate`tolinearsyntax

Macros`Macros`PackagePrivate`tolinearsyntax[string_] := 
   string, {"->" -> "\[Rule]", "'" -> "\"", 
    w : (LetterCharacter ..) ~~ "$" ~~ i : DigitCharacter | LetterCharacter :> 
     ToString[Style[Subscript[w, Style[i, "TR"]], "TI"], StandardForm] <> 
    w : (LetterCharacter ..) ~~ "$(" ~~ Shortest[i___] ~~ ")" :> 
     ToString[Style[Subscript[w, Style[i, "TR"]], "TI"], StandardForm] <> 
    w : (LetterCharacter ..) ~~ "$" :> 
     ToString[Style[w, "TI"], StandardForm] <> "\[VeryThinSpace]", 
    "$$" -> ToString[Style["…", "TR"]]}];

So it seems that $$ simply becomes an ellipsis while $ is used for quick subscripts:

Macros`SetUsage[foo, "foo[bar$1, baz$1] does bar$1 to baz$1 and $$"];


enter image description here

As I dig through this package in the coming days I shall add descriptions of my understanding of them, assuming someone has not done this before me.

  • 5
    $\begingroup$ +1. I would add to this that Lisp-style macros are not possible without introducing a separate "read-time", that is, a stage where code has been read (or is being read), but not yet executed, and where one could attach some hooks. In fact, my project on fine-grained modules was meant to provide such read-time (among other things), and I was particularly having in mind Lisp-style macro support. Hopefully, I will move that along some time soon. $\endgroup$ May 19, 2015 at 15:59
  • $\begingroup$ @Leonid Thanks. I thought there was a distinction something like that. $\endgroup$
    – Mr.Wizard
    May 19, 2015 at 18:57
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Formatted usage messages, set with SetUsage, will be displayed incorrectly in the autocompletion popup :-( $\endgroup$
    – Szabolcs
    Oct 6, 2015 at 10:46
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @Szabolcs So it seems. :-/ I see that I never extended this answer as I intended too. (I write that far too often I fear.) As I suppose you've noticed I am taking a break from Mathematica (software and site) as I was feeling burned out and I don't want my participation to become a drudgery. I can't remember the present knowledge of the auto-completion popup behavior; don't some System symbols have formatting problems there too? $\endgroup$
    – Mr.Wizard
    Oct 7, 2015 at 16:46

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