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REBOL Babysteps - 03 Making Decisions

Tags: rebol learn coolnamehere

Series: REBOL Babysteps

In rebol-babysteps-01-getting-started I gave you a first cautious glance at the REBOL programming language. In rebol-babysteps-02-getting-started-with-view I extended that glance to a peek at the excellent REBOL/View GUI library. Let’s continue learning how to program with Rebol. Today I want to get you started with some structured programming by introducing you to selection structures. Selection structures make it possible to decide whether or not to do something based on a test. Here are a few uses for a simple selection structure.

Simple Tests


The simplest selection structure is if. You give it a test expression and a block. If the test expression turns out to be true, then REBOL runs the block. Otherwise, it ignores the block and moves on to the next statement.

if equal? name "Zim" [ print "Reporting for duty sir!" ]
if Test Expression Block
if equal? name "Zim" [ print "Reporting for duty sir!" ]

You can choose between using the equal? function or the equality operator.

if name == "Zim" [ print "Reporting for duty sir!" ]

Those two equal signs in there combine to make a special operator that REBOL uses to test for strict equality – making sure that the thing on the left has exactly the same value as the thing on the right. There are a number of comparison functions and operators in REBOL. It’s up to you whether you prefer to use the function approach or the operator approach. My own preference varies according to my mood and the things being compared. Numbers and strings often get the operator treatment, while I lean towards using the functions for more complex things. I’ll stick to using the functions today, because that’s the sort of mood I’m in.

Function Operator Checks For
equal? = Equality
strict-equal? == Strict Equality
not-equal? <> Inequality
strict-not-equal? none Strict Inequality
greater? > Greater Than
lesser? < Less Than
greater-or-equal? >= Equality or Greater Than
lesser-or-equal? <= Equality or Lesser Than

equal? doesn’t care about case. “abc” and “ABC” are the same, according to these tests. So are 1 and 1.0. This is the way most of us think about comparisons, but programs sometimes need more careful comparisons in situations where case matters. One example that immediately comes to mind is login and password entry. You need to use strict-equal? or strict-not-equal? if you need an exact test.


What happens if you want to do one thing if a test is true, but a different thing if the test is false? Let’s say, for example, we want to print out one message if we recognize the user as a master, and print out another message if the user is not a master. Well, I suppose you could have two if statements, like this:

if equal? name "Zim" [ print "Reporting for duty sir!" ]
if not-equal? name "Zim" [ print "Meow!" ]

This can obviously get ugly very quickly. REBOL gives us the either statement to simplify situations like this.

either equal? name "Zim" [ print "Reporting for duty sir!" ] [ print "Meow!" ]

The either command requires a test expressions and two blocks. Either the test is true and the first block is executed, or the test is false and the second block is executed. That makes sense, doesn’t it? Here’s how that example breaks down.

either Test Do this if True Or do this if False
either equal? name "Zim" [ print "Reporting for duty sir!" ] [ print "Meow!" ]

Now is a good time to point out how flexible REBOL can be. Let’s reexamine our code and see what we are trying to do. We are printing a message, right? The only thing that is different is which message we are printing. We could hand the entire if statement directly to the print command like this:

print either equal? name "Zim" [ "Reporting for duty sir!" ] [ "Meow!" ]

It accomplishes the exact same thing as we did with the original either statement, but removes a little bit of repetition. Some folks think that steps like this do a lot to make program code more readable. Another approach might be to assign the result of the either statement to a variable and then print the variable. I like this approach, because my program might grow later on. I might decide that I want the program to speak the response rather than print it out to the screen.

response: either equal? name "Zim" [ "Yes master I obey!" ] [ "Meow!" ]
print response

I don’t want to overwhelm anybody right now, and you can ignore options like these until you are much more comfortable with REBOL. I just wanted you to see how REBOL will let you describe your program in the style that you like best.

Yes, either is a variation of the if/else construct that you find in many other languages.

Having Multiple Tests


response: ask "What's your favorite snack? "
if any [
	equal? response "tacos"
	equal? response "waffles"
] [
	print "Me too!"

There will be times that you want to check several things, and execute if any of them are true. Fortunately REBOL is there to help us with the any function. any takes a block of tests and returns true if any of those tests are true. This is another one of those definitions that just repeats the obvious, isn’t it? Well, a lot of predefined words in REBOL work like that.

Yes, this does sound like the or logical operator from other languages. Also known as || in C-derived languages. I don’t know about you, but I like any better than ||.


What if you only want to execute the block if all tests are true? It shouldn’t surprise you by this point to find out that REBOL is right there waiting for us with the all statement.

name: ask "Name: "
password: ask "Password: "
if all [
	strict-equal? name "Brian"
	strict-equal? password "Pretty Please?"
] [
	print "Login accepted!"

Yes, this does sound like the and logical operator from other languages. Also known as && in C-derived languages. I don’t know about you, but I like all better than &&.


Now that you have worked with selection structures, you have a major building block for writing useful programs. Next time around we will take a look at a few of REBOL’s many repetition and iteration structures. Then maybe we can sit down and write a real program!


24 Feb 2009

27 Feb 2005

Added to vault 2024-01-15. Updated on 2024-02-01