dart_eval 0.0.4
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A flexible Dart interpreter written in Dart, enabling code push for AOT Dart apps.

Pub Version

dart_eval is an extensible interpreter for the Dart language, written in Dart. It's powered under the hood by the Dart analyzer, so it achieves 100% correct and up-to-date parsing (although evaluation isn't quite there yet.)

The primary goal of dart_eval is to be interoperable with real Dart code. Classes created in 'real Dart' can be used inside the interpreter with a wrapper, and classes created in the interpreter can be used outside it by creating an interface and bridge class.

For now, the project's current target is to achieve 100% correct evaluation of valid Dart code. Correct error handling (beyond parse errors) is out of the scope at this time.

Usage #

A simple usage example:

import 'package:dart_eval/dart_eval.dart';

main() {
  final parser = Parse();

  final scope = parser.parse('''
      class Cat {
        Cat();
        void speak(String name) {
          print('meow');
          print(name);
        }
      }
      void main() {
        final cat = Cat();
        cat.speak('Fluffy');
      }
  ''');

  scope('main', []);
}

Interop #

There are three types of interop:

  • Value interop
  • Wrapper interop
  • Bridge interop

Value interop #

Value interop is the most basic form, and happens automatically whenever the Eval environment is working with an object backed by a real Dart value. (Therefore, an int and a string are value interop enabled, but a class created inside Eval isn't.) To access the backing object of an EvalValue, use its realValue property. You can also pass a value-interop only enabled object to Eval using EvalRealObject with its optional parameters not set, but this is not recommended. Instead, you should use the class pertaining to the value type, such as EvalInt or EvalString.

Wrapper interop #

Using a wrapper enables the Eval environment to access the functions and fields on a class created outside Eval. It's much more powerful than value interop, but much simpler than bridge interop, making it a great choice for certain use cases. To use wrapper interop, create an EvalRealObject using its optional parameters to map out the fields and methods of the wrapped type.

Bridge interop #

Bridge interop enables the most functionality: Not only can Eval access the fields of an object, but it can also be extended, allowing you to create subclasses within Eval and use them outside of Eval. For example, bridge interop is used by Flightstream to enable the creation of custom Flutter widgets within Eval. The downside of bridge interop is that it's comparatively difficult to use, and it can't be used to wrap existing objects created in code you don't control. (For utmost flexibility at the expense of simplicity, you can use both bridge and wrapper interop.)

Since Bridge interop requires a lot of boilerplate code, in the future I will be creating a solution for code-generation of that boilerplate.

An example featuring bridge interop is available in the example directory.

FAQ #

How does it work? #

dart_eval is a fully Dart-based implementation of an interpreter. First, we use the Dart analyzer to parse the code into an AST (abstract syntax tree). Then, we map this to our own AST which is comprised of classes that 'understand' how to evaluate themselves.

Evaluation has two main steps: first, we 'declare' everything, assigning the scope of every part of the code (basically, grouping all of the declarations into fancy Maps so they can be quickly accessed via a lookup, and then giving them references to those Maps so they too can lookup other classes). Then, we simply take a top-level node and execute it, which then calls all of the child nodes under it.

Does it support Flutter? #

Yes! Well, kind of. Support for Flutter is not built in but can be added via Bridge interop. Testing has been done to a limited extent and it works. In the future this project will expand support for Flutter.

How fast is it? #

Preliminary testing shows that, for simple code, dart_eval running in AOT-compiled Dart is around 11x slower than standard AOT Dart. For many use cases this actually doesn't matter too much, e.g. in the case of Flutter where the app spends 99% of its performance budget in the Flutter framework itself. In the future you can expect this project to have somewhat better performance, although it will always be notably slower than native Dart code.

Potential design issues #

This project is somewhat of an abuse of the Dart compiler as, despite best efforts, a lot of code resorts to the use of the dynamic type. This could potentially cause long compile times and increased code size in large apps. Preliminary testing shows it's not an issue for smaller apps.

Features and bugs #

Please file feature requests and bugs at the issue tracker.

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A flexible Dart interpreter written in Dart, enabling code push for AOT Dart apps.

Repository (GitHub)
View/report issues

Documentation

API reference

License

BSD (LICENSE)

Dependencies

analyzer, pedantic

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