An innovation of the
m4 language, compared to some of its
predecessors (like Stratchey's
GPM, for example), is the ability
to recognize macro calls without resorting to any special, prefixed
invocation character. While generally useful, this feature might
sometimes be the source of spurious, unwanted macro calls. So, GNU
m4 offers several mechanisms or techniques for inhibiting the
recognition of names as macro calls.
First of all, many builtin macros cannot meaningfully be called without arguments. For any of these macros, whenever an opening parenthesis does not immediately follow their name, the builtin macro call is not triggered. This solves the most usual cases, like for `include' or `eval'. Later in this document, the sentence "This macro is recognized only when given arguments" refers to this specific provision.
There is also a command call option (
-P) which requires all builtin macro names to be prefixed
by `m4_' for them to be recognized. The option has no effect
whatsoever on user defined macros. For example, with this option,
one has to write
m4_dnl and even
If your version of GNU
m4 has the
compiled in, there it offers far more flexibility in specifying the
syntax of macro names, both builtin or user-defined. See section Changing the lexical structure of words
for more information on this experimental feature.
Of course, the simplest way to prevent a name to be interpreted as a call to an existing macro is to quote it. The remainder of this section studies a little more deeply how quoting affects macro invocation, and how quoting can be used to inhibit macro invocation.
Even if quoting is usually done over the whole macro name, it can also be done over only a few characters of this name. It is also possible to quote the empty string, but this works only inside the name. For example:
`divert' `d'ivert di`ver't div`'ert
all yield the string `divert'. While in both:
divert builtin macro will be called.
The output of macro evaluations is always rescanned. The following
example would yield the string `de', exactly as if
has been given `substr(abcde, 3, 2)' as input:
define(`x', `substr(ab') define(`y', `cde, 3, 2)') x`'y
Unquoted strings on either side of a quoted string are subject to
being recognized as macro names. In the following example, quoting the
empty string allows for the
dnl macro to be recognized as such:
define(`macro', `di$1') macro(v)`'dnl
Without the quotes, this would rather yield the string `divdnl' followed by an end of line.
Quoting may prevent recognizing as a macro name the concatenation of a macro expansion with the surrounding characters. In this example:
define(`macro', `di$1') macro(v)`ert'
the input will produce the string `divert'. If the quote was
divert builtin would be called instead.
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