GNU bug report logs - #23926
defcustom with STANDARD=<non-constant-expression> gives confusing results

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Package: emacs; Severity: minor; Reported by: Noam Postavsky <npostavs@HIDDEN>; dated Sat, 9 Jul 2016 03:12:01 UTC; Maintainer for emacs is bug-gnu-emacs@HIDDEN.

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Subject: Re: bug#23926: defcustom with STANDARD=<non-pure-expression> gives
 confusing results
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> Date: Sat, 9 Jul 2016 14:59:06 +0000 (UTC)
> From: Drew Adams <drew.adams@HIDDEN>
> Cc: npostavs@HIDDEN, 23926 <at> debbugs.gnu.org
> 
> > > 2. Is it not a bug that Customize tells you that the value
> > >    was changed outside Customize?  In what way was it
> > >    changed outside Customize?  In fact, it was not even
> > >    changed.
> > 
> > It was changed, 
> 
> The option value was changed?  I don't think so.

Yes, it was changed, because the value returned by the function
changes each time it's called.

> See above.  Do you still think this is not a bug?

Of course, I do.  Maybe you don't realize how many times Emacs
evaluates the value of a defcustom, but I do.




Information forwarded to bug-gnu-emacs@HIDDEN:
bug#23926; Package emacs. Full text available.

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From: Drew Adams <drew.adams@HIDDEN>
To: Drew Adams <drew.adams@HIDDEN>, Eli Zaretskii <eliz@HIDDEN>, Noam
 Postavsky <npostavs@HIDDEN>
Subject: RE: bug#23926: defcustom with STANDARD=<non-pure-expression> gives
 confusing results
References: <<CAM-tV-8cG3gLgf-A+wBYPZWNy2WPGFV3uEdNE7=ad3oq4rXmnw@HIDDEN>
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Note, BTW, that this erroneous display of "original value"
by `C-h v' is not something that has been in Emacs long.

It was added in Emacs 24.1.  It should have been corrected
sooner than now, but it wasn't.  Now is a good time.




Information forwarded to bug-gnu-emacs@HIDDEN:
bug#23926; Package emacs. Full text available.

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From: Drew Adams <drew.adams@HIDDEN>
To: Eli Zaretskii <eliz@HIDDEN>, Drew Adams <drew.adams@HIDDEN>
Subject: RE: bug#23926: defcustom with STANDARD=<non-pure-expression> gives
 confusing results
References: <<<CAM-tV-8cG3gLgf-A+wBYPZWNy2WPGFV3uEdNE7=ad3oq4rXmnw@HIDDEN>>>
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> > 2. Is it not a bug that Customize tells you that the value
> >    was changed outside Customize?  In what way was it
> >    changed outside Customize?  In fact, it was not even
> >    changed.
>=20
> It was changed,=20

The option value was changed?  I don't think so.

The standard value (labeled "original" in `C-h v') is changed
each time the sexp is evaluated.  But the option value is not.

The option value was not changed at all in the recipe Noam gave.
It was and remained exactly what it was from the defcustom.
The mere fact of entering Customize did not change its value,
and nothing else changed its value.  It still has the original
value from when the defcustom was evaluated.

> because each time the sexp is evaluated it yields a
> different value.

See above.

> "Outside Customize" means not by the user who is typing values
> into the Custom buffer and saves those values by using the
> "set state" menu.

Correct.  And nothing changed the option value at all.  Not
that way or any other way.  It remains as it was from defcustom.

> > How about the reverse: Why do you think this is not a bug?
>=20
> See above.

See above.  Do you still think this is not a bug?




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From: Drew Adams <drew.adams@HIDDEN>
To: Eli Zaretskii <eliz@HIDDEN>, Noam Postavsky
 <npostavs@HIDDEN>
Subject: RE: bug#23926: defcustom with STANDARD=<non-pure-expression> gives
 confusing results
References: <<CAM-tV-8cG3gLgf-A+wBYPZWNy2WPGFV3uEdNE7=ad3oq4rXmnw@HIDDEN>
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> Why change anything in the wording at all?  It won't really change
> what is being done, and won't prevent any confusion, because all this
> "standard", "original", "default" etc. are not well defined anyway.

Maybe you mean that they have not been well defined in our help
for the user?  Because the standard value is well defined in
Customize, and it is referred to as such in the Customize UI.
("Original" and "default" are admittedly not so well defined.)

What's missing is to call it by the same name in `C-h v'.
And to provide some description/explanation in the doc, if it
is not there now (I haven't searched just now).

IOW, let's try to be clear with the labelling in `C-h v' -
consistent with the names used in Customize.  And let's try to
let users of `C-h v' get more info about what they're looking
at, to dispel confusion and answer questions.

I think we should also have `C-h v' provide the underlying
Lisp expression, at least on demand, just as Customize does.
It's not great to show only a value without any indication
of what it comes from.

As for whether to call the value shown "standard value":
IIUC, the standard value is:

;;    the value given in the 'defcustom' declaration.
;;    It is stored in the 'standard-value' property of the
;;    option, in a cons-cell whose car evaluates to the standard
;;    value.

That wording is maybe not perfect.  But IIUC, the value of the
`standard-value' property is not the "standard value".  Instead,
it is a cons whose car _evaluates_ to the standard value.  Its
car is, I guess, the original Lisp expression from the defcustom.

That is what needs to be made clear to users, I think, when
showing them a value.  Let them know that it is called the
"standard value", and it is the result of re-evaluating, in
the current context, the defining Lisp sexp for the option
(which is used in the defcustom).=20

All of this is important for clarity.  In particular, I think
it is important that users understand the following, which is
I guess what is behind Eli saying that the behavior is as
expected:

;; The reason for storing values unevaluated: This is so you can have
;; values that depend on the environment.  For example, you can have a
;; variable that has one value when Emacs is running under a window
;; system, and another value on a tty.  Since the evaluation is only done
;; when the variable is first initialized, this is only relevant for the
;; saved (and standard) values, but affect others values for
;; compatibility.

The premise of that last sentence is wrong, of course.  It is done
each time you use `C-h v' - to show you the "original" value.

But the main point here is that it is a _feature_, not a bug, that
the "standard value" is recomputed at any time from the original sexp.
Why/how this is a feature is explained well in that paragraph.

But without such an explanation, and especially just showing a
value in `C-h v' and calling it the "original" value, we hurt
instead of help users.

;; You can see (and modify and save) this unevaluated value by selecting
;; "Show Saved Lisp Expression" from the Lisp interface.  This will
;; give you the unevaluated saved value, if any, otherwise the
;; unevaluated standard value.

And that's the other piece that helps understanding.  I think
`C-h v' should show users that Lisp sexp - at least on demand.

That will also help understanding of the standard value that is
shown (and should be labeled as such): `C-h v' can say that this
is the result of re-evaluating the Lisp sexp.




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Date: Sat, 9 Jul 2016 14:34:00 +0000 (UTC)
From: Drew Adams <drew.adams@HIDDEN>
To: Noam Postavsky <npostavs@HIDDEN>, Eli Zaretskii
 <eliz@HIDDEN>
Subject: RE: bug#23926: defcustom with STANDARD=<non-pure-expression> gives
 confusing results
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> Either really save the original value, or don't call it the "original
> value". We can't use "default value" because that's already used for
> the non-buffer local value, unfortunately. I think "standard value"
> could work, though Drew said it was unclear.

If it is what custom calls the "standard value", which is what
you get when you `Reset to Standard Setting', then I don't
think it is wrong to use that name here.

But I think that `C-h v' - or at a minimum somewhere in the
manual - should point out what is happening here:

The value shown is the result of re-evaluating, in the current
context, the original expression that was used to define the
initial value.

Each part of that sentence is important to understanding what
this is.  We should not just suppose that all of that is
understood by a user, just by providing a label such as
"standard value" (let alone a misleading label such as
"original value").

It's OK to just provide a (reasonable) label, I guess, _if_
it is clearly defined somewhere in the doc.

I really think that it would be good to show in `C-h v'
(also), the original expression.  That is available in
Customize (good), by choosing `Show Saved Lisp Expression'.

But if we are going to show, in `C-h v', what is currently
called "original value" there, then we should (1) use a
better name for it (e.g. "standard value") and (2) provide
also the expression that it was re-evaluated from.

As for how to show that expression: if small, show it inline;
if large, show it on demand (e.g. clicking an expand button).




Information forwarded to bug-gnu-emacs@HIDDEN:
bug#23926; Package emacs. Full text available.

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 Adams on Sat, 9 Jul 2016 14:09:17 +0000 (UTC))
Subject: Re: bug#23926: defcustom with STANDARD=<non-pure-expression> gives
 confusing results
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> Date: Sat, 9 Jul 2016 14:09:17 +0000 (UTC)
> From: Drew Adams <drew.adams@HIDDEN>
> Cc: 23926 <at> debbugs.gnu.org
> 
> 2. Is it not a bug that Customize tells you that the value
>    was changed outside Customize?  In what way was it
>    changed outside Customize?  In fact, it was not even
>    changed.

It was changed, because each time the sexp is evaluated it yields a
different value.  "Outside Customize" means not by the user who is
typing values into the Custom buffer and saves those values by using
the "set state" menu.

> How about the reverse: Why do you think this is not a bug?

See above.




Information forwarded to bug-gnu-emacs@HIDDEN:
bug#23926; Package emacs. Full text available.

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From: Drew Adams <drew.adams@HIDDEN>
To: Eli Zaretskii <eliz@HIDDEN>, Noam Postavsky
 <npostavs@HIDDEN>
Subject: RE: bug#23926: defcustom with STANDARD=<non-pure-expression> gives
 confusing results
References: <<CAM-tV-8cG3gLgf-A+wBYPZWNy2WPGFV3uEdNE7=ad3oq4rXmnw@HIDDEN>>
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> > (defcustom time (current-time-string) "the time" :type 'string)
> >
> > Then try to M-x customize-options RET time RET, it will show with
> > state "CHANGED outside Customize." Similarly, doing <f1> v time RET
> > shows the "original value" as the current time, not the actual value
> > when `time' was defined.
>=20
> Why is this a bug?  Seems to be expected behavior to me.

Noam can provide his explanation.  For my part:

1. The "original value" shown by `C-h v' is not the original
   value.  In fact, it might never have been the value of the
   variable, and it might never become its value.

   This much is a doc problem.  What is shown is the result
   of evaluating, in the current context, the original,
   defining Lisp sexp.

   And if this is really what we want to show then it would
   be good to also show what that Lisp sexp is.  If it is
   large then provide a button/link to show it completely.

   And it might be good to also show the actual original
   value, i.e., the value when the variable was first set,
   however it was set.  (The original value could have
   been set without evaluating the original Lisp sexp of
   the defcustom.)

2. Is it not a bug that Customize tells you that the value
   was changed outside Customize?  In what way was it
   changed outside Customize?  In fact, it was not even
   changed.

How about the reverse: Why do you think this is not a bug?
What is expected about the behavior "changed outside" or
the behavior of saying that the "original value" is something
different from the original value?




Information forwarded to bug-gnu-emacs@HIDDEN:
bug#23926; Package emacs. Full text available.

Message received at 23926 <at> debbugs.gnu.org:


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Subject: Re: bug#23926: defcustom with STANDARD=<non-pure-expression> gives
 confusing results
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> From: Noam Postavsky <npostavs@HIDDEN>
> Date: Sat, 9 Jul 2016 09:48:18 -0400
> Cc: 23926 <at> debbugs.gnu.org
> 
> On Sat, Jul 9, 2016 at 9:14 AM, Eli Zaretskii <eliz@HIDDEN> wrote:
> >
> > For now, we just compare to the
> > previous recorded value (computed at dump time, I presume).
> 
> Dump time? This doesn't apply to non-preloaded libraries though, right?

Right.

> > The question is, given the above, do we need to actually do anything
> > with this report, except close it?
> 
> Either really save the original value, or don't call it the "original
> value". We can't use "default value" because that's already used for
> the non-buffer local value, unfortunately. I think "standard value"
> could work, though Drew said it was unclear.

Why change anything in the wording at all?  It won't really change
what is being done, and won't prevent any confusion, because all this
"standard", "original", "default" etc. are not well defined anyway.




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Subject: Re: bug#23926: defcustom with STANDARD=<non-pure-expression> gives
 confusing results
To: Eli Zaretskii <eliz@HIDDEN>
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On Sat, Jul 9, 2016 at 9:14 AM, Eli Zaretskii <eliz@HIDDEN> wrote:
>
> For now, we just compare to the
> previous recorded value (computed at dump time, I presume).

Dump time? This doesn't apply to non-preloaded libraries though, right?

>
>> >> I wonder why Emacs saves only the original expression and not the
>> >> actual original value?
>> >
>> > It does, but then it reevaluates at startup.
>>
>> It seems it's also reevaluated every time the variable is looked at
>> with customize, or describe-variable.
>
> Quite possibly, we reevaluate a defcustom when in doubt.
>
> The question is, given the above, do we need to actually do anything
> with this report, except close it?

Either really save the original value, or don't call it the "original
value". We can't use "default value" because that's already used for
the non-buffer local value, unfortunately. I think "standard value"
could work, though Drew said it was unclear.




Information forwarded to bug-gnu-emacs@HIDDEN:
bug#23926; Package emacs. Full text available.

Message received at 23926 <at> debbugs.gnu.org:


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 (message from Noam Postavsky on Sat, 9 Jul 2016 08:55:48 -0400)
Subject: Re: bug#23926: defcustom with STANDARD=<non-pure-expression> gives
 confusing results
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> From: Noam Postavsky <npostavs@HIDDEN>
> Date: Sat, 9 Jul 2016 08:55:48 -0400
> Cc: 23926 <at> debbugs.gnu.org
> 
> On Sat, Jul 9, 2016 at 8:31 AM, Eli Zaretskii <eliz@HIDDEN> wrote:
> >> From: npostavs@HIDDEN
> >> Cc: 23926 <at> debbugs.gnu.org
> >> Date: Sat, 09 Jul 2016 07:54:58 -0400
> >>
> >> Yeah, it seems expected because you're familiar with the code.  But it
> >> causes Emacs to claim the "original" value is different from what it
> >> originally was, which seems nonsensical.
> >
> > It's not nonsensical, it's what actually happens, AFAIK.
> 
> What actually happens is that Emacs goes back in time to change what
> the original value was?

No, that's the plan for Emacs 42.  For now, we just compare to the
previous recorded value (computed at dump time, I presume).

> >> I wonder why Emacs saves only the original expression and not the
> >> actual original value?
> >
> > It does, but then it reevaluates at startup.
> 
> It seems it's also reevaluated every time the variable is looked at
> with customize, or describe-variable.

Quite possibly, we reevaluate a defcustom when in doubt.

The question is, given the above, do we need to actually do anything
with this report, except close it?




Information forwarded to bug-gnu-emacs@HIDDEN:
bug#23926; Package emacs. Full text available.

Message received at 23926 <at> debbugs.gnu.org:


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Subject: Re: bug#23926: defcustom with STANDARD=<non-pure-expression> gives
 confusing results
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On Sat, Jul 9, 2016 at 8:31 AM, Eli Zaretskii <eliz@HIDDEN> wrote:
>> From: npostavs@HIDDEN
>> Cc: 23926 <at> debbugs.gnu.org
>> Date: Sat, 09 Jul 2016 07:54:58 -0400
>>
>> Yeah, it seems expected because you're familiar with the code.  But it
>> causes Emacs to claim the "original" value is different from what it
>> originally was, which seems nonsensical.
>
> It's not nonsensical, it's what actually happens, AFAIK.

What actually happens is that Emacs goes back in time to change what
the original value was? Perhaps the dates in etc/future-bug are wrong
then ;)

>
>> I wonder why Emacs saves only the original expression and not the
>> actual original value?
>
> It does, but then it reevaluates at startup.

It seems it's also reevaluated every time the variable is looked at
with customize, or describe-variable.




Information forwarded to bug-gnu-emacs@HIDDEN:
bug#23926; Package emacs. Full text available.

Message received at 23926 <at> debbugs.gnu.org:


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Subject: Re: bug#23926: defcustom with STANDARD=<non-pure-expression> gives
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> From: npostavs@HIDDEN
> Cc: 23926 <at> debbugs.gnu.org
> Date: Sat, 09 Jul 2016 07:54:58 -0400
> 
> Yeah, it seems expected because you're familiar with the code.  But it
> causes Emacs to claim the "original" value is different from what it
> originally was, which seems nonsensical.

It's not nonsensical, it's what actually happens, AFAIK.

> I wonder why Emacs saves only the original expression and not the
> actual original value?

It does, but then it reevaluates at startup.




Information forwarded to bug-gnu-emacs@HIDDEN:
bug#23926; Package emacs. Full text available.
Changed bug title to 'defcustom with STANDARD=<non-constant-expression> gives confusing results' from 'defcustom with STANDARD=<non-pure-expression> gives confusing results' Request was from npostavs@HIDDEN to control <at> debbugs.gnu.org. Full text available.

Message received at 23926 <at> debbugs.gnu.org:


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From: npostavs@HIDDEN
To: Eli Zaretskii <eliz@HIDDEN>
Subject: Re: bug#23926: defcustom with STANDARD=<non-pure-expression> gives
 confusing results
References: <CAM-tV-8cG3gLgf-A+wBYPZWNy2WPGFV3uEdNE7=ad3oq4rXmnw@HIDDEN>
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retitle 23926 defcustom with STANDARD=<non-constant-expression> gives confusing results
quit

Eli Zaretskii <eliz@HIDDEN> writes:

>> From: Noam Postavsky <npostavs@HIDDEN>
>> Date: Fri, 8 Jul 2016 23:11:02 -0400
>> 
>> A trivial example:
>> 
>> (defcustom time (current-time-string)
>>   "the time"
>>   :type 'string)
>> 
>> Then try to M-x customize-options RET time RET, it will show with
>> state "CHANGED outside Customize." Similarly, doing <f1> v time RET
>> shows the "original value" as the current time, not the actual value
>> when `time' was defined.
>
> Why is this a bug?  Seems to be expected behavior to me.

Yeah, it seems expected because you're familiar with the code.  But it
causes Emacs to claim the "original" value is different from what it
originally was, which seems nonsensical.

I wonder why Emacs saves only the original expression and not the
actual original value?




Information forwarded to bug-gnu-emacs@HIDDEN:
bug#23926; Package emacs. Full text available.

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 (message from Noam Postavsky on Fri, 8 Jul 2016 23:11:02 -0400)
Subject: Re: bug#23926: defcustom with STANDARD=<non-pure-expression> gives
 confusing results
References: <CAM-tV-8cG3gLgf-A+wBYPZWNy2WPGFV3uEdNE7=ad3oq4rXmnw@HIDDEN>
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> From: Noam Postavsky <npostavs@HIDDEN>
> Date: Fri, 8 Jul 2016 23:11:02 -0400
> 
> A trivial example:
> 
> (defcustom time (current-time-string)
>   "the time"
>   :type 'string)
> 
> Then try to M-x customize-options RET time RET, it will show with
> state "CHANGED outside Customize." Similarly, doing <f1> v time RET
> shows the "original value" as the current time, not the actual value
> when `time' was defined.

Why is this a bug?  Seems to be expected behavior to me.




Information forwarded to bug-gnu-emacs@HIDDEN:
bug#23926; Package emacs. Full text available.

Message received at 23926 <at> debbugs.gnu.org:


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To: Noam Postavsky <npostavs@HIDDEN>, 23926 <at> debbugs.gnu.org
Subject: RE: bug#23926: defcustom with STANDARD=<non-pure-expression> gives
 confusing results
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Calling such an expression "non-pure" can be misleading.

The concept you are looking for is apparently just non-constant,
IOW, an expression whose value is not always the same.

IOW the expression is not referentially transparent.

But in Lisp non-pure often refers to or suggests side effects,
esp. mutation of structure.  That's not required for this bug
to manifest.  All that's needed is for the expression to not
necessarily return the same value each time it is evaluated.=20

Anyway, yes, I agree that filing another bug for this
(separate from #4755) is good.




Information forwarded to bug-gnu-emacs@HIDDEN:
bug#23926; Package emacs. Full text available.

Message received at submit <at> debbugs.gnu.org:


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A trivial example:

(defcustom time (current-time-string)
  "the time"
  :type 'string)

Then try to M-x customize-options RET time RET, it will show with
state "CHANGED outside Customize." Similarly, doing <f1> v time RET
shows the "original value" as the current time, not the actual value
when `time' was defined.

See also http://debbugs.gnu.org/cgi/bugreport.cgi?bug=4755#25




Acknowledgement sent to Noam Postavsky <npostavs@HIDDEN>:
New bug report received and forwarded. Copy sent to bug-gnu-emacs@HIDDEN. Full text available.
Report forwarded to bug-gnu-emacs@HIDDEN:
bug#23926; Package emacs. Full text available.
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