App::Easer options collection


Some reflections on evolving the options collection in App::Easer V2.

Today (which is some days ago, actually) I had one of those A-ha! moments of looking at the obvious and seeing it as such.

App::Easer is, at the end of the day, a way of collecting options in the most straightforward and easy way. Well, yes, there’s the aspect of organizing commands in sub-commands; but surely the most delicate thing is about collecting options.

  • defaults, possibly directly from where options are defined;
  • the command line, of course
  • the environment, which allows us setting stuff easily and durably
  • configuration files, either provided explicitly or in some known locations
  • anything else… a key-value store somewhere? Kubernetes ConfigMaps or Secrets maybe?

And more:

  • parents: what should sub-commands see of options coming from parent commands?
  • sub-trees: how about a single configuration file for a multi-leveled application?

There’s a lot of possible sources, so the next question is: how to assemble them? Which wins over which?

Then there’s another big question, of course: what if two sources provide values for multi-valued options? Merge them? Override? Give options about what to do? What if they have different types (like arrays and hashes)?

My little tiny epiphany was about the fact that gathering data is a separate process from merging data. There you have it, I said it was obvious.

In my case, I somehow coalesced the two, by using the ordering of sources in a command’s specification. Whatever comes first gets the precedence over what comes after. This is very anti-hashy behaviour (when we merge hashes straight away, the last to come takes it all), but it’s OK. Anyway, the ordering was used for both gathering options and merging them, right? First come, first served.

Then I hit a little roadblock in the management of a chicken-and-egg problem on using an option to set the path to a configuration file, and setting a default value for that option (i.e. a default configuration file name/path). I could not put the default at the beginning, because they would not be defaults any more. On the other hand, I could not put them last, because otherwise I would not have any file name for loading the configuration at all.

This led me to implement a trick to put source Default at the beginning, while still making those options appear as totally overridable (I won’t get into the details, see here and here for more). Still, it feels like a hack-around.

Some other stuff I’m introducing led me to think that I should probably separate gathering and merging in a saner way, allowing me to define the order of gathering with the natural arrangement of sources, while still allowing a flexible way to do merging. I’ll probably add a priority optional attribute to the source specification, with some sane (by my point of view) default, i.e. something like this (the lower the number, the earlier it is in the line to get considered for providing a value):


The JsonFileFromConfig is taking options from a JSON file whose path is provided as a configuration option itself; JsonFiles are other configuration files that might have been set in known locations.

FromTrail is to allow setting configurations for a sub-command inside a configuration file that is set at the overall level. This would allow having a single configuration file for the whole application, with some hierarchy that allows taking a part of it where needed, e.g.:

"foo": "bar",
"sub-commands": {
    "baz": {
        "option1": "value2",
        "option3": "value4"

This is another case where the order of gathering stuff clashes with priority: surely I want to have all files loaded to use this possibility, but want stuff from there to override a lot of stuff.

So well, this is probably where I’ll head to.

Stay safe!

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