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Elements of PBASIC Style


Like most versions of the BASIC programming language, PBASIC is very forgiving and the compiler enforces no particular formatting style. As long as the source code is syntactically correct, it will compile and download to the BASIC Stamp without trouble.

Why, then, would one suggest a specific style for PBASIC? Consider this: Over three million BASIC Stamp modules have been sold and there are several thousand members that participate in the Parallax online forums. This makes it highly likely that you'll be sharing your PBASIC code with someone, if not co-developing a BASIC Stamp project. Writing code in an organized, predictable manner will save you -- and your potential colleagues -- a lot of time; in analysis, in troubleshooting and especially when you return to a project after a long break.

The style guidelines presented here are just that: guidelines. They have been developed from style guidelines used by professional programmers using other high-level languages such as Visual Basic®, C/C++, and Java™. Use these guidelines as-is, or modify them to suit your individual needs. The key is selecting a style the works well for you or your organization, and then sticking to it.

PBASIC Style Guidelines

1. Do It Right The First Time

Many programmers, especially new ones, fall into the "I'll knock it out now and fix it later." trap. Invariably, the "fix it later" part never happens and sloppy code makes its way into production projects. If you don't have time to do it right, when will you find time to do it again?

Start clean and you'll be less likely to introduce errors in your code. And if errors do pop up, clean and organized formatting will make them easier to find and fix.

2. Be Organized and Consistent

Using a blank program template will help you organize your programs and establish a consistent presentation.

3. Use Meaningful Names

Be verbose when naming constants, variables and program labels. The compiler will allow names up to 32 characters long. Using meaningful names will reduce the number of comments and make your programs easier to read, debug and maintain.

4. Naming I/O Pins

BASIC Stamp I/O pins are a special case as various elements of the PBASIC language require a pin to be constant value, an input variable or an output variable. To prevent redundant definitions, use the PIN type.

HeaterCtrl      PIN         15

Since connections don't change during the program run, I/O pins are named like constants using mixed-case, beginning with an uppercase letter.

5. Naming Constants

Begin constant names with an uppercase letter and use mixed case, using uppercase letters at the beginning of new words within the name.

SYMBOL          AlarmCode   = 25
AlarmCode       CON         25

6. Naming Variables

Begin variable names with a lowercase letter and use mixed case, using uppercase letters at the beginning of new words within the name.

BS1: Avoid using W0 (B0 and B1) so that bit variables (Bit0..Bit15) are available for use in your programs. Bit variables 0..15 overlay W0, so the use of W0 may cause undesired effects.

SYMBOL          waterLevel  = W1

BS2: Avoid the use of internal variable names (such as B0 or W1) in your programs. Allow the compiler to automatically assign RAM space by declaring a variable of specific type.

waterLevel      VAR         Word

7. Variable Type Declarations

When using the BS1, variable type is declared by aliasing the SYMBOL name to an internal variable of a specific size.

SYMBOL          status      = Bit0
SYMBOL          ovenTmp     = B2
SYMBOL          rndVal      = W2

For the BS2, variable types should be in mixed-case and start with an uppercase letter.

status          VAR         Bit
counter         VAR         Nib
ovenTmp         VAR         Byte
rndVal          VAR         Word

Conserve BASIC Stamp user RAM by declaring the variable type required to hold the expected values of the variable.

SYMBOL          bitVal      = BIT0              ' 0 - 1
SYMBOL          byteVal     = B2                ' 0 - 255
SYMBOL          wordVal     = W2                ' 0 - 65535
bitValue        VAR         Bit                 ' 0 - 1
nibValue        VAR         Nib                 ' 0 - 15
byteValue       VAR         Byte                ' 0 - 255
wordValue       VAR         Word                ' 0 - 65535			

8. Program Labels

Begin program labels with an uppercase letter, used mixed case, separate words within the label with an underscore character and begin new words with a number or uppercase letter. Labels should be preceded by at least one blank line, begin in column 1 and must be terminated with a colon (except after GOTO and THEN [in classic PBASIC] where they appear at the end of the line and without a colon).

  READ eeAddr, char
  IF char = 0 THEN Print_Done
  DEBUG char
  eeAddr = eeAddr + 1
  GOTO Print_String


9. PBASIC Keywords

All PBASIC language keywords, including SYMBOL, CON, VAR, PIN and serial/debugging format modifiers (DEC, HEX, BIN) and constants (CR, LF) should be uppercase. (Although PBASIC is not case-sensitive, the BASIC Stamp Editor's Syntax Highlighting feature will automatically make these keywords all caps


10. Indent Nested Code

Nesting blocks of code improves readability and helps reduce the introduction of errors. Indenting each level with two spaces is recommended to make the code readable without taking up too much space.

Note: The dots are used to illustrate the level of nesting and are not a part of the code.

..FOR testLoop = 1 TO 10
....IF checkLevel >= Threshold THEN LED_Okay
....lowLevel = lowLevel + 1
....GOTO Loop_Delay

....LEDokay = IsOn

....PAUSE 100
..IF testMode = Yes THEN Main
....FOR testLoop = 1 TO 10
......IF (checkLevel < Threshold) THEN
........lowLevel = lowLevel + 1
........LEDokay = IsOn
......PAUSE 100
..LOOP WHILE (testMode = Yes)

11. Condition Statements

Enclose condition statements in parentheses for clarity (BS2 only - parenthesis are not allowed when using the BS1).

  IF (indoorTemp >= setPoint) THEN
    AcCtrl = IsOn
    lowLevel = lowLevel + 1    
  DO WHILE (waterLevel = IsLow)
    TankFill = IsOn
    PAUSE 250 
    DEBUG HOME, "Enter time (5 - 30)... ", CLREOL
    DEBUGIN DEC2 tmDelay
  LOOP UNTIL ((tmDelay >= 5) AND (tmDelay =< 30))

12. Be Generous With White Space

White space (spaces and blank lines) does not affect compiler performance or BASIC Stamp execution speed, so be generous with it to make listings easier to read. Allow at least one blank line before program labels (two blanks lines before a subroutine label is recommended). Separate items in a parameter list with a space.

    ON task GOSUB Update_Motors, Scan_IR, Close_Gripper

  PULSOUT MtrLeft, leftSpeed
  PULSOUT MtrRight, rightSpeed
  PAUSE 20
  task = (task + 1) // NumTasks

An exception to this guideline is with the bits parameter used with SHIFTIN and SHIFTOUT, the REP modifier for DEBUG and SEROUT, and the byte count and terminating byte value for SERIN. In these cases, format without spaces.

  SHIFTIN A2Ddata, A2Dclock, MSBPost, [result\9]
  DEBUG REP "*"\25, CR
  SERIN IRbSIO, IRbBaud, [buffer\8\255]

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