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Argument-Passing Documentation?

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The Question is:

We are performing a quality assurance review of one of our legacy applications.
 Specifically, we are looking at the proper use of OpenVMS system services. In
 the System Service manual is is stated that service arguments within angle
 brackets have a defaul
t. If an argument is optional, it should be described as such in the
 explanatory text.
Our implementation language is Fortran.
We have always assumed that system service arguments documented with angle
 brackets are "safe" to omit from the call. We have also assumed that trailing
 commas in calls are safe to omit, ie the argument list may truncated at the
 point where only empty arg
uments would remain in the list.
Now, do these assumptions hold true?
We are also confused by the two constructs
    sys$service arg1,[arg2]
    sys$service arg1 [,arg2]
The latter would indicate that it is safe to truncate the argument list, the
 former that it is not.

The Answer is :

  The argument-passing syntax involved here is entirely language-specific.
  Fortran, in particular, passes in a zero value for an omitted argument
  position.  Other languages do not provide this, and expect that an
  omitted argument must be passed.
  The OpenVMS Wizard generally prefers to use an explicit specification
  of all arguments, regardless of the language default behaviour.  That
  written, mandating this or otherwise enforcing this behaviour within a
  compiler would have obvious and undesirable repercussions within the
  existing source code base.
  As for the second construct, your assumption that the argument list
  can be truncated is entirely correct -- when the comma is within the
  square brackets, the argument can be entirely omitted.  When the
  comma is outside the square brackets, an omitted argument must be
  passed to the function as an explicit zero, or implicitly passed as
  a zero through language-specific argument defaulting.
  Assume the following OpenVMS documentation for a hypothetical routine
  call; a hypothetical application programming interface (API):
    FunctionOne( Arg1, [Arg2], [Arg3] )
  In Fortran, the following are permitted:
    FunctionOne( 5, , )
    FunctionOne( 5, 0, 0 )
  In C, the following is required
    FunctionOne( 5, 0, 0 );
  Notice the difference in the specification of the default arguments.
  C requires the zero be specified in the argument, while Fortran can
  provide it.
  Now assume the following hypothetical API documentation:
    FunctionTwo( Arg1, [Arg2] [, Arg3] )
  In Fortran, the following are permitted:
    FunctionTwo( 5, )
    FunctionTwo( 5, , )
    FunctionTwo( 5, 0, )
    FunctionTwo( 5, 0, 0 )
  In C, the following is required
    FunctionTwo( 5, 0 );
    FunctionTwo( 5, 0, 0 );
  One subtle difference here: the called function FunctionTwo can
  (choose to) determine the numbers of arguments passed, and can
  then select and execute different codepaths based on the numbers
  of arguments detected.  (In C, please see the stdarg.h varargs
  For details on this area of OpenVMS, please see the Programming
  Concepts Manual and the Calling Standard Manual in the OpenVMS
  documentation, and please see the language-specific documentation
  for details of the language itself.
  For the core discussion of common programming errors, please see
  topic (1661) here in Ask The Wizard, as well as documentation and
  topics referenced there.

answer written or last revised on ( 24-SEP-2004 )

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