LOOP, a Common Lisp macro for iteration

Arithmetic Loops

(loop for i from 0 to 10
      do (print i)) ; prints 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
(loop for i from 0 below 10
      do (print i)) ; prints 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
(loop for i from 10 above 0
      do (print i)) ; prints 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
(loop for i from 10 to 0
      do (print i)) ; prints nothing
(loop for i from 10 downto 0
      do (print i)) ; prints 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 0
(loop for i downfrom 10 to 0
      do (print i)) ; same as above
(loop for i from 1 to 100 by 10
      do (print i)) ; prints 1 11 21 31 41 51 61 71 81 91
(loop for i from 100 downto 0 by 10
      do (print i)) ; prints 100 90 80 70 60 50 40 30 20 10 0
(loop for i from 1 to 10 by (1+ (random 3))
      do (print i)) ; note that (random 3) is evaluated only once
(let ((step (random 3)))
  (loop for i from 1 to 10 by (+ step 1)
        do (print i))) ; equivalent to the above
(loop for i from 1 to 10
      for j from 11 by 11
      do (format t "~2d ~3d~%" i j)) ;prints 1 11\n2 22\n...10 110

Bounded Loops

We can repeat an action some number of times using repeat.

CL-USER> (loop repeat 10 do (format t "Hello!~%"))
Hello!
Hello!
Hello!
Hello!
Hello!
Hello!
Hello!
Hello!
Hello!
Hello!
NIL
CL-USER> (loop repeat 10 collect (random 50))
(28 46 44 31 5 33 43 35 37 4)

Conditionally executing LOOP clauses

LOOP has its own IF statement that can control how the clauses are executed:

(loop repeat 1000
      for x = (random 100)
      if (evenp x)
        collect x into evens
      else
        collect x into odds
      finally (return (values evens odds)))

Combining multiple clauses in an IF body requires special syntax:

 (loop repeat 1000
       for x = (random 100)
       if (evenp x)
          collect x into evens
          and do (format t "~a is even!~%" x)
       else
          collect x into odds
          and count t into n-odds
       finally (return (values evens odds n-odds)))

Destructuring in FOR statements

We can destructure lists of compound objects

CL-USER> (loop for (a . b) in '((1 . 2) (3 . 4) (5 . 6)) collect a)
(1 3 5)
CL-USER> (loop for (a . b) in '((1 . 2) (3 . 4) (5 . 6)) collect b)
(2 4 6)
CL-USER> (loop for (a b c) in '((1 2 3) (4 5 6) (7 8 9) (10 11 12)) collect b)
(2 5 8 11)

We can also destructure a list itself

CL-USER> (loop for (a . b) on '(1 2 3 4 5 6) collect a)
(1 2 3 4 5 6)
CL-USER> (loop for (a . b) on '(1 2 3 4 5 6) collect b)
((2 3 4 5 6) (3 4 5 6) (4 5 6) (5 6) (6) NIL)

This is useful when we want to iterate through only certain elements

CL-USER> (loop for (a . b) on '(1 2 3 4 5 6) by #'cddr collect a)
(1 3 5)
CL-USER> (loop for (a . b) on '(1 2 3 4 5 6) by #'cdddr collect a)
(1 4)

Using NIL to ignore a term:

(loop for (a nil . b) in '((1 2 . 3) (4 5 . 6) (7 8 . 9))
      collect (list a b)) ;=> ((1 3) (4 6) (7 9))
(loop for (a b) in '((1 2) (3 4) (5 6)) ;(a b) == (a b . nil)
      collect (+ a b)) ;=> (3 7 11)

; iterating over a window in a list
(loop for (pre x post) on '(1 2 3 4 5 3 2 1 2 3 4)
      for nth from 1
      while (and x post) ; checks that we have three elements of the list
      if (and (<= post x) (<= pre x)) collect (list :max x nth)
      if (and (>= post x) (>= pre x)) collect (list :min x nth))
; The above collects local minima/maxima

LOOP as an Expression

Unlike the loops in nearly every other programming language in use today, the LOOP in Common Lisp can be used as an expression:

(let ((doubled (loop for x from 1 to 10
                     collect (* 2 x))))
    doubled) ;; ==> (2 4 6 8 10 12 14 16 18 20)

(loop for x from 1 to 10 sum x)

MAXIMIZE causes the LOOP to return the largest value that was evaluated. MINIMIZE is the opposite of MAXIMIZE.

(loop repeat 100
      for x = (random 1000)
      maximize x)

COUNT tells you how many times an expression evaluated to non-NIL during the loop:

(loop repeat 100
      for x = (random 1000)
      count (evenp x))

LOOP also has equivalents of the some, every, and notany functions:

(loop for ch across "foobar"
     thereis (eq ch #\a))

(loop for x in '(a b c d e f 1)
    always (symbolp x))

(loop for x in '(1 3 5 7)
    never (evenp x))

...except they're not limited to iterating over sequences:

(loop for value = (read *standard-input* nil :eof)
   until (eq value :eof)
   never (stringp value))

LOOP value-generating verbs can also be written with an -ing suffix:

(loop repeat 100
      for x = (random 1000)
      minimizing x)

It is also possible to capture the value generated by these verbs into variables (which are created implicitly by the LOOP macro), so you can generate more than one value at a time:

 (loop repeat 100
     for x = (random 1000)
     maximizing x into biggest
     minimizing x into smallest
     summing x into total
     collecting x into xs
     finally (return (values biggest smallest total xs)))

You can have more than one collect, count, etc. clause that collects into the same output value. They will be executed in sequence.

The following converts an association list (which you can use with assoc) into a property list (which you can use with getf):

(loop for (key . value) in assoc-list
      collect key
      collect value)

Although this is better style:

(loop for (key . value) in assoc-list
      append (list key value))

Looping over a window of a list

Some examples for a window of size 3:

;; Naïve attempt:
(loop for (first second third) on '(1 2 3 4 5)
      do (print (* first second third)))
;; prints 6 24 60 then Errors on (* 4 5 NIL)

;; We will try again and put our attempt into a function
(defun loop-3-window1 (function list)
  (loop for (first second third) on list
        while (and second third)
        do (funcall function first second third)))
(loop-3-window1 (lambda (a b c) (print (* a b c))) '(1 2 3 4 5))
;; prints 6 24 60 and returns NIL
(loop-3-window1 (lambda (a b c) (print (list a b c))) '(a b c d nil nil e f))
;; prints (a b c) (b c d) then returns NIL

;; A second attempt
(defun loop-3-window2 (function list)
  (loop for x on list
        while (nthcdr 2 x) ;checks if there are at least 3 elements
        for (first second third) = x
        do (funcall function first second third)))
(loop-3-window2 (lambda (a b c) (print (list a b c))) '(a b c d nil nil e f))
;; prints (a b c) (b c d) (c d nil) (c nil nil) (nil nil e) (nil e f)

;; A (possibly) more efficient function:
(defun loop-3-window2 (function list)
  (let ((f0 (pop list))
        (s0 (pop list)))
    (loop for first = f0 then second
          and second = s0 then third
          and third in list
          do (funcall function first second third))))

;; A more general function:
(defun loop-n-window (n function list)
  (loop for x on list
        while (nthcdr (1- n) x)
        do (apply function (subseq x 0 n))))
;; With potentially efficient implementation:
(define-compiler-macro loop-n-window (n function list &whole w)
  (if (typep n '(integer 1 #.call-arguments-limit))
     (let ((vars (loop repeat n collect (gensym)))
           (vars0 (loop repeat (1- n) collect (gensym)))
           (lst (gensym)))
       `(let ((,lst ,list))
          (let ,(loop for v in vars0 collect `(,v (pop ,lst)))
            (loop for
                  ,@(loop for v0 in vars0 for (v vn) on vars
                     collect v collect '= collect v0 collect 'then collect vn
                     collect 'and)
                  ,(car (last vars)) in ,lst
                  do ,(if (and (consp function) (eq 'function (car function))
     w

Looping over Hash Tables

(defvar *ht* (make-hash-table))
(loop for (sym num) on 
        '(one 1 two 2 three 3 four 4 five 5 six 6 seven 7 eight 8 nine 9 ten 10)
        by #'cddr
      do (setf (gethash sym *ht*) num))

(loop for k being each hash-key of *ht*
      do (print k)) ; iterate over the keys
(loop for k being the hash-keys in *ht* using (hash-value v)
      do (format t "~a=>~a~%" k v))
(loop for v being the hash-value in *ht*
      do (print v))
(loop for v being each hash-values of *ht* using (hash-key k)
      do (format t "~a=>~a~%" k v))

Looping over Packages

(loop for s being the symbols in 'cl
      do (print s))
(loop for s being the present-symbols in :cl
      do (print s))
(loop for s being the external-symbols in (find-package "COMMON LISP")
      do (print s))
(loop for s being each external-symbols of "COMMON LISP"
      do (print s))
(loop for s being each external-symbol in pack ;pack is a variable containing a package
      do (print s))

Looping over Sequences

(loop for i in '(one two three four five six)
      do (print i))
(loop for i in '(one two three four five six) by #'cddr
      do (print i)) ;prints ONE THREE FIVE

(loop for i on '(a b c d e f g)
      do (print (length i))) ;prints 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
(loop for i on '(a b c d e f g) by #'cddr
      do (print (length i))) ;prints 7 5 3 1
(loop for i on '(a b c)
      do (print i)) ;prints (a b c) (b c) (c)

(loop for i across #(1 2 3 4 5 6)
      do (print i)) ; prints 1 2 3 4 5 6
(loop for i across "foo"
      do (print i)) ; prints #\f #\o #\o
(loop for element across "foo"
      for i from 0
      do (format t "~a ~a~%" i element)) ; prints 0 f\n1 o\n1 o

Here is a summary of the keywords

KeywordSequence typeVariable type
inlistelement of list
onlistsome cdr of list
acrossvectorelement of vector

Nested Iteration

The special LOOP NAMED foo syntax allows you to create a loop that you can exit early from. The exit is performed using return-from, and can be used from within nested loops.

The following uses a nested loop to look for a complex number in a 2D array:

(loop named top
      for x from 0 below (array-dimension *array* 1)
      do (loop for y from 0 below (array-dimension *array* 0))
               for n = (aref *array* y x)
             when (complexp n)
               do (return-from top (values n x y))))

Parallel Iteration

Multiple FOR clauses are allowed in a LOOP. The loop finishes when the first of these clauses finishes:

(loop for a in '(1 2 3 4 5)
      for b in '(a b c)
      collect (list a b))
;; Evaluates to: ((1 a) (2 b) (3 c))

Other clauses that determine if the loop should continue can be combined:

(loop for a in '(1 2 3 4 5 6 7)
      while (< a 4)
      collect a)
;; Evaluates to: (1 2 3)

(loop for a in '(1 2 3 4 5 6 7)
      while (< a 4)
      repeat 1
      collect a)
;; Evaluates to: (1)

Determine which list is longer, cutting off iteration as soon as the answer is known:

(defun longerp (list-1 list-2)
    (loop for cdr1 on list-1
          for cdr2 on list-2
          if (null cdr1) return nil
          else if (null cdr2) return t
          finally (return nil)))

Numbering the elements of a list:

(loop for item in '(a b c d e f g)
      for x from 1
      collect (cons x item))
;; Returns ((1 . a) (2 . b) (3 . c) (4 . d) (5 . e) (6 . f) (7 . g))

Ensure that all the numbers in a list are even, but only for the first 100 items:

(assert
   (loop for number in list
         repeat 100
         always (evenp number)))

RETURN clause versus RETURN form.

Within a LOOP, you can use the Common Lisp (return) form in any expression, which will cause the LOOP form to immediately evaluate to the value given to return.

LOOP also has a return clause which works almost identically, the only difference being that you don't surround it with parentheses. The clause is used within LOOP's DSL, while the form is used within expressions.

(loop for x in list
      do (if (listp x) ;; Non-barewords after DO are expressions
             (return :x-has-a-list)))

;; Here, both the IF and the RETURN are clauses
(loop for x in list
     if (listp x) return :x-has-a-list)

;; Evaluate the RETURN expression and assign it to X...
;; except RETURN jumps out of the loop before the assignment
;; happens.
(loop for x = (return :nothing-else-happens)
      do (print :this-doesnt-print))

The thing after finally must be an expression, so the (return) form must be used and not the return clause:

 (loop for n from 1 to 100
       when (evenp n) collect n into evens
       else collect n into odds
      finally return (values evens odds)) ;; ERROR!

 (loop for n from 1 to 100
       when (evenp n) collect n into evens
       else collect n into odds
      finally (return (values evens odds))) ;; Correct usage.

Simple LOOP form

Simple LOOP form without special keywords:

(loop forms...)

To break out of the loop we can use (return <return value>) `

Some examples:

(loop (format t "Hello~%"))  ; prints "Hello" forever
(loop (print (eval (read)))) ; your very own REPL
(loop (let ((r (read)))
        (typecase r
         (number (return (print (* r r))))
         (otherwise (format t "Not a number!~%")))))


2016-07-21
2016-11-15
common-lisp Pedia
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