Documentation: Core / GNU m4 (Pass 4)

Introduction Frontends Backends Includes Auxilliaries
  GNU m4, version 1.4
  A powerful macro processor
  Edition 1.4, November 1994
  by Ren'e Seindal
  Copyright (C) 1989, 90, 91, 92, 93, 94 Free Software Foundation, Inc.
  Permission is granted to make and distribute verbatim copies of this manual
  provided the copyright notice and this permission notice are preserved on
  all copies.
  Permission is granted to copy and distribute modified versions of this
  manual under the conditions for verbatim copying, provided that the entire
  resulting derived work is distributed under the terms of a permission notice
  identical to this one.
  Permission is granted to copy and distribute translations of this manual
  into another language, under the above conditions for modified versions,
  except that this permission notice may be stated in a translation approved
  by the Foundation.
  Introduction and preliminaries
  This first chapter explains what is GNU m4, where m4 comes from, how to read
  and use this documentation, how to call the m4 program and how to report
  bugs about it. It concludes by giving tips for reading the remainder of the
  The following chapters then detail all the features of the m4 language.
  Introduction to m4
  m4 is a macro processor, in the sense that it copies its input to the
  output, expanding macros as it goes. Macros are either builtin or
  user-defined, and can take any number of arguments. Besides just doing macro
  expansion, m4 has builtin functions for including named files, running UNIX
  commands, doing integer arithmetic, manipulating text in various ways,
  recursion, etc... m4 can be used either as a front-end to a compiler, or as
  a macro processor in its own right.
  The m4 macro processor is widely available on all UNIXes. Usually, only a
  small percentage of users are aware of its existence. However, those who do
  often become commited users. The growing popularity of GNU Autoconf, which
  prerequires GNU m4 for generating the `configure' scripts, is an incentive
  for many to install it, while these people will not themselves program in
  m4. GNU m4 is mostly compatible with the System V, Release 3 version, except
  for some minor differences. See section Compatibility with other versions of
  m4 for more details.
  Some people found m4 to be fairly addictive. They first use m4 for simple
  problems, then take bigger and bigger challenges, learning how to write
  complex m4 sets of macros along the way. Once really addicted, users pursue
  writing of sophisticated m4 applications even to solve simple problems,
  devoting more time debugging their m4 scripts than doing real work. Beware
  that m4 may be dangerous for the health of compulsive programmers.
  Historical references
  The historical notes included here are fairly incomplete, and not
  authoritative at all. Please knowledgeable users help us to more properly
  write this section.
  GPM has been an important ancestor of m4. See C. Stratchey: "A General
  Purpose Macro generator", Computer Journal 8,3 (1965), pp. 225 ff. GPM is
  also succintly described into David Gries classic "Compiler Construction for
  Digital Computers".
  While GPM was pure, m4 was meant to deal more with the true intricacies of
  real life: macros could be recognized with being pre-announced, skipping
  whitespace or end-of-lines was made easier, more constructs were builtin
  instead of derived, etc.
  Originally, m4 was the engine for Rational FORTRAN preprocessor, that is,
  the ratfor equivalent of cpp.
  Invoking m4
  The format of the m4 command is:
  m4 [option...] [macro-definitions...] [input-file...]
  All options begin with `-', or if long option names are used, with a `--'. A
  long option name need not be written completely, and unambigous prefix is
  sufficient. m4 understands the following options:
       Print the version number of the program on standard output, then
       immediately exit m4 without reading any input-files.
       Print an help summary on standard output, then immediately exit m4
       without reading any input-files.
       Suppress all the extensions made in this implementation, compared to
       the System V version. See section Compatibility with other versions of
       m4, for a list of these.
       Stop execution and exit m4 once the first warning has been issued,
       considering all of them to be fatal.
       Set the debug-level according to the flags flags. The debug-level
       controls the format and amount of information presented by the
       debugging functions. See section Controlling debugging output for more
       details on the format and meaning of flags.
       Restrict the size of the output generated by macro tracing. See section
       Controlling debugging output for more details.
       Redirect debug and trace output to the named file. Error messages are
       still printed on the standard error output. See section Saving
       debugging output for more details.
       Make m4 search dir for included files that are not found in the current
       working directory. See section Searching for include files for more
       Makes this invocation of m4 interactive. This means that all output
       will be unbuffered, and interrupts will be ignored.
       Generate synchronisation lines, for use by the C preprocessor or other
       similar tools. This is useful, for example, when m4 is used as a front
       end to a compiler. Source file name and line number information is
       conveyed by directives of the form `#line linenum "filename"', which
       are inserted as needed into the middle of the input. Such directives
       mean that the following line originated or was expanded from the
       contents of input file filename at line linenum. The `"filename"' part
       is often omitted when the file name did not change from the previous
       directive. Synchronisation directives are always given on complete
       lines per themselves. When a synchronisation discrepancy occurs in the
       middle of an output line, the associated synchronisation directive is
       delayed until the beginning of the next generated line.
       Internally modify all builtin macro names so they all start with the
       prefix `m4_'. For example, using this option, one should write
       `m4_define' instead of `define', and `m4___file__' instead of
       Use an alternative syntax for macro names. This experimental option
       might not be present on all GNU m4 implementations. (see section
       Changing the lexical structure of words).
       Make the internal hash table for symbol lookup be n entries big. The
       number should be prime. The default is 509 entries. It should not be
       necessary to increase this value, unless you define an excessive number
       of macros.
       Artificially limit the nesting of macro calls to n levels, stopping
       program execution if this limit is ever exceeded. When not specified,
       nesting is limited to 250 levels. The precise effect of this option
       might be more correctly associated with textual nesting than dynamic
       recursion. It has been useful when some complex m4 input was generated
       by mechanical means. Most users would never need this option. If shown
       to be obtrusive, this option (which is still experimental) might well
       disappear. This option does not have the ability to break endless
       rescanning loops, while these do not necessarily consume much memory or
       stack space. Through clever usage of rescanning loops, one can request
       complex, time-consuming computations to m4 with useful results. Putting
       limitations in this area would break m4 power. There are many
       pathological cases: `define(`a', `a')a' is only the simplest example
       (but see section Compatibility with other versions of m4). Expecting
       GNU m4 to detect these would be a little like expecting a compiler
       system to detect and diagnose endless loops: it is a quite hard problem
       in general, if not undecidable!
       Suppress warnings about missing or superflous arguments in macro calls.
  -T   These options are present for compatibility with System V m4, but do
       nothing in this implementation.
       These options are present only for compatibility with previous versions
       of GNU m4, and were controlling the number of possible diversions which
       could be used at the same time. They do nothing, because there is no
       fixed limit anymore.
  Macro definitions and deletions can be made on the command line, by using
  the `-D' and `-U' options. They have the following format:
       This enters name into the symbol table, before any input files are
       read. If `=value' is missing, the value is taken to be the empty
       string. The value can be any string, and the macro can be defined to
       take arguments, just as if it was defined from within the input.
       This deletes any predefined meaning name might have. Obviously, only
       predefined macros can be deleted in this way.
       This enters name into the symbol table, as undefined but traced. The
       macro will consequently be traced from the point it is defined.
  --freeze-state file
       Once execution is finished, write out the frozen state on the specified
       file (see section Fast loading of frozen states).
  --reload-state file
       Before execution starts, recover the internal state from the specified
       frozen file (see section Fast loading of frozen states).
  The remaining arguments on the command line are taken to be input file
  names. If no names are present, the standard input is read. A file name of
  `-' is taken to mean the standard input.
  The input files are read in the sequence given. The standard input can only
  be read once, so the filename `-' should only appear once on the command
  Problems and bugs
  If you have problems with GNU m4 or think you've found a bug, please report
  it. Before reporting a bug, make sure you've actually found a real bug.
  Carefully reread the documentation and see if it really says you can do what
  you're trying to do. If it's not clear whether you should be able to do
  something or not, report that too; it's a bug in the documentation!
  Before reporting a bug or trying to fix it yourself, try to isolate it to
  the smallest possible input file that reproduces the problem. Then send us
  the input file and the exact results m4 gave you. Also say what you expected
  to occur; this will help us decide whether the problem was really in the
  Once you've got a precise problem, send e-mail to (Internet)
  `' or (UUCP)
  `mit-eddie!!bug-gnu-utils'. Please include the version number
  of m4 you are using. You can get this information with the command `m4
  Non-bug suggestions are always welcome as well. If you have questions about
  things that are unclear in the documentation or are just obscure features,
  please report them too.
  Using this manual
  This manual contains a number of examples of m4 input and output, and a
  simple notation is used to distinguish input, output and error messages from
  m4. Examples are set out from the normal text, and shown in a fixed width
  font, like this
  This is an example of an example!
  To distinguish input from output, all output from m4 is prefixed by the
  string `=>', and all error messages by the string `error-->'. Thus
  Example of input line
  =>Output line from m4
  error-->and an error message
  As each of the predefined macros in m4 is described, a prototype call of the
  macro will be shown, giving descriptive names to the arguments, e.g.,
  regexp(string, regexp, opt replacement)
  All macro arguments in m4 are strings, but some are given special
  interpretation, e.g., as numbers, filenames, regular expressions, etc.
  The `opt' before the third argument shows that this argument is optional--if
  it is left out, it is taken to be the empty string. An ellipsis (`...') last
  in the argument list indicates that any number of arguments may follow.
  This document consistently writes and uses builtin, without an hyphen, as if
  it were an English word. This is how the builtin primitive is spelled within
  Lexical and syntactic conventions
  As m4 reads its input, it separates it into tokens. A token is either a
  name, a quoted string, or any single character, that is not a part of either
  a name or a string. Input to m4 can also contain comments.
  A name is any sequence of letters, digits, and the character _ (underscore),
  where the first character is not a digit. If a name has a macro definition,
  it will be subject to macro expansion (see section How to invoke macros).
  Examples of legal names are: `foo', `_tmp', and `name01'.
  Quoted strings
  A quoted string is a sequence of characters surrounded by the quotes ` and
  ', where the number of start and end quotes within the string balances. The
  value of a string token is the text, with one level of quotes stripped off.
  is the empty string, and
  is the string
  The quote characters can be changed at any time, using the builtin macro
  changequote. See section Changing the quote characters for more information.
  Other tokens
  Any character, that is neither a part of a name, nor of a quoted string, is
  a token by itself.
  Comments in m4 are normally delimited by the characters `#' and newline. All
  characters between the comment delimiters are ignored, but the entire
  comment (including the delimiters) is passed through to the output--comments
  are not discarded by m4.
  Comments cannot be nested, so the first newline after a `#' ends the
  comment. The commenting effect of the begin comment character can be
  inhibited by quoting it.
  The comment delimiters can be changed to any string at any time, using the
  builtin macro changecom. See section Changing comment delimiters for more
  How to invoke macros
  This chapter covers macro invocation, macro arguments and how macro
  expansion is treated.
  Macro invocation
  Macro invocations has one of the forms
  which is a macro invocation without any arguments, or
  name(arg1, arg2, ..., argn)
  which is a macro invocation with n arguments. Macros can have any number of
  arguments. All arguments are strings, but different macros might interpret
  the arguments in different ways.
  The opening parenthesis must follow the name directly, with no spaces in
  between. If it does not, the macro is called with no arguments at all.
  For a macro call to have no arguments, the parentheses must be left out. The
  macro call
  is a macro call with one argument, which is the empty string, not a call
  with no arguments.
  Preventing macro invocation
  An innovation of the m4 language, compared to some of its predecessors (like
  Stratchey's GPM, for example), is the ability to recognize macro calls
  without resorting to any special, prefixed invocation character. While
  generally useful, this feature might sometimes be the source of spurious,
  unwanted macro calls. So, GNU m4 offers several mechanisms or techniques for
  inhibiting the recognition of names as macro calls.
  First of all, many builtin macros cannot meaningfully be called without
  arguments. For any of these macros, whenever an opening parenthesis does not
  immediately follow their name, the builtin macro call is not triggered. This
  solves the most usual cases, like for `include' or `eval'. Later in this
  document, the sentence "This macro is recognized only when given arguments"
  refers to this specific provision.
  There is also a command call option (--prefix-builtins, or -P) which
  requires all builtin macro names to be prefixed by `m4_' for them to be
  recognized. The option has no effect whatsoever on user defined macros. For
  example, with this option, one has to write m4_dnl and even m4_m4exit.
  If your version of GNU m4 has the changeword feature compiled in, there it
  offers far more flexibility in specifying the syntax of macro names, both
  builtin or user-defined. See section Changing the lexical structure of words
  for more information on this experimental feature.
  Of course, the simplest way to prevent a name to be interpreted as a call to
  an existing macro is to quote it. The remainder of this section studies a
  little more deeply how quoting affects macro invocation, and how quoting can
  be used to inhibit macro invocation.
  Even if quoting is usually done over the whole macro name, it can also be
  done over only a few characters of this name. It is also possible to quote
  the empty string, but this works only inside the name. For example:
  all yield the string `divert'. While in both:
  the divert builtin macro will be called.
  The output of macro evaluations is always rescanned. The following example
  would yield the string `de', exactly as if m4 has been given `substr(abcde,
  3, 2)' as input:
  define(`x', `substr(ab')
  define(`y', `cde, 3, 2)')
  Unquoted strings on either side of a quoted string are subject to being
  recognized as macro names. In the following example, quoting the empty
  string allows for the dnl macro to be recognized as such:
  define(`macro', `di$1')
  Without the quotes, this would rather yield the string `divdnl' followed by
  an end of line.
  Quoting may prevent recognizing as a macro name the concatenation of a macro
  expansion with the surrounding characters. In this example:
  define(`macro', `di$1')
  the input will produce the string `divert'. If the quote was removed, the
  divert builtin would be called instead.
  Macro arguments
  When a name is seen, and it has a macro definition, it will be expanded as a
  If the name is followed by an opening parenthesis, the arguments will be
  collected before the macro is called. If too few arguments are supplied, the
  missing arguments are taken to be the empty string. If there are too many
  arguments, the excess arguments are ignored.
  Normally m4 will issue warnings if a builtin macro is called with an
  inappropriate number of arguments, but it can be suppressed with the `-Q'
  command line option. For user defined macros, there is no check of the
  number of arguments given.
  Macros are expanded normally during argument collection, and whatever
  commas, quotes and parentheses that might show up in the resulting expanded
  text will serve to define the arguments as well. Thus, if foo expands to `,
  b, c', the macro call
  bar(a foo, d)
  is a macro call with four arguments, which are `a ', `b', `c' and `d'. To
  understand why the first argument contains whitespace, remember that leading
  unquoted whitespace is never part of an argument, but trailing whitespace
  always is.
  Quoting macro arguments
  Each argument has leading unquoted whitespace removed. Within each argument,
  all unquoted parentheses must match. For example, if foo is a macro,
  foo(() (`(') `(')
  is a macro call, with one argument, whose value is `() (() ('.
  It is common practice to quote all arguments to macros, unless you are sure
  you want the arguments expanded. Thus, in the above example with the
  parentheses, the `right' way to do it is like this:
  foo(`() (() (')
  It is, however, in certain cases necessary to leave out quotes for some
  arguments, and there is nothing wrong in doing it. It just makes life a bit
  harder, if you are not careful.
  Macro expansion
  When the arguments, if any, to a macro call have been collected, the macro
  is expanded, and the expansion text is pushed back onto the input
  (unquoted), and reread. The expansion text from one macro call might
  therefore result in more macros being called, if the calls are included,
  completely or partially, in the first macro calls' expansion.
  Taking a very simple example, if foo expands to `bar', and bar expands to
  `Hello world', the input
  will expand first to `bar', and when this is reread and expanded, into
  `Hello world'.
  How to define new macros
  Macros can be defined, redefined and deleted in several different ways.
  Also, it is possible to redefine a macro, without losing a previous value,
  which can be brought back at a later time.
  Defining a macro
  The normal way to define or redefine macros is to use the builtin define:
  define(name [, expansion])
  which defines name to expand to expansion. If expansion is not given, it is
  taken to be empty.
  The expansion of define is void.
  The following example defines the macro foo to expand to the text `Hello
  define(`foo', `Hello world.')
  =>Hello world.
  The empty line in the output is there because the newline is not a part of
  the macro definition, and it is consequently copied to the output. This can
  be avoided by use of the macro dnl. See section Deleting whitespace in
  input, for details.
  The macro define is recognized only with parameters.
  Arguments to macros
  Macros can have arguments. The nth argument is denoted by $n in the
  expansion text, and is replaced by the nth actual argument, when the macro
  is expanded. Here is a example of a macro with two arguments. It simply
  exchanges the order of the two arguments.
  define(`exch', `$2, $1')
  exch(arg1, arg2)
  =>arg2, arg1
  This can be used, for example, if you like the arguments to define to be
  define(`exch', `$2, $1')
  define(exch("expansion text", "macro"))
  =>expansion text
  See section Quoting macro arguments, for an explanation of the double
  GNU m4 allows the number following the `$' to consist of one or more digits,
  allowing macros to have any number of arguments. This is not so in UNIX
  implementations of m4, which only recognize one digit.
  As a special case, the zero'th argument, $0, is always the name of the macro
  being expanded.
  define(`test', "Macro name: $0")
  =>Macro name: test
  If you want quoted text to appear as part of the expansion text, remember
  that quotes can be nested in quoted strings. Thus, in
  define(`foo', `This is macro `foo'.')
  =>This is macro foo.
  The `foo' in the expansion text is not expanded, since it is a quoted
  string, and not a name.
  Special arguments to macros
  There is a special notation for the number of actual arguments supplied, and
  for all the actual arguments.
  The number of actual arguments in a macro call is denoted by $# in the
  expansion text. Thus, a macro to display the number of arguments given can
  define(`nargs', `$#')
  nargs(arg1, arg2, arg3)
  The notation $* can be used in the expansion text to denote all the actual
  arguments, unquoted, with commas in between. For example
  define(`echo', `$*')
  echo(arg1,    arg2, arg3 , arg4)
  =>arg1,arg2,arg3 ,arg4
  Often each argument should be quoted, and the notation $@ handles that. It
  is just like $*, except that it quotes each argument. A simple example of
  that is:
  define(`echo', `$@')
  echo(arg1,    arg2, arg3 , arg4)
  =>arg1,arg2,arg3 ,arg4
  Where did the quotes go? Of course, they were eaten, when the expanded text
  were reread by m4. To show the difference, try
  define(`echo1', `$*')
  define(`echo2', `$@')
  define(`foo', `This is macro `foo'.')
  =>This is macro This is macro foo..
  =>This is macro foo.
  See section Tracing macro calls, if you do not understand this.
  A `$' sign in the expansion text, that is not followed by anything m4
  understands, is simply copied to the macro expansion, as any other text is.
  define(`foo', `$$$ hello $$$')
  =>$$$ hello $$$
  If you want a macro to expand to something like `$12', put a pair of quotes
  after the $. This will prevent m4 from interpreting the $ sign as a
  reference to an argument.
  Deleting a macro
  A macro definition can be removed with undefine:
  which removes the macro name. The macro name must necessarily be quoted,
  since it will be expanded otherwise.
  The expansion of undefine is void.
  define(`foo', `expansion text')
  =>expansion text
  It is not an error for name to have no macro definition. In that case,
  undefine does nothing.
  The macro undefine is recognized only with parameters.
  Renaming macros
  It is possible to rename an already defined macro. To do this, you need the
  builtin defn:
  which expands to the quoted definition of name. If the argument is not a
  defined macro, the expansion is void.
  If name is a user-defined macro, the quoted definition is simply the quoted
  expansion text. If, instead, name is a builtin, the expansion is a special
  token, which points to the builtin's internal definition. This token is only
  meaningful as the second argument to define (and pushdef), and is ignored in
  any other context.
  Its normal use is best understood through an example, which shows how to
  rename undefine to zap:
  define(`zap', defn(`undefine'))
  In this way, defn can be used to copy macro definitions, and also
  definitions of builtin macros. Even if the original macro is removed, the
  other name can still be used to access the definition.
  The macro defn is recognized only with parameters.
  Temporarily redefining macros
  It is possible to redefine a macro temporarily, reverting to the previous
  definition at a later time. This is done with the builtins pushdef and
  pushdef(name [, expansion])
  which are quite analogous to define and undefine.
  These macros work in a stack-like fashion. A macro is temporarily redefined
  with pushdef, which replaces an existing definition of name, while saving
  the previous definition, before the new one is installed. If there is no
  previous definition, pushdef behaves exactly like define.
  If a macro has several definitions (of which only one is accessible), the
  topmost definition can be removed with popdef. If there is no previous
  definition, popdef behaves like undefine.
  define(`foo', `Expansion one.')
  =>Expansion one.
  pushdef(`foo', `Expansion two.')
  =>Expansion two.
  =>Expansion one.
  If a macro with several definitions is redefined with define, the topmost
  definition is replaced with the new definition. If it is removed with
  undefine, all the definitions are removed, and not only the topmost one.
  define(`foo', `Expansion one.')
  =>Expansion one.
  pushdef(`foo', `Expansion two.')
  =>Expansion two.
  define(`foo', `Second expansion two.')
  =>Second expansion two.
  It is possible to temporarily redefine a builtin with pushdef and defn.
  The macros pushdef and popdef are recognized only with parameters.
  Indirect call of macros
  Any macro can be called indirectly with indir:
  indir(name, ...)
  which results in a call to the macro name, which is passed the rest of the
  arguments. This can be used to call macros with "illegal" names (define
  allows such names to be defined):
  define(`$$internal$macro', `Internal macro (name `$0')')
  =>Internal macro (name $$internal$macro)
  The point is, here, that larger macro packages can have private macros
  defined, that will not be called by accident. They can only be called
  through the builtin indir.
  Indirect call of builtins
  Builtin macros can be called indirectly with builtin:
  builtin(name, ...)
  which results in a call to the builtin name, which is passed the rest of the
  arguments. This can be used, if name has been given another definition that
  has covered the original.
  The macro builtin is recognized only with parameters.
  Conditionals, loops and recursion
  Macros, expanding to plain text, perhaps with arguments, are not quite
  enough. We would like to have macros expand to different things, based on
  decisions taken at run-time. E.g., we need some kind of conditionals. Also,
  we would like to have some kind of loop construct, so we could do something
  a number of times, or while some condition is true.
  Testing macro definitions
  There are two different builtin conditionals in m4. The first is ifdef:
  ifdef(name, string-1, opt string-2)
  which makes it possible to test whether a macro is defined or not. If name
  is defined as a macro, ifdef expands to string-1, otherwise to string-2. If
  string-2 is omitted, it is taken to be the empty string (according to the
  normal rules).
  ifdef(`foo', "foo' is defined', "foo' is not defined')
  =>foo is not defined
  define(`foo', `')
  ifdef(`foo', "foo' is defined', "foo' is not defined')
  =>foo is defined
  The macro ifdef is recognized only with parameters.
  Comparing strings
  The other conditional, ifelse, is much more powerful. It can be used as a
  way to introduce a long comment, as an if-else construct, or as a
  multibranch, depending on the number of arguments supplied:
  ifelse(string-1, string-2, equal, opt not-equal)
  ifelse(string-1, string-2, equal, ...)
  Used with only one argument, the ifelse simply discards it and produces no
  output. This is a common m4 idiom for introducing a block comment, as an
  alternative to repeatedly using dnl. This special usage is recognized by GNU
  m4, so that in this case, the warning about missing arguments is never
  If called with three or four arguments, ifelse expands into equal, if
  string-1 and string-2 are equal (character for character), otherwise it
  expands to not-equal.
  ifelse(foo, bar, `true')
  ifelse(foo, foo, `true')
  ifelse(foo, bar, `true', `false')
  ifelse(foo, foo, `true', `false')
  However, ifelse can take more than four arguments. If given more than four
  arguments, ifelse works like a case or switch statement in traditional
  programming languages. If string-1 and string-2 are equal, ifelse expands
  into equal, otherwise the procedure is repeated with the first three
  arguments discarded. This calls for an example:
  ifelse(foo, bar, `third', gnu, gnats, `sixth', `seventh')
  Naturally, the normal case will be slightly more advanced than these
  examples. A common use of ifelse is in macros implementing loops of various
  The macro ifelse is recognized only with parameters.
  Loops and recursion
  There is no direct support for loops in m4, but macros can be recursive.
  There is no limit on the number of recursion levels, other than those
  enforced by your hardware and operating system.
  Loops can be programmed using recursion and the conditionals described
  There is a builtin macro, shift, which can, among other things, be used for
  iterating through the actual arguments to a macro:
  It takes any number of arguments, and expands to all but the first argument,
  separated by commas, with each argument quoted.
  shift(foo, bar, baz)
  An example of the use of shift is this macro, which reverses the order of
  its arguments:
  define(`reverse', `ifelse($#, 0, , $#, 1, "$1",
                            `reverse(shift($@)), `$1")')
  reverse(foo, bar, gnats, and gnus)
  =>and gnus, gnats, bar, foo
  While not a very interesting macro, it does show how simple loops can be
  made with shift, ifelse and recursion.
  Here is an example of a loop macro that implements a simple forloop. It can,
  for example, be used for simple counting:
  forloop(`i', 1, 8, `i ')
  =>1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
  The arguments are a name for the iteration variable, the starting value, the
  final value, and the text to be expanded for each iteration. With this
  macro, the macro i is defined only within the loop. After the loop, it
  retains whatever value it might have had before.
  For-loops can be nested, like
  forloop(`i', 1, 4, `forloop(`j', 1, 8, `(i, j) ')
  =>(1, 1) (1, 2) (1, 3) (1, 4) (1, 5) (1, 6) (1, 7) (1, 8)
  =>(2, 1) (2, 2) (2, 3) (2, 4) (2, 5) (2, 6) (2, 7) (2, 8)
  =>(3, 1) (3, 2) (3, 3) (3, 4) (3, 5) (3, 6) (3, 7) (3, 8)
  =>(4, 1) (4, 2) (4, 3) (4, 4) (4, 5) (4, 6) (4, 7) (4, 8)
  The implementation of the forloop macro is fairly straightforward. The
  forloop macro itself is simply a wrapper, which saves the previous
  definition of the first argument, calls the internal macro _forloop, and
  re-establishes the saved definition of the first argument.
  The macro _forloop expands the fourth argument once, and tests to see if it
  is finished. If it has not finished, it increments the iteration variable
  (using the predefined macro incr, see section Decrement and increment
  operators), and recurses.
  Here is the actual implementation of forloop:
         `pushdef(`$1', `$2')_forloop(`$1', `$2', `$3', `$4')popdef(`$1')')
         `$4`'ifelse($1, `$3', ,
                     `define(`$1', incr($1))_forloop(`$1', `$2', `$3', `$4')')')
  Notice the careful use of quotes. Only three macro arguments are unquoted,
  each for its own reason. Try to find out why these three arguments are left
  unquoted, and see what happens if they are quoted.
  Now, even though these two macros are useful, they are still not robust
  enough for general use. They lack even basic error handling of cases like
  start value less than final value, and the first argument not being a name.
  Correcting these errors are left as an exercise to the reader.
  How to debug macros and input
  When writing macros for m4, most of the time they woould not work as
  intended (as is the case with most programming languages). There is a little
  support for macro debugging in m4.
  Displaying macro definitions
  If you want to see what a name expands into, you can use the builtin
  which accepts any number of arguments. If called without any arguments, it
  displays the definitions of all known names, otherwise it displays the
  definitions of the names given. The output is printed directly on the
  standard error output.
  The expansion of dumpdef is void.
  define(`foo', `Hello world.')
  error-->foo:    `Hello world.'
  error-->define: <define>
  The last example shows how builtin macros definitions are displayed.
  See section Controlling debugging output for information on controlling the
  details of the display.
  Tracing macro calls
  It is possible to trace macro calls and expansions through the builtins
  traceon and traceoff:
  When called without any arguments, traceon and traceoff will turn tracing on
  and off, respectively, for all defined macros. When called with arguments,
  only the named macros are affected.
  The expansion of traceon and traceoff is void.
  Whenever a traced macro is called and the arguments have been collected, the
  call is displayed. If the expansion of the macro call is not void, the
  expansion can be displayed after the call. The output is printed directly on
  the standard error output.
  define(`foo', `Hello World.')
  define(`echo', `$@')
  traceon(`foo', `echo')
  error-->m4trace: -1- foo -> `Hello World.'
  =>Hello World.
  echo(gnus, and gnats)
  error-->m4trace: -1- echo(`gnus', `and gnats') -> "gnus',`and gnats"
  =>gnus,and gnats
  The number between dashes is the depth of the expansion. It is one most of
  the time, signifying an expansion at the outermost level, but it increases
  when macro arguments contain unquoted macro calls.
  See section Controlling debugging output for information on controlling the
  details of the display.
  Controlling debugging output
  The `-d' option to m4 controls the amount of details presented, when using
  the macros described in the preceding sections.
  The flags following the option can be one or more of the following:
  t    Trace all macro calls made in this invocation of m4.
  a    Show the actual arguments in each macro call. This applies to all macro
       calls if the `t' flag is used, otherwise only the macros covered by
       calls of traceon.
  e    Show the expansion of each macro call, if it is not void. This applies
       to all macro calls if the `t' flag is used, otherwise only the macros
       covered by calls of traceon.
  q    Quote actual arguments and macro expansions in the display with the
       current quotes.
  c    Show several trace lines for each macro call. A line is shown when the
       macro is seen, but before the arguments are collected; a second line
       when the arguments have been collected and a third line after the call
       has completed.
  x    Add a unique `macro call id' to each line of the trace output. This is
       useful in connection with the `c' flag above.
  f    Show the name of the current input file in each trace output line.
  l    Show the the current input line number in each trace output line.
  p    Print a message when a named file is found through the path search
       mecanism (see section Searching for include files), giving the actual
       filename used.
  i    Print a message each time the current input file is changed, giving
       file name and input line number.
  V    A shorthand for all of the above flags.
  If no flags are specified with the `-d' option, the default is `aeq'. The
  examples in the previous two sections assumed the default flags.
  There is a builtin macro debugmode, which allows on-the-fly control of the
  debugging output format:
  debugmode(opt flags)
  The argument flags should be a subset of the letters listed above. As
  special cases, if the argument starts with a `+', the flags are added to the
  current debug flags, and if it starts with a `-', they are removed. If no
  argument is present, the debugging flags are set to zero (as if no `-d' was
  given), and with an empty argument the flags are reset to the default.
  Saving debugging output
  Debug and tracing output can be redirected to files using either the `-o'
  option to m4, or with the builtin macro debugfile:
  debugfile(opt filename)
  will send all further debug and trace output to filename. If filename is
  empty, debug and trace output are discarded and if debugfile is called
  without any arguments, debug and trace output are sent to the standard error
  Input control
  This chapter describes various builtin macros for controlling the input to
  Deleting whitespace in input
  The builtin dnl reads and discards all characters, up to and including the
  first newline:
  and it is often used in connection with define, to remove the newline that
  follow the call to define. Thus
  define(`foo', `Macro `foo'.')dnl A very simple macro, indeed.
  =>Macro foo.
  The input up to and including the next newline is discarded, as opposed to
  the way comments are treated (see section Comments).
  Usually, dnl is immediately followed by an end of line or some other
  whitespace. GNU m4 will produce a warning diagnostic if dnl is followed by
  an open parenthesis. In this case, dnl will collect and process all
  arguments, looking for a matching close parenthesis. All predictable side
  effects resulting from this collection will take place. dnl will return no
  output. The input following the matching close parenthesis up to and
  including the next newline, on whatever line containing it, will still be
  Changing the quote characters
  The default quote delimiters can be changed with the builtin changequote:
  changequote(opt start, opt end)
  where start is the new start-quote delimiter and end is the new end-quote
  delimiter. If any of the arguments are missing, the default quotes (` and ')
  are used instead of the void arguments.
  The expansion of changequote is void.
  changequote([, ])
  define([foo], [Macro [foo].])
  =>Macro foo.
  If no single character is appropriate, start and end can be of any length.
  changequote([[, ]])
  define([[foo]], [[Macro [[[foo]]].]])
  =>Macro [foo].
  Changing the quotes to the empty strings will effectively disable the
  quoting mechanism, leaving no way to quote text.
  define(`foo', `Macro `FOO'.')
  changequote(, )
  =>Macro `FOO'.
  =>`Macro `FOO'.'
  There is no way in m4 to quote a string containing an unmatched left quote,
  except using changequote to change the current quotes.
  Neither quote string should start with a letter or `_' (underscore), as they
  will be confused with names in the input. Doing so disables the quoting
  Changing comment delimiters
  The default comment delimiters can be changed with the builtin macro
  changecom(opt start, opt end)
  where start is the new start-comment delimiter and end is the new
  end-comment delimiter. If any of the arguments are void, the default comment
  delimiters (# and newline) are used instead of the void arguments. The
  comment delimiters can be of any length.
  The expansion of changecom is void.
  define(`comment', `COMMENT')
  # A normal comment
  =># A normal comment
  changecom(`/*', `*/')
  # Not a comment anymore
  =># Not a COMMENT anymore
  But: /* this is a comment now */ while this is not a comment
  =>But: /* this is a comment now */ while this is not a COMMENT
  Note how comments are copied to the output, much as if they were quoted
  strings. If you want the text inside a comment expanded, quote the start
  comment delimiter.
  Calling changecom without any arguments disables the commenting mechanism
  define(`comment', `COMMENT')
  # Not a comment anymore
  =># Not a COMMENT anymore
  Changing the lexical structure of words
       The macro changeword and all associated functionnality is
       experimental. It is only available if the --enable-changeword
       option was given to configure, at GNU m4 installation time. The
       functionnality might change or even go away in the future. Do not
       rely on it. Please direct your comments about it the same way you
       would do for bugs.
  A file being processed by m4 is split into quoted strings, words (potential
  macro names) and simple tokens (any other single character). Initially a
  word is defined by the following regular expression:
  Using changeword, you can change this regular expression. Relaxing m4's
  lexical rules might be useful (for example) if you wanted to apply
  translations to a file of numbers:
  define(1, 0)
  Tightening the lexical rules is less useful, because it will generally make
  some of the builtins unavailable. You could use it to prevent accidental
  call of builtins, for example:
  define(`_indir', defn(`indir'))
  _indir(`esyscmd', `ls')
  Because m4 constructs its words a character at a time, there is a
  restriction on the regular expressions that may be passed to changeword.
  This is that if your regular expression accepts `foo', it must also accept
  `f' and `fo'.
  changeword has another function. If the regular expression supplied contains
  any bracketed subexpressions, then text outside the first of these is
  discarded before symbol lookup. So:
  changecom(`/*', `*/')
  m4 now requires a `#' mark at the beginning of every macro invocation, so
  one can use m4 to preprocess shell scripts without getting shift commands
  swallowed, and plain text without losing various common words.
  m4's macro substitution is based on text, while TeX's is based on tokens.
  changeword can throw this difference into relief. For example, here is the
  same idea represented in TeX and m4. First, the TeX version:
  Then, the m4 version:
  define(a, `errprint(`Hello')')
  In the TeX example, the first line defines a macro a to print the message
  `Hello'. The second line defines @ to be usable instead of \ as an escape
  character. The third line defines \ to be a normal printing character, not
  an escape. The fourth line invokes the macro a. So, when TeX is run on this
  file, it displays the message `Hello'.
  When the m4 example is passed through m4, it outputs `errprint(Hello)'. The
  reason for this is that TeX does lexical analysis of macro definition when
  the macro is defined. m4 just stores the text, postponing the lexical
  analysis until the macro is used.
  You should note that using changeword will slow m4 down by a factor of about
  Saving input
  It is possible to `save' some text until the end of the normal input has
  been seen. Text can be saved, to be read again by m4 when the normal input
  has been exhausted. This feature is normally used to initiate cleanup
  actions before normal exit, e.g., deleting temporary files.
  To save input text, use the builtin m4wrap:
  m4wrap(string, ...)
  which stores string and the rest of the arguments in a safe place, to be
  reread when end of input is reached.
  define(`cleanup', `This is the `cleanup' actions.
  This is the first and last normal input line.
  =>This is the first and last normal input line.
  =>This is the cleanup actions.
  The saved input is only reread when the end of normal input is seen, and not
  if m4exit is used to exit m4.
  It is safe to call m4wrap from saved text, but then the order in which the
  saved text is reread is undefined. If m4wrap is not used recursively, the
  saved pieces of text are reread in the opposite order in which they were
  saved (LIFO--last in, first out).
  File inclusion
  m4 allows you to include named files at any point in the input.
  Including named files
  There are two builtin macros in m4 for including files:
  both of which cause the file named filename to be read by m4. When the end
  of the file is reached, input is resumed from the previous input file.
  The expansion of include and sinclude is therefore the contents of filename.
  It is an error for an included file not to exist. If you do not want error
  messages about non-existent files, sinclude can be used to include a file,
  if it exists, expanding to nothing if it does not.
  error-->30.include:2: m4: Cannot open no-such-file: No such file or directory
  Assume in the following that the file `incl.m4' contains the lines:
  Include file start
  Include file end
  Normally file inclusion is used to insert the contents of a file into the
  input stream. The contents of the file will be read by m4 and macro calls in
  the file will be expanded:
  define(`foo', `FOO')
  =>Include file start
  =>Include file end
  The fact that include and sinclude expand to the contents of the file can be
  used to define macros that operate on entire files. Here is an example,
  which defines `bar' to expand to the contents of `incl.m4':
  define(`bar', include(`incl.m4'))
  This is `bar':  >>>bar<<<
  =>This is bar:  >>>Include file start
  =>Include file end
  This use of include is not trivial, though, as files can contain quotes,
  commas and parentheses, which can interfere with the way the m4 parser
  The builtin macros include and sinclude are recognized only when given
  Searching for include files
  GNU m4 allows included files to be found in other directories than the
  current working directory.
  If a file is not found in the current working directory, and the file name
  is not absolute, the file will be looked for in a specified search path.
  First, the directories specified with the `-I' option will be searched, in
  the order found on the command line. Second, if the `M4PATH' environment
  variable is set, it is expected to contain a colon-separated list of
  directories, which will be searched in order.
  If the automatic search for include-files causes trouble, the `p' debug flag
  (see section Controlling debugging output) can help isolate the problem.
  Diverting and undiverting output
  Diversions are a way of temporarily saving output. The output of m4 can at
  any time be diverted to a temporary file, and be reinserted into the output
  stream, undiverted, again at a later time.
  Numbered diversions are counted from 0 upwards, diversion number 0 being the
  normal output stream. The number of simultaneous diversions is limited
  mainly by the memory used to describe them, because GNU m4 tries to keep
  diversions in memory. However, there is a limit to the overall memory usable
  by all diversions taken altogether (512K, currently). When this maximum is
  about to be exceeded, a temporary file is opened to receive the contents of
  the biggest diversion still in memory, freeing this memory for other
  diversions. So, it is theoretically possible that the number of diversions
  be limited by the number of available file descriptors.
  Diverting output
  Output is diverted using divert:
  divert(opt number)
  where number is the diversion to be used. If number is left out, it is
  assumed to be zero.
  The expansion of divert is void.
  When all the m4 input will have been processed, all existing diversions are
  automatically undiverted, in numerical order.
  This text is diverted.
  This text is not diverted.
  =>This text is not diverted.
  =>This text is diverted.
  Several calls of divert with the same argument do not overwrite the previous
  diverted text, but append to it.
  If output is diverted to a non-existent diversion, it is simply discarded.
  This can be used to suppress unwanted output. A common example of unwanted
  output is the trailing newlines after macro definitions. Here is how to
  avoid them.
  define(`foo', `Macro `foo'.')
  define(`bar', `Macro `bar'.')
  This is a common programming idiom in m4.
  Undiverting output
  Diverted text can be undiverted explicitly using the builtin undivert:
  undivert(opt number, ...)
  which undiverts the diversions given by the arguments, in the order given.
  If no arguments are supplied, all diversions are undiverted, in numerical
  The expansion of undivert is void.
  This text is diverted.
  This text is not diverted.
  =>This text is not diverted.
  =>This text is diverted.
  Notice the last two blank lines. One of them comes from the newline
  following undivert, the other from the newline that followed the divert! A
  diversion often starts with a blank line like this.
  When diverted text is undiverted, it is not reread by m4, but rather copied
  directly to the current output, and it is therefore not an error to undivert
  into a diversion.
  When a diversion has been undiverted, the diverted text is discarded, and it
  is not possible to bring back diverted text more than once.
  This text is diverted first.
  =>This text is diverted first.
  This text is also diverted but not appended.
  =>This text is also diverted but not appended.
  Attempts to undivert the current diversion are silently ignored.
  GNU m4 allows named files to be undiverted. Given a non-numeric argument,
  the contents of the file named will be copied, uninterpreted, to the current
  output. This complements the builtin include (see section Including named
  files). To illustrate the difference, assume the file `foo' contains the
  word `bar':
  define(`bar', `BAR')
  Diversion numbers
  The builtin divnum:
  expands to the number of the current diversion.
  Initial divnum
  =>Initial 0
  Diversion one: divnum
  Diversion two: divnum
  =>Diversion one: 1
  =>Diversion two: 2
  The last call of divert without argument is necessary, since the undiverted
  text would otherwise be diverted itself.
  Discarding diverted text
  Often it is not known, when output is diverted, whether the diverted text is
  actually needed. Since all non-empty diversion are brought back on the main
  output stream when the end of input is seen, a method of discarding a
  diversion is needed. If all diversions should be discarded, the easiest is
  to end the input to m4 with `divert(-1)' followed by an explicit `undivert':
  Diversion one: divnum
  Diversion two: divnum
  No output is produced at all.
  Clearing selected diversions can be done with the following macro:
  `pushdef(`_num', divnum)divert(-1)undivert($@)divert(_num)popdef(`_num')')
  It is called just like undivert, but the effect is to clear the diversions,
  given by the arguments. (This macro has a nasty bug! You should try to see
  if you can find it and correct it.)
  Macros for text handling
  There are a number of builtins in m4 for manipulating text in various ways,
  extracting substrings, searching, substituting, and so on.
  Calculating length of strings
  The length of a string can be calculated by len:
  which expands to the length of string, as a decimal number.
  The builtin macro len is recognized only when given arguments.
  Searching for substrings
  Searching for substrings is done with index:
  index(string, substring)
  which expands to the index of the first occurrence of substring in string.
  The first character in string has index 0. If substring does not occur in
  string, index expands to `-1'.
  index(`gnus, gnats, and armadillos', `nat')
  index(`gnus, gnats, and armadillos', `dag')
  The builtin macro index is recognized only when given arguments.
  Searching for regular expressions
  Searching for regular expressions is done with the builtin regexp:
  regexp(string, regexp, opt replacement)
  which searches for regexp in string. The syntax for regular expressions is
  the same as in GNU Emacs. See section `Syntax of Regular Expressions' in The
  GNU Emacs Manual.
  If replacement is omitted, regexp expands to the index of the first match of
  regexp in string. If regexp does not match anywhere in string, it expands to
  regexp(`GNUs not Unix', `\<[a-z]\w+')
  regexp(`GNUs not Unix', `\<Q\w*')
  If replacement is supplied, regexp changes the expansion to this argument,
  with `\n' substituted by the text matched by the nth parenthesized
  sub-expression of regexp, `\&' being the text the entire regular expression
  regexp(`GNUs not Unix', `\w\(\w+\)$', `*** \& *** \1 ***')
  =>*** Unix *** nix ***
  The builtin macro regexp is recognized only when given arguments.
  Extracting substrings
  Substrings are extracted with substr:
  substr(string, from, opt length)
  which expands to the substring of string, which starts at index from, and
  extends for length characters, or to the end of string, if length is
  omitted. The starting index of a string is always 0.
  substr(`gnus, gnats, and armadillos', 6)
  =>gnats, and armadillos
  substr(`gnus, gnats, and armadillos', 6, 5)
  The builtin macro substr is recognized only when given arguments.
  Translating characters
  Character translation is done with translit:
  translit(string, chars, replacement)
  which expands to string, with each character that occurs in chars translated
  into the character from replacement with the same index.
  If replacement is shorter than chars, the excess characters are deleted from
  the expansion. If replacement is omitted, all characters in string, that are
  present in chars are deleted from the expansion.
  Both chars and replacement can contain character-ranges, e.g., `a-z'
  (meaning all lowercase letters) or `0-9' (meaning all digits). To include a
  dash `-' in chars or replacement, place it first or last.
  It is not an error for the last character in the range to be `larger' than
  the first. In that case, the range runs backwards, i.e., `9-0' means the
  string `9876543210'.
  translit(`GNUs not Unix', `A-Z')
  =>s not nix
  translit(`GNUs not Unix', `a-z', `A-Z')
  translit(`GNUs not Unix', `A-Z', `z-a')
  =>tmfs not fnix
  The first example deletes all uppercase letters, the second converts
  lowercase to uppercase, and the third `mirrors' all uppercase letters, while
  converting them to lowercase. The two first cases are by far the most
  The builtin macro translit is recognized only when given arguments.
  Substituting text by regular expression
  Global substitution in a string is done by patsubst:
  patsubst(string, regexp, opt replacement)
  which searches string for matches of regexp, and substitutes replacement for
  each match. The syntax for regular expressions is the same as in GNU Emacs.
  The parts of string that are not covered by any match of regexp are copied
  to the expansion. Whenever a match is found, the search proceeds from the
  end of the match, so a character from string will never be substituted
  twice. If regexp matches a string of zero length, the start position for the
  search is incremented, to avoid infinite loops.
  When a replacement is to be made, replacement is inserted into the
  expansion, with `\n' substituted by the text matched by the nth
  parenthesized sub-expression of regexp, `\&' being the text the entire
  regular expression matched.
  The replacement argument can be omitted, in which case the text matched by
  regexp is deleted.
  patsubst(`GNUs not Unix', `^', `OBS: ')
  =>OBS: GNUs not Unix
  patsubst(`GNUs not Unix', `\<', `OBS: ')
  =>OBS: GNUs OBS: not OBS: Unix
  patsubst(`GNUs not Unix', `\w*', `(\&)')
  =>(GNUs)() (not)() (Unix)
  patsubst(`GNUs not Unix', `\w+', `(\&)')
  =>(GNUs) (not) (Unix)
  patsubst(`GNUs not Unix', `[A-Z][a-z]+')
  =>GN not
  Here is a slightly more realistic example, which capitalizes individual word
  or whole sentences, by substituting calls of the macros upcase and downcase
  into the strings.
  define(`upcase', `translit(`$*', `a-z', `A-Z')')dnl
  define(`downcase', `translit(`$*', `A-Z', `a-z')')dnl
       `regexp(`$1', `^\(\w\)\(\w*\)', `upcase(`\1')`'downcase(`\2')')')dnl
       `patsubst(`$1', `\w+', `capitalize1(`\&')')')dnl
  capitalize(`GNUs not Unix')
  =>Gnus Not Unix
  The builtin macro patsubst is recognized only when given arguments.
  Formatted output
  Formatted output can be made with format:
  format(format-string, ...)
  which works much like the C function printf. The first argument is a format
  string, which can contain `%' specifications, and the expansion of format is
  the formatted string.
  Its use is best described by a few examples:
  define(`foo', `The brown fox jumped over the lazy dog')
  format(`The string "%s" is %d characters long', foo, len(foo))
  =>The string "The brown fox jumped over the lazy dog" is 38 characters long
  Using the forloop macro defined in See section Loops and recursion, this
  example shows how format can be used to produce tabular output.
  forloop(`i', 1, 10, `format(`%6d squared is %10d
  ', i, eval(i**2))')
  =>     1 squared is         1
  =>     2 squared is         4
  =>     3 squared is         9
  =>     4 squared is        16
  =>     5 squared is        25
  =>     6 squared is        36
  =>     7 squared is        49
  =>     8 squared is        64
  =>     9 squared is        81
  =>    10 squared is       100
  The builtin format is modeled after the ANSI C `printf' function, and
  supports the normal `%' specifiers: `c', `s', `d', `o', `x', `X', `u', `e',
  `E' and `f'; it supports field widths and precisions, and the modifiers `+',
  `-', ` ', `0', `#', `h' and `l'. For more details on the functioning of
  printf, see the C Library Manual.
  Macros for doing arithmetic
  Integer arithmetic is included in m4, with a C-like syntax. As convenient
  shorthands, there are builtins for simple increment and decrement
  Decrement and increment operators
  Increment and decrement of integers are supported using the builtins incr
  and decr:
  which expand to the numerical value of number, incremented, or decremented,
  respectively, by one.
  The builtin macros incr and decr are recognized only when given arguments.
  Evaluating integer expressions
  Integer expressions are evaluated with eval:
  eval(expression, opt radix, opt width)
  which expands to the value of expression.
  Expressions can contain the following operators, listed in order of
  decreasing precedence.
  -    Unary minus
  **   Exponentiation
  * / %
       Multiplication, division and modulo
  + -  Addition and subtraction
  << >>
       Shift left or right
  == != > >= < <=
       Relational operators
  !    Logical negation
  ~    Bitwise negation
  &    Bitwise and
  ^    Bitwise exclusive-or
  |    Bitwise or
  &&   Logical and
  ||   Logical or
  All operators, except exponentiation, are left associative.
  Note that many m4 implementations use `^' as an alternate operator for the
  exponentiation, while many others use `^' for the bitwise exclusive-or. GNU
  m4 changed its behavior: it used to exponentiate for `^', it now computes
  the bitwise exclusive-or.
  Numbers without special prefix are given decimal. A simple `0' prefix
  introduces an octal number. `0x' introduces an hexadecimal number. `0b'
  introduces a binary number. `0r' introduces a number expressed in any radix
  between 1 and 36: the prefix should be immediately followed by the decimal
  expression of the radix, a colon, then the digits making the number. For any
  radix, the digits are `0', `1', `2', .... Beyond `9', the digits are `a',
  `b' ... up to `z'. Lower and upper case letters can be used interchangeably
  in numbers prefixes and as number digits.
  Parentheses may be used to group subexpressions whenever needed. For the
  relational operators, a true relation returns 1, and a false relation return
  Here are a few examples of use of eval.
  eval(-3 * 5)
  eval(index(`Hello world', `llo') >= 0)
  define(`square', `eval(($1)**2)')
  define(`foo', `666')
  error-->51.eval:14: m4: Bad expression in eval: foo/6
  As the second to last example shows, eval does not handle macro names, even
  if they expand to a valid expression (or part of a valid expression).
  Therefore all macros must be expanded before they are passed to eval.
  If radix is specified, it specifies the radix to be used in the expansion.
  The default radix is 10. The result of eval is always taken to be signed.
  The width argument specifies a minimum output width. The result is
  zero-padded to extend the expansion to the requested width.
  eval(666, 10)
  eval(666, 11)
  eval(666, 6)
  eval(666, 6, 10)
  eval(-666, 6, 10)
  Take note that radix cannot be larger than 36.
  The builtin macro eval is recognized only when given arguments.
  Running UNIX commands
  There are a few builtin macros in m4 that allow you to run UNIX commands
  from within m4.
  Executing simple commands
  Any shell command can be executed, using syscmd:
  which executes shell-command as a shell command.
  The expansion of syscmd is void, not the output from shell-command! Output
  or error messages from shell-command are not read by m4. See section Reading
  the output of commands if you need to process the command output.
  Prior to executing the command, m4 flushes its output buffers. The default
  standard input, output and error of shell-command are the same as those of
  The builtin macro syscmd is recognized only when given arguments.
  Reading the output of commands
  If you want m4 to read the output of a UNIX command, use esyscmd:
  which expands to the standard output of the shell command shell-command.
  Prior to executing the command, m4 flushes its output buffers. The default
  standard input and error output of shell-command are the same as those of
  m4. The error output of shell-command is not a part of the expansion: it
  will appear along with the error output of m4.
  Assume you are positioned into the `checks' directory of GNU m4
  distribution, then:
  define(`vice', `esyscmd(grep Vice ../COPYING)')
  =>  Ty Coon, President of Vice
  Note how the expansion of esyscmd has a trailing newline.
  The builtin macro esyscmd is recognized only when given arguments.
  Exit codes
  To see whether a shell command succeeded, use sysval:
  which expands to the exit status of the last shell command run with syscmd
  or esyscmd.
  ifelse(sysval, 0, zero, non-zero)
  Making names for temporary files
  Commands specified to syscmd or esyscmd might need a temporary file, for
  output or for some other purpose. There is a builtin macro, maketemp, for
  making temporary file names:
  which expands to a name of a non-existent file, made from the string
  template, which should end with the string `XXXXXX'. The six X's are then
  replaced, usually with something that includes the process id of the m4
  process, in order to make the filename unique.
  As seen in the example, several calls of maketemp might expand to the same
  string, since the selection criteria is whether the file exists or not. If a
  file has not been created before the next call, the two macro calls might
  expand to the same name.
  The builtin macro maketemp is recognized only when given arguments.
  Miscellaneous builtin macros
  This chapter describes various builtins, that do not really belong in any of
  the previous chapters.
  Printing error messages
  You can print error messages using errprint:
  errprint(message, ...)
  which simply prints message and the rest of the arguments on the standard
  error output.
  The expansion of errprint is void.
  errprint(`Illegal arguments to forloop
  error-->Illegal arguments to forloop
  A trailing newline is not printed automatically, so it must be supplied as
  part of the argument, as in the example. (BSD flavored m4's do append a
  trailing newline on each errprint call).
  To make it possible to specify the location of the error, two utility
  builtins exist:
  which expands to the quoted name of the current input file, and the current
  input line number in that file.
  errprint(`m4:'__file__:__line__: `Input error
  error-->m4:56.errprint:2: Input error
  Exiting from m4
  If you need to exit from m4 before the entire input has been read, you can
  use m4exit:
  m4exit(opt code)
  which causes m4 to exit, with exit code code. If code is left out, the exit
  code is zero.
  define(`fatal_error', `errprint(`m4: '__file__: __line__`: fatal error: $*
  fatal_error(`This is a BAD one, buster')
  error-->m4: 57.m4exit: 5: fatal error: This is a BAD one, buster
  After this macro call, m4 will exit with exit code 1. This macro is only
  intended for error exits, since the normal exit procedures are not followed,
  e.g., diverted text is not undiverted, and saved text (see section Saving
  input) is not reread.
  Fast loading of frozen states
  Some bigger m4 applications may be built over a common base containing
  hundreds of definitions and other costly initializations. Usually, the
  common base is kept in one or more declarative files, which files are listed
  on each m4 invocation prior to the user's input file, or else, include'd
  from this input file.
  Reading the common base of a big application, over and over again, may be
  time consuming. GNU m4 offers some machinery to speed up the start of an
  application using lengthy common bases. Presume the user repeatedly uses:
  m4 base.m4 input.m4
  with a varying contents of `input.m4', but a rather fixed contents for
  `base.m4'. Then, the user might rather execute:
  m4 -F base.m4f base.m4
  once, and further execute, as often as needed:
  m4 -R base.m4f input.m4
  with the varying input. The first call, containing the -F option, only reads
  and executes file `base.m4', so defining various application macros and
  computing other initializations. Only once the input file `base.m4' has been
  completely processed, GNU m4 produces on `base.m4f' a frozen file, that is,
  a file which contains a kind of snapshot of the m4 internal state.
  Later calls, containing the -R option, are able to reload the internal state
  of m4's memory, from `base.m4f', prior to reading any other input files. By
  this mean, instead of starting with a virgin copy of m4, input will be read
  after having effectively recovered the effect of a prior run. In our
  example, the effect is the same as if file `base.m4' has been read anew.
  However, this effect is achieved a lot faster.
  Only one frozen file may be created or read in any one m4 invocation. It is
  not possible to recover two frozen files at once. However, frozen files may
  be updated incrementally, through using -R and -F options simultaneously.
  For example, if some care is taken, the command:
  m4 file1.m4 file2.m4 file3.m4 file4.m4
  could be broken down in the following sequence, accumulating the same
  m4 -F file1.m4f file1.m4
  m4 -R file1.m4f -F file2.m4f file2.m4
  m4 -R file2.m4f -F file3.m4f file3.m4
  m4 -R file3.m4f file4.m4
  Some care is necessary because not every effort has been made for this to
  work in all cases. In particular, the trace attribute of macros is not
  handled, nor the current setting of changeword. Also, interactions for some
  options of m4 being used in one call and not for the next, have not been
  fully analyzed yet. On the other end, you may be confident that stacks of
  pushdef'ed definitions are handled correctly, so are undefine'd or renamed
  builtins, changed strings for quotes or comments.
  When an m4 run is to be frozen, the automatic undiversion which takes place
  at end of execution is inhibited. Instead, all positively numbered
  diversions are saved into the frozen file. The active diversion number is
  also transmitted.
  A frozen file to be reloaded need not reside in the current directory. It is
  looked up the same way as an include file (see section Searching for include
  Frozen files are sharable across architectures. It is safe to write a frozen
  file one one machine and read it on another, given that the second machine
  uses the same, or a newer version of GNU m4. These are simple (editable)
  text files, made up of directives, each starting with a capital letter and
  ending with a newline (NL). Wherever a directive is expected, the character
  # introduces a comment line, empty lines are also ignored. In the following
  descriptions, lengths always refer to corresponding strings. Numbers are
  always expressed in decimal. The directives are:
  V number NL
       Confirms the format of the file. number should be 1.
  C length1 , length2 NL string1 string2 NL
       Uses string1 and string2 as the beginning comment and end comment
  Q length1 , length2 NL string1 string2 NL
       Uses string1 and string2 as the beginning quote and end quote strings.
  F length1 , length2 NL string1 string2 NL
       Defines, through pushdef, a definition for string1 expanding to the
       function whose builtin name is string2.
  T length1 , length2 NL string1 string2 NL
       Defines, though pushdef, a definition for string1 expanding to the text
       given by string2.
  D number, length NL string NL
       Selects diversion number, making it current, then copy string in the
       current diversion. number may be a negative number for a non-existing
       diversion. To merely specify an active selection, use this command with
       an empty string. With 0 as the diversion number, string will be issued
       on standard output at reload time, however this may not be produced
       from within m4.
  Compatibility with other versions of m4
  This chapter describes the differences between this implementation of m4,
  and the implementation found under UNIX, notably System V, Release 3.
  There are also differences in BSD flavors of m4. No attempt is made to
  summarize these here.
  Extensions in GNU m4
  This version of m4 contains a few facilities, that do not exist in System V
  m4. These extra facilities are all suppressed by using the `-G' command line
  option, unless overridden by other command line options.
     * In the $n notation for macro arguments, n can contain several digits,
       while the System V m4 only accepts one digit. This allows macros in GNU
       m4 to take any number of arguments, and not only nine (see section
       Arguments to macros).
     * Files included with include and sinclude are sought in a user specified
       search path, if they are not found in the working directory. The search
       path is specified by the `-I' option and the `M4PATH' environment
       variable (see section Searching for include files).
     * Arguments to undivert can be non-numeric, in which case the named file
       will be included uninterpreted in the output (see section Undiverting
     * Formatted output is supported through the format builtin, which is
       modeled after the C library function printf (see section Formatted
     * Searches and text substitution through regular expressions are
       supported by the regexp (see section Searching for regular expressions)
       and patsubst (see section Substituting text by regular expression)
     * The output of shell commands can be read into m4 with esyscmd (see
       section Reading the output of commands).
     * There is indirect access to any builtin macro with builtin (see section
       Indirect call of builtins).
     * Macros can be called indirectly through indir (see section Indirect
       call of macros).
     * The name of the current input file and the current input line number
       are accessible through the builtins __file__ and __line__ (see section
       Printing error messages).
     * The format of the output from dumpdef and macro tracing can be
       controlled with debugmode (see section Controlling debugging output).
     * The destination of trace and debug output can be controlled with
       debugfile (see section Saving debugging output).
  In addition to the above extensions, GNU m4 implements the following command
  line options: `-F', `-G', `-I', `-L', `-R', `-V', `-W', `-d', `-l', `-o' and
  `-t'. See section Invoking m4, for a description of these options.
  Also, the debugging and tracing facilities in GNU m4 are much more extensive
  than in most other versions of m4.
  Facilities in System V m4 not in GNU m4
  The version of m4 from System V contains a few facilities that have not been
  implemented in GNU m4 yet.
     * System V m4 supports multiple arguments to defn. This is not
       implemented in GNU m4. Its usefulness is unclear to me.
  Other incompatibilities
  There are a few other incompatibilities between this implementation of m4,
  and the System V version.
     * GNU m4 implements sync lines differently from System V m4, when text is
       being diverted. GNU m4 outputs the sync lines when the text is being
       diverted, and System V m4 when the diverted text is being brought back.
       The problem is which lines and filenames should be attached to text
       that is being, or has been, diverted. System V m4 regards all the
       diverted text as being generated by the source line containing the
       undivert call, whereas GNU m4 regards the diverted text as being
       generated at the time it is diverted. I expect the sync line option to
       be used mostly when using m4 as a front end to a compiler. If a
       diverted line causes a compiler error, the error messages should most
       probably refer to the place where the diversion were made, and not
       where it was inserted again.
     * GNU m4 makes no attempt at prohiting autoreferential definitions like:
       define(`x', `x')
       define(`x', `x ')
       There is nothing inherently wrong with defining `x' to return `x'. The
       wrong thing is to expand `x' unquoted. In m4, one might use macros to
       hold strings, as we do for variables in other programming languages,
       further checking them with:
       ifelse(defn(`holder'), `value', ...)
       In cases like this one, an interdiction for a macro to hold its own
       name would be a useless limitation. Of course, this leave more rope for
       the GNU m4 user to hang himself! Rescanning hangs may be avoided
       through careful programming, a little like for endless loops in
       traditional programming languages.
     * GNU m4 without `-G' option will define the macro __gnu__ to expand to
       the empty string. On UNIX systems, GNU m4 without the `-G' option will
       define the macro __unix__, otherwise the macro unix. Both will expand
       to the empty string.