This tutorial first briefly describes symbols and symbolTables in NIMBLE. It then describes the process of adding a new symbol type to NIMBLE’s processing system. Note that definitions for symbols in NIMBLE are located in types_symbolTable.R

Symbols and symbolTables

Symbols in NIMBLE represent objects that are used within nimbleFunctions. Symbols are stored in a symbolTable. symbolTables are populated throughout the compilation process, and can be referenced during compilation to retrieve useful information about the objects needed within a nimbleFunciton.

Each symbol entered into a symbolTable is a reference class object that will contain at the least the following two fields:

Possible values of the type field include types representing basic objects in nimbleFunctions, such as integer and double, and types representing more complex objects, such as nimbleList.

Different symbol types may have fields in addition to the name and type fields. For example, the double symbol type also has fields for size and nDim.

To create a new symbol object from an existing symbol type, call the reference class definition that exists for that symbol type. For example, a new symbol representing a 2x2 double matrix, named myMatrix, can be created by calling

myMatrixSymbol <- nimble:::symbolDouble(name = "myMatrix", size = c(2,2), nDim = 2)

Assuming that a symbolTable named mySymTab already existed, myMatrixSymbol could be added to mySymTab via:


The symbols available in a symbolTable can be viewed by

## symbol table:
## myMatrix: double sizes = (2, 2), nDim = 2

To get a symbol object from a symbolTable, you can call:

## myMatrix: double sizes = (2, 2), nDim = 2

Adding a New Symbol Type

To create a new symbol type, you must create a new reference class definition for that type. Many examples of such reference class definitions can be found in the types_symbolTable.R file.

New reference class definitions for symbol objects in NIMBLE should inherit from the symbolBase reference class, which defines the name and type fields. Additional fields can be included that can contain information that will be useful to have at a later point in processing.

New symbol type reference class definitions should define at least two methods:

Generally, the genCppVar(...) method should return a call to either cppVar() or cppVarFull(), both reference class definitions that exist in cppDefs_variables.R. cppVar() can be used to generate C++ code that creates instances of objects, pointers to objects, or references to objects. If a more detailed line of C++ code needs to be generated (e.g. for static or templated objects), the cppVarFull() class should be used. Examples of using both cppVar() and cppVarFull() to define genCppVar(...) methods can be found in types_symbolTable.R .