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5.2 Inline functions

[### Inline expansion is especially powerful in the presence of good lisp-level optimization (“partial evaluation”). Many “optimizations” usually done in Lisp compilers by special-case source-to-source transforms can be had simply by making the source of the general case function available for inline expansion. This is especially helpful in Common Lisp, which has many commonly used functions with simple special cases but bad general cases (list and sequence functions, for example.)

Inline expansion of recursive functions is allowed, and is not as silly as it sounds. When expanded in a specific context, much of the overhead of the recursive calls may be eliminated (especially if there are many keyword arguments, etc.)

[Also have MAYBE-INLINE] ]

We only record a function’s inline expansion in the global environment when the function is in the null lexical environment, since the expansion must be represented as source.

We do inline expansion of functions locally defined by FLET or LABELS even when the environment is not null. Since the appearances of the local function must be nested within the desired environment, it is possible to expand local functions inline even when they use the environment. We just stash the source form and environments in the Functional for the local function. When we convert a call to it, we just reconvert the source in the saved environment.

An interesting alternative to the inline/full-call dichotomy is “semi-inline” coding. Whenever we have an inline expansion for a function, we can expand it only once per block compilation, and then use local call to call this copied version. This should get most of the speed advantage of real inline coding with much less code bloat. This is especially attractive for simple system functions such as Read-Char.

The main place where true inline expansion would still be worth doing is where large amounts of the function could be optimized away by constant folding or other optimizations that depend on the exact arguments to the call.


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