Access Paths

An accessor can operate on specific elements of collections (lists, maps, strings, and ranges) using an access path.

An access path is made up of one or more access path components, of which there are several types: indices, keys, dynamic keys, and slices. These are separated by the path separator token /.


Accessing elements in ordered collections (lists, strings, and ranges) is known as indexing. All Rant collections use "zero-based indexing"; in other words, the first element starts at index 0, the second at index 1, and so on.

<%numbers = (: 1; 3; 5; 7; 9)>

# Set the first number to 1
<numbers/0 = 100>

# Get the first number
<numbers/0> # -> 100

Negative indices are relative to the end of the collection. This means -1 represents the last element, -2 the penultimate element, and so on.

<%msg = "hello">
Last char: <msg/-1>\n # same as <msg/4> or <msg/([len: <msg>] - 1)>

# Last char: o


Accessing elements in maps is known as keying. Simply specify the desired map key after the / to access the map element with that key:

<%citizen = (::
    name = "Steve";
    age = 50;
    mood = "angry";

# Set <citizen/age> to 150
<citizen/age = 150>

<citizen/name>\n    # -> Steve
<citizen/age>\n     # -> 150
<citizen/mood>\n    # -> angry

Keys follow the same naming rules as variables, unless specified as a dynamic key (see below).

Dynamic keys

Where an index or key must be calculated at runtime, a dynamic key may be used. Simply use an expression enclosed in () in place of the index or key:

<%fruits = (apple; orange; banana; tomato)>

<fruits/( [len: <fruits> |> rand: 0; [] - 1])> # returns a random fruit

The value of a dynamic key must be compatible with the type of collection being accessed: for example, a string cannot be used to index a list, but an int can be used to key a map because its conversion to a string is infallible (in other words, all int values have a valid string conversion).

Dynamic key type compatibility

Collection typeKey is stringKey is int

🟢 = valid; 🟠 = coerced; 🔴 = invalid


Accessing a contiguous range of elements in an ordered collection is known as slicing. Slices can be fully-bounded (having start + end points), half-bounded (having a start or end point but not both), or unbounded (all elements).

When you get a slice of a collection, the accessor returns a new copy of the collection containing the slice contents.

Slice notation takes the following forms:

# fully-bounded
<my-list/2..5>   # get all elements between index 2 (inclusive) and index 5 (exclusive)

# start-bounded
<my-list/2..>    # get all emements starting at index 2 (inclusive)

# end-bounded
<my-list/..5>    # get all elements until index 5 (exclusive)

# unbounded
<my-list/..>     # get all elements (equivalent to a shallow-clone)


You can also set a slice on mutable collection types, an operation also known as splicing:

<$my-list = (: 1; 2; 3)>
<my-list/1..2 = (: a; b)> # the splice value doesn't have to be the same size!
<my-list/3..4 = (c; d)> # the splice value can also be a tuple!
<my-list> # -> (: 1; a; b; 3)

Dynamic slices

Slices also support dynamic bounds; just replace any slice bound with a dynamic key:

<%message = "fantastic">
[rep: [len: <message>]]
    # Use the current block iteration number to slice the message

This produces the following output:


Nested access paths

Access paths can be nested. This means if you have an array in a map and you want to access an element of that array, you most certainly can; just add another component to the path.

<%arrays = (::
    odd-numbers = (: 1; 3; 5; 7; 9);
    even-numbers = (: 0; 2; 4; 6; 8);

# Get the last element of <arrays/odd-numbers>