Programmer's Guide: Using Lens as a Library

Because of its scripting language and the ability to extend it with C code, many applications could be built using Lens as a base. However, some users may prefer to incorporate neural networks into an existing C application. This can be accomplished quite easily with the Lens libraries.

Compiling the Library

To compile the Lens libraries, simply do "make liblens" or "make libalens" for a standard or advanced version, respectively. This will create a static library in your Bin directory with a name like liblens2.3.a or libalens2.3.a.

Using the Library

The basic interface to the Lens library is contained in the lens.h file in the source directory. It looks like this:

#ifndef LENS_H
#define LENS_H

#include "system.h"
extern flag startLens(char *progName, flag batchMode);
extern flag lens(char *fmt, ...);

#endif /* LENS_H */

The interface consists of two simple functions. startLens() is used to get Lens going. The first argument should be the name of your application (its argv[0]) and the second should be true if you want to start Lens in batch mode or false if you want graphics.

The lens() command simply evaluates a Lens shell command. It is used like printf so you can build up a command using a format and a list of arguments. Or you could just pass it a static string.

Here is a simple C file that uses the Lens library:

#include <stdio.h>
#include <stdlib.h>
#include <lens.h>

int main(int argc, char *argv[]) {
  char line[1024];
  if (startLens(argv[0], 1)) {
    fprintf(stderr, "Lens Failed\n");
  lens("source ../Examples/digits.in");
  while (fgets(line, 1024, stdin)) lens(line);
  return 0;

It starts Lens in batch mode, sources the digits example, and then passes anything you type to the Lens interpreter. Here is the Makefile used to compile it:

LIBS= -L${LENS_BIN} -llens2.3 -ltk8.3 -ltcl8.3 -lm -lX11

tlens: tlens.c Makefile
	gcc -Wall -o tlens -I ${LENS_SRC} tlens.c ${LIBS}

Note that after including the Lens library you also need to include the tk, tcl, math, and X11 libraries.

The Tcl Interpreter

The Lens command really just passes anything you give it to the Tcl interpreter called Interp (a declaration of which is found in unit.h).

If an error occurs while processing a command, an error message will be printed to stderr and the TCL_ERROR code (1) will be returned. Otherwise the TCL_OK code (0) will be returned.

You can access the return value of the command you executed (note that in Tcl the return value is different from the return code) by calling Tcl_GetStringResult(Interp). You will need to include the tcl.h library before you can do that, however. There are lots of other neat things you can do in C with the Tcl interpreter that are described in the Tcl/Tk manual.

When Lens runs as a stand-alone application in non-batch mode, it runs in a loop that updates the displays and looks for incoming messages whenever it is idle. If you use Lens as a library, whether or not it is in batch mode, it will not try to "stay awake". It will just do whatever you tell it to do and then return control to you. If you want Lens to take care of pending screen updates and events, you should call lens("update");. If you want to do this perpetually, you will need a loop that periodically calls update.

Accessing Lens Structures

For efficiency or convenience, you may want to directly reference the C data structures or functions in Lens. This is fine, provided you take responsibility for your own seg faults. To access the structures, just include the necessary Lens header files, like network.h. You can find out all about the structures here.

Douglas Rohde
Last modified: Mon Nov 13 13:57:53 EST 2000