RIDDL Documentation
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What Conventions Does Riddl Use?


RIDDL is a language and therefore adopts some syntax and semantic conventions. RIDDL tries to keep its syntax and semantics very simple and tolerant of user omissions and formatting. It is intentionally simple and readable for author and reader comprehension. The following language conventions are adhered to throughout the language for ease of use because special cases and rule contraventions may cause confusion.

Freely Formatted

The language is free in its formatting. Indentation is not required and its various definitions can be arranged on any line with any amount of white space.

DDD & UML Orientation

RIDDL supports the definition of a variety of concepts (domain, bounded context, entity, message, repository, etc.) taken directly from Domain Driven Design and the Unified Modeling Language.

Language Consistency

Most things in RIDDL are consistent throughout the language. We believe this makes learning the language easier since there are no exceptions to fundamental constructs and syntax. The sections below define the consistent language features.

Declarative Definitions

The language is based on declarative definitions. All that means, syntactically, is that you name something of a given type, like this:

domain Engineering is { ??? }

In this example the type is domain and the name is Engineering. The rest of the definition, ???, contains more definitions specific to the domain kind of definition. You don’t say how to do something, you specify the end result you want. The language aims to capture a detailed and concise definition of the abstractions that a complex system will require. It does not specify how those abstractions should be built. RIDDL is not a programming language, but its compiler can generate structurally sound code that can be completed by a software engineer or AI.

Definitions May Be Empty On Purpose

You may have noticed in the preceding example, the use of a special sequence, ???. This is a language operator that says “this definition is empty and that’s okay”. The alternative, { }, is not permitted. The three question marks indicate that the definition is a work in progress. Modelling a domain can be hard work. New ideas come up that must be flushed out at a later time. Sometimes things get left undefined. That’s okay! This operator can be used as the body of any definition.


Containers are definitions that contain other, nested, definitions. Between the { and the } that define the boundaries of a definition, you may place other definitions. Such nested definitions are deemed to be contained. Not every definition is a container.


Definitions that have no content (nested definitions) are referred to as leaf definitions or leaves because, like tree leaves, they occur at the extremities of the hierarchy of definitions.

Hierarchy Of Definitions

Definitions are specified in a strict containment hierarchy. Definitions that can contain other definitions are known as containers. For example, a domain definition is a recursively nested definition, as follows:

domain root is {
  domain branch is {
    domain leaf { ??? }

That is, domains are definitions that can contain the definition of (sub) domains. Similarly context can define entity

context foo is {
  entity bar is { ??? }

Every Definition Should Be Documented

Every thing you can define can optionally be documented in a variety of ways. Documentation should conform to the
syntax of the Common Markdown format.
We call these descriptions or explanations because this is the text that is used to describe or explain the RIDDL definition, and it is used to generate documentation for the definition. A description occurs directly after the definition’s closing curly bracket and is preceded using keywords as detailed in the subsections below

Single Literal String

Pretty simple, like this:

domain Engineering is { ??? } described by "Stuff about engineering"
domain SomeDomain is { ??? } explained as "Too vague to have a good name"

Documentation Block

Allowing markdown syntax, like this:

domain SomeDomain is { ??? } explained as {
  |## Overview
  |This domain is rather vague, it has no content.
  |## Utility
  |The utility of this domain is dubious because:
  |* It has no content
  |* Its name is not useful
  |* It is only an example of RIDDL syntax

File Reference

domain Engineering is { ??? } described in file "engineering.md"



domain Engineering is { ??? } described at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Engineering

Definitions May Have Brief Descriptions

Every definition in RIDDL can have a briefly or brief suffix that in one short string describes the definition, such as:

domain Engineering is { ??? } briefly "The discipline of using natural science, mathematics,
 and design processes to create or improve systems that solve technical problems, 
 or increase efficiency and productivity." 

Brief descriptions should be short and concise, like a dictionary, and useful in a glossary of terms. Brief descriptions must precede the other kinds of descriptions, like this:

domain Engineering is { ??? } briefly "The discipline of using natural science, mathematics,
 and design processes to create or improve systems that solve technical problems, 
 or increase efficiency and productivity." described at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Engineering 

Definitions And References

A definition introduces a named instance of some RIDDL concept (such as domain, context or entity as we have seen previously). Sometimes, we need to refer to our definitions when defining something else.

For example, if RIDDL supported the concepts of a Cat and a Person, then you might specify a cat named “Smudge” with an owner named “Reid” like this:

person Reid is { ??? }
cat Smudge {
  owner: person Reid

Here is an explanation of each of these tokens:

  • person is the concept of a human being, intrinsic to RIDDL (its not, this is just an example)
  • Reid is the name (identifier) of the person being defined
  • is is an optional keyword for readability to introduce a definition
  • { is a required token that starts the definition of Reid the person
  • ??? is syntactic sugar meaning “the details of this definition will be determined later”
  • } is a required token that finishes the definition of Reid the person
  • cat is the concept of a feline being, if it were intrinsic to RIDDL
  • Smudge is the name the author wants to give to this cat concept
  • { is a required token that starts the definition of Smudge the cat
  • owner is the name of a property that all “cat” concepts have
  • : is a required token to separate the property name from its value
  • person Reid is a reference to an instance of a concept, a person, with name Reid.
  • } completes the definition of Smudge the cat.

References to every kind of RIDDL concepts are made in this way, by stating the name of the concept (cat or person here) followed by the specific instance of that concept’s name. This is a simple convention used throughout the language for all concept types and references to them.

File Inclusion

RIDDL allows source input to be included, inline, from other files. That is, the parser will substitute the text of an included file, replacing the include directive. This is much like the C preprocessor #include directive. RIDDL always parses the entire specification but the include directive allows you to organize that specification into many (even nested) files. Note that include directives are only permitted within container definitions. Doing so prevents fragments of definitions from being separated into individual files.

For example, this is allowed:

domain ThingAmaJig {
#include "thingamajig/thing-context"
#include "thingamajig/ama-topic"
#include "thingamajig/jig-context"

while this is not:

#include "ThingAmaJig-domain"

because it is not specified within the contained portion of a container. A domain is a container, but it needs a name and that name cannot be buried in an include file. As a rule of thumb, you can always use #include right after an opening curly brace of a container definition.


RIDDL supports the notion of directives that are specified as a complete line whose first character is the hash mark. The directive extends to the end of that line. Hash marks at other locations on a line are not recognized as directives. The subsections below define the kinds of directives supported by RIDDL’s compiler.

Directives have not yet been implemented in RIDDL


For example:

#define x = expialidocious

defines a symbol x that has the value expialidocious . Wherever $x is seen in the input it will be replaced with expialidocious before being lexically interpreted by the compiler.

Substitutions have not yet been implemented in RIDDL