Learn all the ways Pact 4 accelerates safe smart contract development
Smart contracts are all about making things happen — every transaction on the blockchain records assets changing hands, or community members committing to support a project. With Pact 4 the safest and easiest smart contract language gains powerful new features to ensure apps ship with the most security, transparency and kickass functionality possible. With new community-driven primitive ops, better cross-chain and event support, and code coverage, **Pact 4 is the most productive smart contract language ever.
Pact 4 brings major improvements in functionality, auditability, and transparency, things that are more important than even as decentralized economies and marketplaces continue to dominate crypto.
There are more Pact developers than ever before and with that comes positive pressure on the language to grow new powerful features that continue the Pact philosophy of “safer doesn’t mean weaker”: indeed Pact 3.x already ships with more built-in functionality than any smart contract language around. Still, devs will be devs and find new itches to scratch as well as corners where Pact could be even better:
String abstractions: while Pact already ships with a full toolset for manipulating strings, some more advanced concepts were hard and gas-expensive to implement, and as Pact devs get more sophisticated they have identified some gaps: namely, the ability to treat a String as an array, or list of characters, as well as more list manipulation tools.
With the new str-to-list builtin, Pact devs can cheaply convert in order to use Pact’s powerful functional list operations like map, filter and fold on a list of single-character strings. Of course, it would be unsporting to not be able to convert back, which exposed the need for the common concat operation — while already easily achieved with (fold (+) “” …), familiarity with concatenation makes it a good pair for str-to-list as a bidirectional transformation — a pair of functions devs can keep in mind when needing to perform advanced operations on strings.
More list operations: Pact, as a LISP, is all about lists, and in its full generality allows for every operation imaginable if you can express it, all within a Turing-incomplete language. However, like concat, some operations are just better handled as built-ins, which again the community noticed. Things like de-duplicating list entries with dedupe, or emitting series of numbers with enumerate, offer gas-cheap ways to do these useful things and focus more on business logic.
More ways to emit events: Pact already has a great mechanism for events, which form crypto-verifiable “facts” that are critical for indexers and for cross-chain operations on Kadena and EVM chains alike. The new emit-event built-in makes event firing “free” as opposed to using with-capability which invokes the capability even if it’s an empty event. However, emit-event also allows managed capabilities to have arbitrary parameter values when used as events. For example, the fungible TRANSFER capability emits the TRANSFER event, but only for valid “balance-conserving” transfers like “Bob gives Alice 10.0 tokens”. With emit-event, TRANSFER can also be used for “burns” and “creates” using the empty account (“”), which would never form a valid TRANSFER capability, but follows ERC-20 and related standards for burn and create event emission in a way that indexers and exchanges expect.
Built-in cross-chain events and upgrade back-compatibility: Pact has the best cross-chain story of any smart contract language thanks to defpacts, which automatically handle cross-chain transfers for any asset imaginable with zero developer effort. However, it was hard for indexers to be aware of these occurrences; and worse, if a smart contract was upgraded, it could mean that a cross-chain initiated beforehand could become permanently “orphaned”, as the security check for cross-chain demands that code hashes match on both sides; after an upgrade this would fail.
In Pact 4, the already existing bless mechanism, which allows old versions of smart contract code to continue to support old users, now also supports cross-chain transfers that span an upgrade with the inescapable hash change. Plus, Pact now automatically emits X_YIELD and X_RESUME events for every cross chain, meaning that devs no longer have to worry about indexers tracking their cross-chain events.
KDA support for more events: version 3 of the coin contract for KDA takes full advantage of new Pact 4 features to emit TRANSFER events for every event on the blockchain, whether that’s miner rewards, gas payments, or cross-chain burns and creates. It blesses the previous hash to ensure that midstream cross-chains succeed that occur during the upgrade. Finally it leverages the X_YIELD and X_RESUME events to be the most transparent and indexable platform coin ever. It’s important to remember that unlike any other blockchain, KDA’s economics are implemented by smart contract: so at Kadena, we’re as much Pact users as we are its designers. coin acts as a great cookbook for new developers to study and v3, with Pact 4, is no exception.
With Formal Verification support and excellent support for unit tests and blockchain simulation, Pact is already the best language for correct, bug-free smart contracts. However, as Pact becomes responsible for more and more value, things like auditing code become critical. Pact 4 addresses a major need by providing code coverage so that devs can immediately see if their code is being fully exercised by their unit tests.
This is of course fully supported in the pact tool by simply adding “-c” to the pact call. In the Atom editor, a quick upgrade to version 2.6.4 of language-pact, plus adding the lcov-info plugin, gives quick access to coverage results. Coverage in Github CI can quickly be enabled with the standard code-coverage-report action.
It’s never been a better time to start learning Pact than now as the Kadena blockchain continues its rapid growth as the “home of DeFi” with every major use-case on its way to production before 2021 is out. Check out the docs, and upgrade by downloading it or using brew upgrade kadena-io/pact/pact.
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